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I’m seeking support in addressing our nation's school systems and their accountability to provide Behavioral Intervention Plans that honor students’ autonomy, their individual methods of reaching allostasis (Merriam-Webster: the process by which a state of internal, physiological equilibrium is maintained by an organism in response to actual or perceived environmental and psychological stressors) and emotional needs because I believe tackling this issue will greatly improve any and all school.  I believe state Departments of Education should be responsible for using or making fidelity sheets that ensure students perceive positive effectiveness from the support of Behavioral Intervention Plans.

There is not a set of checks and balances to ensure the driving hypothesis developed from a Functional Behavioral Assessment is correct or being addressed meaningfully in the BIP.  There isn’t anyone attempting to look at situations from the students’ perspective when developing or implementing Behavioral Intervention Plans derived from the Functional Behavioral Analysis hypothesis.  Our current system presumes all students will find similarly stated cues as positive interventions, as gentle reminders of what to aim for; “you earn your points by speaking in respectful terms”, “your timeout starts when you are sitting quietly”, “first complete your math worksheet, then you can read or play cards” .

I don’t believe measurements are used to analyze whether these phrases are received as reasonable directions or as verbal jabs rendering a hidden visceral reaction and therefore as a person living with the conditions of Oppositional Defiance Disorder, or Pathological Demand Avoidance, or Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, or Gifted, or etc. the “reasonable direction” cuing is a form of emotional abuse because it is received as ‘I am bad, I am retarded because I can’t ‘.

I believe this style of providing “positive redirection of expectations” reinforces the adult using it as the “person in charge, the person who is responsible for making another perform a certain way” and the adult using these phrases is more likely to project “you won’t do, I can get you to do”, rather than understanding “you can’t do this the way I would want you to do it, so I’ll show understanding and explain how your words and actions are bigger than most are accustomed, so let’s work on accommodating each other.”

Our current system’s continuum, understands that the key factor of determining post secondary success is exposure to typically developing peers to model necessary skills to participate meaningfully in one’s community.  However, the continuum only offers the above mentioned tactics with more force and frequency in more and more isolated settings: general education classes minimized for self contained settings, and when that doesn’t work a variety of more isolated conditions; home bound services, services in settings with no typical peer models, or a classroom of one child with 2-4 adults (this model really emphasizes that a student’s perspective is ignored in favor of making them perform certain ways).

I believe students even at the preschool level need to be included in developing, maintaining, and eventually eliminating Behavioral Intervention Plans.  Currently, this seems to only be a theoretical goal ‘preached’ about because eliminating the need of Behavioral Intervention Plans isn’t something that has been researched and student voices are rarely included in developing behavioral plans initially or as they continue to be used/provided.

I believe undesirable behaviors can be changed without having “to weather extinction burst storms”.  I have great concern that behaviorists work towards this particular means to end undesirable behaviors because it lacks concern for how the student’s nervous system and psyche will be as a result.

It seems too many students receiving services that include behavioral intervention are exposed to trauma loops from the system, I believe, enforced control for stress behavior is like spanking a child for hitting.  I am seeking ways to put measurement practices in place to ensure “preventative” and “treatment” practices are not causing further psychological, emotional, or physical abuse upon those they are designed to serve and shape into “socially acceptable” members of community.


I appreciate you providing feedback,

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Whew.... I think there are many challenges with BIPs.  It is a systemic problem - and like the students, it isn't because the adults "won't" change, it is because they don't have the skills/tools.

Missing from most BIPs is the framework of how the behavior is code - it is communication. Unfortunately, most of our country is firmly entrenched in a theory of behavior that, in my belief system, blames the student. They are "avoiding work" or "seeking attention."  We can/could reframe this and make it more human. In our model, behavior is aimed toward a sense of safety, connection or significance: basic human desires/needs.  When we reframe behavior through that lens (based on the work of Adler and Dreikurs) BIP discussions become a platform for shifting the environment in a way that is helpful not hurtful. This cannot be permissive, but must make space for the needs of the student, the educator and the community.

It begins with a deep look at the student's strengths. What are they good at? What are their connections, their support systems?

Then a look at their skills? How do they engage with the sensory world? How do they self-regulate so that their social brain (dorsal parasympathetic system) be activated? What skills are missing? What opportunities do they have to contribute  in a socially useful way and do they have the scaffolded skills to be successful? What is their "private logic" around safety/belonging/significance (eg: I belong when I'm the center of attention, I count when I'm the boss/you can't make me, I hurt so I'll hurt others, I'll never make it so I give up...)  How can we build skills to offer more socially useful behaviors to meet the basic needs?

