Behavior Plan: Writing a Comprehensive Behavior Intervention Plan

A Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP), sometimes referred to as a Behavior Plan or Positive Behavior Support Plan provides a roadmap for how to reduce problem behavior. It guides treatment and ensures that everyone responds to behaviors consistently. It includes interventions selected based on the hypothesized or demonstrated function of the behavior with the intention of reducing challenging behaviors and includes antecedent and consequence interventions as well as a plan for teaching a functionally-equivalent replacement behavior.

Behavior Plan: A roadmap for behavior change
Behavior Plan: A roadmap for behavior change

You might write a behavior plan for different audiences including school staff, parents, RBTs, or insurance companies. Your audience should dictate the language you use to write your plan. The behavior plan requires a minimum amount of information to effectively direct interventionists or communicate your plan with your audience. This information includes:

  • Identifying information
  • Goal
  • Target behavior operational definition
  • The hypothesized function of the target behavior(s)
  • Antecedent interventions
  • Skill development (functionally equivalent replacement behavior)
  • Consequence interventions
  • Response to target behaviors
  • Additional information (reinforcers, common setting events, etc.)

Keep in mind that before you create your BIP, you must conduct a functional behavior assessment (FBA) or a functional analysis (FA) to identify the function of the target behavior(s).

A study conducted by Tarbox, et al. (2013) found that professionals who used a web-based tool for creating behavior intervention plans produced a significantly higher rate of including function-based interventions. The BCBA Personal Assistant is your guide for efficiently creating effective behavior plans!

Behavior Plan Framework

When building your BIP, you can create a framework around a whole response class (multiple behaviors serving the same function), common antecedents/functions, or individual topographies of behavior. Choose the framework that you are most comfortable with or that best meets the needs of your learners, but make sure that your interventionist understands your plan. Although there isn’t one correct framework, it’s difficult to switch between them for different learners. Constantly changing the structure of your BIPs becomes confusing for your interventionists. Choose one that is appropriate to most of your learners and stick with it.

Consider the following when choosing a framework:

  • The antecedent structure requires that the interventionist correctly identify the antecedent and then react accordingly, potentially utilizing different strategies across different antecedents.
  • The antecedent structure may include some redundancy when the same interventions are used across different antecedents.
  • Using a topography structure often creates redundancy as you often implement interventions across more than one topography when they serve the same function.
  • When you are dealing with behaviors that are part of different response classes, using a structure around response classes requires multiple different plans.
  • A plan written for a specific response class directs the interventionist to address each of the target behaviors in that plan as though they were the same behavior. This means that you cannot include behaviors in the plan that are not part of that response class (and thus would be addressed differently).

Here are some templates to help you compare the different options:

Behavior Plan Formating

Generally, agencies have a template they use when documenting behavior plans. Often the template dictates which framework you must use. This information will help you if you start your own business, provide contract or consultation services, or have the liberty to choose your own format when working for an agency. If you must use an agency template, consider how the format impacts implementation. Provide training to your interventionists to ensure treatment fidelity.

Below is an example of a behavior plan written in an antecedent framework.

Sample behavior intervention plan (BIP) antecedent framework
BIP-Antecedent Framework

Formatting a behavior plan is a matter of structuring the information in a way that is easy for the interventionists to refer back to when needed. The image above shows an example of a behavior plan written in the antecedent framework. Each section provides interventionists with strategies for common antecedents (i.e. difficult task, low attention, etc.). The formatting of this plan allows the interventionist to quickly find the antecedent and then scan to find the interventions they should implement. There are limited instructions for implementing the intervention, but if the interventionist is familiar with the interventions, these might be sufficient.

When creating your plan, utilize headings and tables to allow interventionists to quickly scan to find the information they need. Bulleted lists break up text and distinguish one intervention from the next.

Our membership delves further into creating behavior intervention plans. Here, let’s look at how to write a detailed plan.

The help you need!

Steps to Writing a Behavior Plan

Writing a behavior plan consists of many steps that do not involve sitting behind a computer screen. This is an active process that requires substantial data collection and planning. The steps below are a guide, but remember that you may need to add steps depending on your setting and the rules in your area.

  1. Acquire informed consent from the parent or guardian
  2. Collect baseline data
  3. Collect FBA or FA data
  4. Analyze the data to identify a hypothesized or tested function of the target behavior(s)
  5. Research appropriate interventions
  6. Assemble the components of the plan
  7. Review the plan with the human rights committee if the plan includes any form of seclusion or restraint or if otherwise required (know the laws and rules for your specific area)
  8. Review the plan with the parent or guardian and obtain a signature
  9. Train staff to implement the plan

Components of An Effective Behavior Intervention Plan

Several components come together to create a complete treatment package to address maladaptive behavior and each component builds the foundation for positive behavior change. While some elements may be optional based on the setting or other supporting documentation, all plans should include the following components.

