A newsletter by the ASD Network
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What is Included in a Behavior Plan?

Janine Kesterson, 
It's an age-old question. How specific should a behavior plan be? The answer to  this question is easy - very specific. Let's reflect on what a behavior plan is. A behavior  plan defines the behavior/s being targeted and how it will be addressed and changed.   Who uses the behavior plan? Teachers, paraprofessionals, other school staff, and  sometimes family members or caregivers.

Behaviors should be selected carefully. The behaviors chosen should be the most  significant. To ensure more reliable implementation and data, try not to have more than  five behaviors. Next define the behaviors. A behavior definition should include the  frequency, topography, duration, intensity, and latency of the behavior (Horner et. al.  2012). An example of this would be as follows: Tommy often hits adults with an open  hand once when prompted to complete an assignment.  

Next, identify the function of the behavior. Best practice is to complete a functional  behavior assessment (FBA) before writing a behavior plan. If an FBA is completed  correctly it will define the problem behavior, identify the triggers for problem behaviors,  and identify the consequences that maintain the behavior. This will help you figure out the  function (attention, escape, escape to tangible, or sensory) and help you determine which  interventions and replacement behaviors to use based on the function.

Once the function is determined interventions are written that match the function of  the behavior. These can be antecedents and consequences. First, consider antecedents.   What can the adult change in the environment to help the students' behavior? Examples  might be extra time, transition warnings, reinforcement procedures, visual schedules,  timers, and seating arrangement to name a few. Next, write out the intervention and the  consequence. For each behavior, there should be a step by step procedure for staff to
follow in the event of that behavior.  

Next. identify replacement behaviors that are more appropriate. For each behavior,  there should be a replacement behavior. For example, Tommy hits his staff every time he  needs help. A replacement behavior for this would be to have a help card sitting on  Tommy's desk. Staff would then teach Tommy to give the card to someone in place of  him hitting someone when he needs help.

After replacement behaviors, identify when the intervention and reinforcement will  be decreased and removed. A fading procedure needs to be included in the behavior  plan. For example, if Tommy goes 15 days with 5 aggressions or less his reinforcement  will go from every 30 minutes to every hour. Data should be collected daily and graphed  and analyzed weekly to monitor progress and help make data based decisions on  whether the intervention is working or not. Finally, if the data indicates the intervention  plan is not working, the team should make decisions on appropriate next steps.


Gable, R. A., Quinn, M. M., Rutherford Jr., R. B., & Howell, K. (1998). Addressing problem behaviors in schools: Use of functional assessments and behavior intervention plans. Preventing School Failure, 42, 106-113.

Horner, R. H., Sugai, G., Todd, A. W., & Lewis-Palmer, T. (2000). Elements of behavior support plans: A technical brief. Exceptionality: A Special Education Journal, 8, 205-215.

11th/12th 2 Day Toolkit for the Educational Evaluation of ASD at ESU # 3
11th Tri-State Webinar:  Picky Eaters:Facts and Interventions Part 1
18th Tri-State Webinar:  Picky Eaters:Facts and Interventions Part 2
20th Using Visuals to Communicate at ESU #6  

1st Tri-State Webinar: Targeting Skills for Adult Independence  
7th Webinar:  Preparing Students with High Functioning Autism for Competitive Employment
8th Tri-State Webinar: Transition Planning for Competent Adulthood
8th/9th 2 Day Toolkit for the Educational Evaluation of ASD at ESU # 13
10th  Play is Not as Easy as it Looks:  Teaching Joint Attention and Object Based Play to Young Children with ASD at ESU # 6
15th Tri-State Webinar: The Central Importance of Sexual Education ASD
22nd Tri-State Webinar:Person Centered Planning for the Future
24th Why Does He/She Do that?  Behavior Intervention for Students with ASD at ESU # 3
24th  Teaching Functional Skills to Middle and High School Students with Significant Needs at ESU # 10

Promise Reinforcer by Pam Sharping
 Click to watch a related video 
(Provided by Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network.

Involves showing the learner a preferred item prior to presenting the instruction.  The Promise Reinforcer establishes motivation to comply with the requested transition.  This will ensure that the value of problem behavior does not come to strength.
To increase compliance during transitions.
To reduce frustration when giving up highly preferred activities.
Pairing non-preferred areas with reinforcement to reduce escape or avoidance behaviors.
When it is time to transition to a less preferred activity or area.  It is used with individuals that frequently display patterns of problem behavior (i.e., crying, dropping to the ground, running away, refusal) during transitions or when giving up highly preferred activities.
  1. Determine a reinforcer that the student will want at that moment.  (Example: The student just had a salty snack and likes to have a drink).  
  2. Hold the reinforcer so the student can see it but do not make it too obvious. (Don't wave it around and say, "Look what I have", etc.)
  3. Give the instruction (Example: "It's time to __________", or "Come here we're going ________").
  4. If student follows the direction, deliver the reinforcer.  If using an activity/material reinforcer, a timer or some other cue will need to be used to indicate when the activity is over. 
  5. If the student doesn't follow through the first time the direction is given, he/she does not get the reinforcer, but the direction needs to be followed.   Prompt the student as needed to complete activity.
  6. Initially practice short distances frequently throughout the day.  For example, position chairs a few feet away and practicie moving from one chair to the other chair.  Lengthen the distance over time when the student is successful.
  7. Fade the promise reinforcer once the student masters transition criteria set by the instructor.
  8. When giving up a preferred activity/object, the promise reinforcer can be use to increase compliance. To be effective, the promise reinforcer should match the value of the current reinforcer.  For example, hold up small edible and say, "Give me car."  If the car is given after the first directive, deliver the reinforcer.  It is recommended to begin this procedure with a less valued reinforcer and move towards higher valued reinforcers over time.  It is less effort to give up items of less value.  When compliance is paired with reinforcement, desirable behavior will increase.
Barbera, M. L. (2009, November 8). Why do students with autism have such a difficult time with transitions? Retrieved from: http://verbalbehaviorapproach.blogspot.com/2009/11/why-do-students-with-autism-have-such.html
Kelly, A. N., Axe, J. B., Allen, R. F., and Maguire, R. W. (2015). Effects of presession pairing on the challenging behavior and academic responding of children with autism. Behavioral Interventions, 30, 135-156.
Mace, F. C., Pratt, J. L., Prager, K. L., & Pritchard, D. (2011). An evaluation of three methods saying "no"  to avoid an escalating response class. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 44(1), 83-94.

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