Then, and only then, do you have an opportunity to brainstorm tools for the adults and the student that will lead to learning and collaboration instead of compliance/obedience and more trauma.  Tools often used include:

- Teaching about the brain (student and whole class)

- Regular self regulation/mindfulness activities (whole class) every 20-30 minutes (after they are taught these "resets" can be done in 30-60 seconds)

- Building relationships with the teacher and other people in the building

- Using time in

- Support for missing academic skills (the stress of not knowing can be very de-regulating)

- Regular opportunities to contribute

- Specific skill building (eg pre-teaching SEL lessons and offering student the opportunity to co-teach)

- Teaching repair skills for them and the whole class.

Underneath all of this though is the system. Our current system is about compliance/obedience instead of community. It is about completion (win/lose) instead of collaboration. We know that the brain learns better in community. We are wired that way. Our schools are not.  Shifting this requires a significant and sustained effort as we examine all of our practices. The result is solutions and celebration instead of consequences and rewards. Encouragement instead of praise. Doing with instead of to.  It is a big deal and not easy.

I recommend the Positive Discipline curriculum an the Collaborative Problem Solving models as places to start.

Glad to answer questions and share our experience in 30 schools in Washington making this challenging change in practice.

So glad to hear 30 schools in Washington (the state?) are working towards building collaborative communities and shifting away from a win/lose and compliance/obedience system!  I will look into Positive Discipline Curriculum.  Hope you will look into Stuart Shanker’s Self-Regulation framework and Kelly Mahler’s  (OT) Introception curriculum.

I love this question as a there are numerous differences between a PBIP and BIP. I have been advocating in my local school for a PBIP that addresses the antecedent behaviors that my child displays when the physical or academic environment becomes too challenging, his compromised language skills regress and behaviors occur. We live in a state without any governance on seclusion and restraint so this is a typical aversion intervention for "behaviors" that often can be prevented if an IEP or BIP where done with due diligence and fidelity. Without wanting to recognize the "function" behind the behaviors, education staff then inadvertently create a pattern which then becomes impossible to disrupt and change. A child's IEP fails to recognize limitations; fails to ensure the proper service supports; fails to identify the student's strengths and creates chaos for that classroom or school building. When the IEP fails the child, then we are forced to address those resulting behaviors through a BIP.

I have learned that there are great differences between how a school psychologist and a BCBA view behaviors which then impact how a BIP is created. I often grow frustrated when we label a struggling child's avoidance for work as a "non-preferred" activity instead of "non/low-accomplished" skill. Attention-seeking or work avoidance/escape are very functional behaviors that indicate something about the environment or demand has exceeded a child's ability to be successful. My belief is that educators who continue to place the onus on children and not a systemic, failing education system are choosing purposeful ignorance.

In my state, the DPI (Department of Public Instruction) guides the local educational agents to "track" the results of a BIP in effort to ensure that it's successful. However, my son has been on a BIP since age of 4 and I have yet to see this documentation. The BIP remains with it's foundation and every year we keep adding too it which then creates an impaired tool due to too many choices, too many independent user interventions and fails to do what a BIP is suppose to do; reduce and eliminate behaviors. 

But this is my belief - if society can finally realize that our public education system is archaic and dysfunctional then we can address the primary antecedent to most students behaviors; an outdated system approach to education. If we can do better by matching our teaching methods to our children's abilities, we reduce functional behaviors. Placing students into a classroom at the age of 3 for Early Intervention and expecting to educate them as if they are 6 or 8 is simply wrong. We do tremendous harm to our children through "time-outs" (seclusion) or "holds" (restraint) at this young age for failing the system's expectations. We cause trauma and life long impairment instead of a love for learning. Expecting a 6 year old to learn a copious amount of information, most of that being of an abstract nature, is nearly impossible unless they are gifted. I am ever stupefied that society expects a full day of kindergarten to be academic learning instead of play based learning. 

The public school systems and Federal government believe they have good intentions but our current system indicates that pushing this current education agenda is harmful to our children and I would argue (from our personal experiences with aversion interventions) that going to school with any type of learning differences means that we have already increased students' ACE scores and risk for ongoing mental health impairments. We forget that education is an entitlement for children to ensure they become the best American citizen that their natural gits allow; we are systemically failing our children.



“However, my son has been on a BIP since age of 4 and I have yet to see this documentation. The BIP remains with it's foundation and every year we keep adding too it which then creates an impaired tool due to too many choices, too many independent user interventions and fails to do what a BIP is suppose to do; reduce and eliminate behaviors. ”

I think this is the crux. There is data but no one ensures behaviors are actually decreasing or that methodology is being run with fidelity.  Your point that school psychologist and BCBA have different views is a valid point to this problem or perhaps means out of it if the team understands different perspectives but all include the student’s voice to take precedent.

What I found very interesting is that there is little to no recourse or consequence for the lack of due diligence from those agencies with oversight to ensure that public schools are implementing IDEA, Section 504 and ADA according to their own rules and guidance. Data collection should never be left as an option. If we can ensure data collection on academic "proficiency scores" to connect our local education budgets to federal dollars then we should be able to include BIP stat data as well.  

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