Identifying Information

Ensure that all staff know without a doubt whose plan they are reading. Include sufficient identifying information to make this crystal clear. Appropriate identifying information includes:

  • Child’s name and any nicknames
  • Child’s date of birth
  • Date of the plan (to ensure staff recognize the most recent plan)
  • Date of plan revisions
  • Author
  • Supervisor
  • Setting (if appropriate)

Goal

Clearly identify the goal for the plan. Anyone reading the plan should understand the purpose behind the plan. Why is this behavior intervention plan necessary? What benefits do you hope to see for the child?

Take a look at the following examples:

Good:

Goal: To help Beth stay in the classroom without disruptive behavior.

Better:

Goal: To increase Beth’s ability to remain in the classroom and participate in classroom activities with her peers with a decrease in target behavior and an increase in adaptive alternative behavior.

Best:

Goal: To increase Beth’s ability to remain in the classroom to 95% of the school day and actively participate in activities with her peers with a decrease in noncompliance to <10 minutes/day and an increase in requesting staff attention to 75% of opportunities.

Writing a goal that is observable and measurable ensures that everyone involved is on the same page. Clarity is crucial throughout this process.

Target Behavior Definition

Target behaviors should be defined operationally, meaning that anyone reading the definition can identify whether or not the behavior is occurring. For more information on writing operational definitions, see the post: Examples of Operational Definitions: 3 Key Components. In this post, I discuss the difference between topographical and functional definitions and provide examples of each.

Here’s an example that builds on the goal for Beth above:

Noncompliance: Any instance in which Beth physically and/or verbally refuses to comply with a directive for a skill previously demonstrated for longer than 30 seconds.

Examples include:

  • Shouting “no!” and crossing her arms when asked to touch her head.
  • Sitting down on the floor when told to line up for music.
  • Running out of the room when told to sit at the table.

Non-examples include:

  • Crying while touching her head when asked to touch her head.
  • Saying “I don’t want to” while walking to the line when told to line up for music.
  • Standing still for 15 seconds before walking to the table when told to sit at the table.

Onset: 30 seconds. Offset: 30 seconds.

Hypothesized Function

Based on the assessment data (FBA or FA) you collected, write a statement describing the hypothesized (or tested if you conducted an FA) function of the target behavior(s). Read the post What is the Difference Between Functional Analysis and Functional Behavior Assessment? on Accessible ABA for more on FBAs and FAs. This statement helps keep everyone involved clear on the factors that likely maintain the challenging behavior. Learn more about functions of behavior in our posts Functions of Behavior in ABA: How Many Are There, Really? and Understanding Functions of Behavior on Accessible ABA.

Check out the statement for Beth’s scenario:

Hypothesized Function: Based on Functional Behavior Assessment data, including interviews with staff, ABC data, scatterplot data and direct observation, Beth’s noncompliance is likely maintained by access to staff attention in the form of reprimands, coaxing or chasing.

Antecedent Interventions

Antecedent interventions minimize challenging behavior by addressing common triggers, setting events, or other precipitating factors. Clearly understanding the conditions within which the behavior typically occurs improves the accuracy and effectiveness of your interventions.

For more information about antecedent interventions, see the post: Using Antecedent Interventions to Minimize Challenging Behaviors on Accessible ABA. In this post I discuss several effective antecedent interventions as well as when to implement them.

Here, let’s look at antecedent interventions for Beth:

Antecedent Interventions:

Visual schedules: Using a visual schedule may reduce the motivating operation (MO) for Beth’s noncompliance as staff review the schedule with her prior to each transition, providing opportunities for staff attention routinely. In addition, include on her schedule multiple activities that include opportunities for her to receive staff attention (i.e. reading books, playing a math game, taking a walk in the hall).

Assigning “helper” tasks: Many of Beth’s challenging behaviors occur during transitions when staff may be attempting to gather materials, thus diverting staff attention. Assigning Beth “helper” tasks during this transition provides Beth with positive staff attention while minimizing the time staff’s attention must be diverted. For example, ask Beth to help you carry books to the circle area.

Alternative or Replacement Behaviors

Whenever you attempt to reduce one behavior, you must include a plan for teaching an appropriate alternative or replacement behavior. If you fail to include this, the child will develop her own replacement behaviors and they may be problematic. The replacement behavior should serve the same function as the maladaptive behavior you are looking to reduce.

Check out this example for Beth:

Replacement Behavior:

Functional Communication Training (FCT): Teach Beth to many appropriately for attention. When Beth is likely to engage in target behavior (i.e. before a transition when your attention may be diverted), but prior to onset of the target behavior, prompt Beth to request staff attention by saying “talk to me,” “watch me,” “look at me,” or some similar form of requesting attention. If Beth engages in target behavior, withhold attention and try again at another opportunity.

One way to teach replacement behaviors is through social stories. Read the post How Do I Use Social Stories to Teach Replacement Behaviors? on Accessible ABA for more.

