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Formulating a Behavior Management Plan

July 1, 2021


Firstly, you might be asking “what is a behavior management plan?” Well, a behavior management plan or BMP is designed to help a student or child overcome or change negative behaviors into positive and more appropriate behaviors.  Also known as a behavior intervention plan (BIP), it is important for both parents of children with autism and teachers of students with autism to follow it so there’s consistency between both environments when working to eliminate challenging behaviors.

Formulating a Behavior Management Plan https://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/behavior-management-plan/

Behavior management plans can work well for parents of autistic children because difficult behaviors are often part of a developmental delay or other challenges that parents encounter each day while raising a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). 

What should a Behavior Management Plan Include?

A behavior management plan should be thorough so that any possible influencing factors that could be triggering behaviors are accounted for and planned for.

A behavior management plan should include some identifying information about the student or child.  What is his/her home environment like?  Who does he/she live with?  Does he/she get along well with his/her siblings? All of these factors could influence behaviors in both a positive and negative way. 

A behavior management plan should also include a description of the negative behaviors that you want to address and change.  These behaviors should be clearly described so that other individuals that may come to work with your child will be able to recognize these behaviors as they collaborate with you on a common goal. 

A goal should be clearly defined.  What do you want to replace the behavior with? Simply not doing a specific behavior is not effective in teaching children with autism because they don’t often have the social skills to understand why you are wanting them to alter behaviors.  Giving replacement behaviors is easier for them to understand because you are providing clear instruction that they can act upon. 

Identifying triggers that cause negative behaviors is also noteworthy on a behavior management plan.  It can help maintain a happy and stable environment at school and with new individuals such as therapists and babysitters that may work with your child. 

For example, if your child starts tearing up or chewing assignments during school, it could be anxiety and sensory seeking behaviors.  Telling the child to stop doing that won’t be productive because you are not providing a clear and  alternative choice and thus creating more stress and behaviors when the child stops the negative actions but doesn’t know what to do in place of it.

When noticing the disruptive behavior, having a plan in place, like a stress toy or bubble wrap to pop for sensory input can make a huge difference.  The behavior management plan helps the teacher say: “You look stressed and anxious.  Let’s pop bubble wrap instead of tearing up our assignment.” It maintains a positive and happy environment while giving clear direction and a replacement behavior that is more appropriate that the student will understand. 

Other sections that a behavior management plan should have are data collection procedures so that you have a measurable way to see if your behavior intervention plan is working.  If you are not tracking data, it’s hard to see or remember which days were worse and if any exterior factors were contributing to the behaviors recorded.  A good behavior plan should also have a duration section that you want the support to continue for. As children grow up and require different levels of support, having a duration section helps them see that they are working on goals with scientific evidence to prove that goals were mastered.   Having a defined timeline of events also helps keep parents, teachers, and the child on task knowing that they are working on a common goal together and with purpose whose growth can be measured.

With time, the child will learn to be a self-advocate and may even become aware of his/her triggers so that he/she can ask for different accommodations to help them achieve success throughout their lifespan.


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How do you develop an effective Behavior Management Plan?

The first step that should be done when wanting to develop an effective management system for improving positive behaviors is to collect data.  What problem behavior patterns are you wanting to address?  Is the negative behavior school wide or does it only happen in a specific classroom or with a specific teacher?  Do the behaviors happen at home as well? What are the expectations of the child and does the child understand those expectations? Identifying what the problem behavior is and having it written down is the first step of any program to ensure that all parties involved in the child’s education and at home are in agreement of the procedure that will follow. 

The next step is to have a formal meeting scheduled with the team or staff that sees your child every day to discuss classroom behavior that is affecting the classroom and emotional health of the child.   During this meeting, teachers and parents will discuss the rules and expectations in the classroom as well as consequences that will happen when rules are not kept.  Special education can also be discussed to determine if your child needs a higher level of support and aid to help minimize negative classroom behavior.  Positive reinforcements or rewards should also be discussed when a child have positive behaviors to encourage repeated appropriate and/or preferred behaviors. 

Once everyone is in agreement on the teacher and parent role for the new procedures, the new management system can be used in the class.  The student will have a dedicated team or staff that works together based on the report that was written and agreed upon in the meeting.  Rewards and consequences will be used to help alter and shift challenging behaviors into more appropriate and functional behaviors. 

Different environmental factors can influence behavior so if there is anything new happening at home or in their classroom, the parties involved in the behavior management plan should always be communicating with each other on new changes they see so that accommodations can be made or addendums made to the behavioral intervention plan.

What are the five components of a Behavior Plan?

The five components of a behavior management plan are:

  • observe and collect data on behaviors
  • identify the function of the behaviors you are wanting to change
  • create a behavior intervention plan, or BIP
  • implement new strategies to help support positive behaviors
  • adjust the plan as needed by keeping open communication with all parties involved

What are some behavior management techniques?

Behavior management techniques can be used for classroom management as well as at home for promoting positive behavior that is more functionable and acceptable. There are a variety of techniques that can be used at school in the classroom or at home and each child will have a unique and personalized behavior management plan or behavior intervention plan.

One technique that is effective when trying to increase positive behavior is to be mindful of your own body language and facial reaction. Autistic children tend to be more empathic and can easily pick up on body language and facial reactions, even though they may be unable to verbally express it. For example, if you are a caretaker of a child and tell the child that you are having fun yet sit with your arms and legs crossed and look off into the distance disinterested, the child will pick up on that and negative behaviors may increase with the function of attention seeking.

Another technique is to keep a positive attitude to promote positive behavior. If a child is having a challenging day and having tantrums, maintaining a positive demeanour can help balance the mood of the child. You could say: “I feel stressed sometimes too. I like to take deep breaths to help calm myself down. Come take some deep breaths with me.” It takes the focus off the negative behavior and provides a healthy alternative or replacement behavior that teaches the child healthy coping skills.

Understanding the boundaries and limits of the child or student is also an important skill with challenging behaviors. Autistic children with sensory disorders may be in sensory overload when they have a meltdown or tantrum. Even the slightest background noise could be excruciating for a child with sensory processing disorder which could contribute to negative behaviors with the function of escape and avoidance.

There may be times when the child needs to be placed in a quiet room that is sensory friendly until he/she is calmed down. Keeping the child in a classroom or continuing to try to engage with a child in this condition could cause more harm than good. Use the behavior management plan as a guide, but be flexible as needed with techniques and communication of the team.

Summary

Behavior management plans, or behavior intervention plans, can be used to teach students replacement behaviors that are more appropriate and functional.  Using positive reinforcement or rewards helps students to understand the consequence of negative behaviors and strive for positive changes. Behavior management is best used by both teachers and parents so there is a continuity of rules and guidance. 

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