Consequent Interventions

Every behavior plan should include some form of reinforcement strategy for appropriate behavior. Specify what the schedule of reinforcement should be and include what behaviors staff should reinforce. The post Understanding Consequence Interventions on Accessible ABA goes into more about these types of strategies.

For Beth we will use the following intervention:

Consequent Intervention:

Differential Reinforcement of Alternative Behavior (DRA): Beth should earn reinforcement (i.e. focused staff attention in a playful manner) each time she uses a functional statement to request staff attention.

IntervalR+ ScheduleR+ Time
1FR130 seconds
2FR21 minute
3VR32 minutes
4VR53 minutes

Criteria for interval progression: <10 minutes/day for 3 consecutive days

Criteria for interval regression: >20 minutes/day for 3 consecutive days

Response to Target Behavior

In this section, you will include specifics regarding how staff should respond when the target behavior(s) occur. This should include criteria for crisis response as well as when and how staff should call for help.

Beth’s behavior is reasonably mild, so staff’s response should reflect that:

Response to Target Behavior:

  • Withhold attention to the extent possible (i.e. do not say Beth’s name, do not make eye contact, etc.)
  • Monitor for safety
  • Use body positioning to minimize opportunities to elope from the room
  • Present the demands with visuals when possible
  • Wait for compliance with initial demand
  • Resume reinforcement schedule only once compliance has been re-established

Additional Information for the Behavior Plan

At times, additional information may be relevant. This might include common setting events (for more information on setting events, see the post: Setting Events: The 4th Term Contingency on Accessible ABA) such as specific staff, the presence of loud noises, or being hungry. Include any other information that might help staff understand and respond to the behavior appropriately.

Keep this information related to the target behavior(s), even though you might want to include extraneous information. For example, do not include information about the child’s toileting schedule unless the behaviors occurs around toileting.

Let’s see what might be relevant for Beth:

Additional Information:

  • Beth often engages in a higher rate of behavior on Mondays and Fridays.
  • Beth typically reacts negatively to loud noises such as fire alarms or assemblies.

Beth’s Behavior Plan

The best way to learn is through examples. Download Beth’s behavior intervention plan for future reference.

Behavior Plan as Part of a Functional Behavior Assessment

Writing the behavior plan is only one small component of creating an effective behavior strategy. It is one of the final steps of a Functional Behavior Assessment. A great behavior plan will incorporate an thorough understanding of the child’s behavior and will involve all those who are close to the child. Learn how to pull all the pieces together to create an effective behavior plan.

For a step-by-step guide to completing a Functional Behavior Assessment download our ebook ABA Fundamentals for Parents (also available from Amazon in paperback and Kindle).

References and Related Resources

Brodhead, M. T. (2015). Maintaining professional relationships in an interdisciplinary setting: Strategies for navigating nonbehavioral treatment recommendations for individuals with autismBehavior Analysis in Practice8(1), 70-78.

Hanley, G. P., Piazza, C. C., Fisher, W. W., Contrucci, S. A., & Maglieri, K. A. (1997). Evaluation of client preference for function‐based treatment packagesJournal of Applied Behavior Analysis30(3), 459-473.

Horner RH, Sugai G, Todd AW, Lewis-Palmer T. Elements of behavior support plans: a technical briefExceptionality: A Special Education Journal. 2000;8:205–215. doi: 10.1207/S15327035EX0803_6.

Kroeger, S. D., & Phillips, L. J. (2007). Positive behavior support assessment guide: creating student-centered behavior plans. Assessment for Effective Intervention32(2), 100-112.

LeBlanc, L. A., Raetz, P. B., Sellers, T. P., & Carr, J. E. (2016). A proposed model for selecting measurement procedures for the assessment and treatment of problem behaviorBehavior Analysis in Practice9(1), 77-83.

Pelios, L., Morren, J., Tesch, D., & Axelrod, S. (1999). The impact of functional analysis methodology on treatment choice for self‐injurious and aggressive behaviorJournal of applied behavior analysis32(2), 185-195.

Quigley, S. P., Ross, R. K., Field, S., & Conway, A. A. (2018). Toward an Understanding of the Essential Components of Behavior Analytic Service PlansBehavior analysis in practice11(4), 436-444.

Schwartz, I. S., & Baer, D. M. (1991). Social validity assessments: Is current practice state of the art?Journal of applied behavior analysis24(2), 189-204.

Tarbox, J., Najdowski, A. C., Bergstrom, R., Wilke, A., Bishop, M., Kenzer, A., & Dixon, D. (2013). Randomized evaluation of a web-based tool for designing function-based behavioral intervention plans. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders7(12), 1509-1517.

Vollmer, T. R., Iwata, B. A., Zarcone, J. R., & Rodgers, T. A. (1992). A content analysis of written behavior management programsResearch in developmental disabilities13(5), 429-441.

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