Book a call

Breaking Free from Conformity: The benefits of individualized positive behavior support for neurodiverse students.

advocacy iep iep coach parenting special education special needs
One paper doll breaking away from the others

Being able to follow rules of the classroom and society are important and necessary.  While I want my child to walk in line with his class, or sit on the carpet for circle time, or wait his turn, the expectation or insistence that he conform isn’t enough to make that happen.  A tailored approach that takes into account the child's individual strengths and weaknesses is essential to help them succeed.

Behavior management is an essential component of supporting neurodiverse children. However, a one-size-fits-all approach to behavior management can be particularly challenging for our children with unique needs. This is why individualized Positive Behavior Support Plans (PBSP), or sometimes called Behavior Intervention Plans (BIP), are so important. 


What is a Positive Behavior Support Plan?

A positive behavior support plan is a personalized plan that aims to teach and reinforce positive behaviors for children with special needs. It includes a thorough assessment, collaborative goal-setting, and the development of tailored strategies to address the child's challenges. A PBSP also includes a regular evaluation process to assess progress and modify the plan as needed. The ultimate goal of a PBSP is to create a positive and supportive learning environment that helps the child learn new skills and behaviors to improve their quality of life.


What is the process for developing a PBSP?

The process for developing a Positive Behavior Support Plan typically includes the following steps:

  1. Assessment: The first step in developing a PBSP is to gather information about the child's behavior. This may involve observations, interviews with teachers and other staff, and a review of relevant records and reports.  This evaluation is called a Functional Behavior Assessment or (FBA).  It is important the child is evaluated in all settings to get a complete picture.
  2. Identification of Problematic Behaviors: Based on the assessment information, the problematic behaviors that the child is exhibiting are identified and described in detail.
  3. Analysis of the Function of the Behavior: The next step is to determine why the child is exhibiting the problematic behaviors. This involves understanding the underlying emotional, social, or environmental factors that may be contributing to the behavior.  This is a very important step that some schools fail to complete and can void the efficacy of the PBSP.
  4. Goal Setting: Based on the analysis of the function of the behavior, specific, measurable, and attainable goals for the child related to reducing or eliminating the problematic behaviors are established.
  5. Intervention Planning: Strategies and interventions to help the child achieve their goals are developed and described in detail. This may involve incorporating evidence-based practices, such as positive reinforcement, behavior modification techniques, and social skills training.
  6. Monitoring and Evaluation: A plan for regularly monitoring the child's progress and evaluating the effectiveness of the interventions is established, including the use of data collection and analysis to track the child's behavior over time.
  7. Collaboration and Communication: A plan for involving the child, their parents or guardians, teachers, and other relevant individuals in the implementation of the PBSP is developed. This may also involve establishing clear communication channels to support the child's success.
  8. Review and Revision: The final step is to establish a schedule for regularly reviewing and revising the plan, as necessary, based on the child's progress and the effectiveness of the interventions.


Is there anything we should be cautious of with a PBSP?

Sometimes, even when the school follows the evaluation process and develops a behavior plan it doesn’t hit the mark.  It’s important the interventions are not conformity based, including the controversial use of behavior charts, token systems and conduct contracts.

 Using behavior charts, token systems, or conduct contracts to manage children's behavior can have unintended negative consequences. These approaches rely on extrinsic motivators, such as rewards and punishments, to influence behavior, rather than fostering intrinsic motivation and developing self-regulation skills. This can lead to a focus on short-term compliance rather than long-term learning, and children may come to rely on external rewards or avoid negative consequences rather than developing an internal sense of right and wrong.

Additionally, these systems can create a sense of competition among children, leading to resentment and feelings of inadequacy. Instead, it is important to focus on building positive relationships, teaching and modeling appropriate behaviors, and addressing the underlying causes of challenging behavior.


How can we accomplish positive behavior reinforcement and behavior modification without the use of behavior charts and tokens?

Positive behavior reinforcement and behavior modification can be accomplished without the use of behavior charts and tokens by using other strategies such as:

  1. Verbal praise and reinforcement: Verbal praise and reinforcement can be a powerful motivator for children. Teachers and parents can give children immediate and specific positive feedback when they exhibit desired behaviors, such as "Great job for following instructions!" or "I appreciate you helping your classmates."
  2. Natural consequences: Natural consequences can be a way to reinforce desired behaviors without the use of tokens or charts. For example, allowing a child to play a preferred activity after completing their work reinforces the importance of completing work.
  3. Opportunities for choice: Providing children with opportunities to make choices can increase their sense of control and ownership over their behavior. This can involve giving them choices between two acceptable options, such as "Do you want to work on your writing first or your math?"
  4. Social reinforcement: Social reinforcement involves using the approval or attention of others to reinforce desired behaviors. For example, a teacher may acknowledge and praise a child in front of their peers when they exhibit positive behaviors.
  5. Modeling: Modeling is a way to reinforce desired behaviors by demonstrating them for children. Teachers and parents can model appropriate behaviors, such as following instructions or exhibiting positive social skills, and then praise children for imitating these behaviors.

It’s important that we strive for communication and consistency between school and home.  Sharing information like specific techniques and approaches, positive reinforcement strategies, or social-emotional learning activities as well as materials used can be beneficial.  Additionally, when parents are involved in the PBSP process, they can play an active role in reinforcing positive behaviors at home, which can help to generalize the skills and behaviors learned in school to other settings.


Key takeaways.

There are many more aspects that we could discuss with great depth but I hope I’m leaving you with a better understanding of how we can appropriately support and manage the behavior of our neurodiverse students in the school.

In conclusion, positive behavior support plans (PBSP) are more appropriate and effective than conformity-based management for children with special needs, as they are personalized, evidence-based, and focused on teaching and reinforcing positive behaviors. PBSPs promote a positive and supportive learning environment that helps children learn new skills and behaviors to improve their quality of life. If you are a parent or caregiver of a child with special needs and are interested in developing a PBSP for your child, I am here to help. As Master IEP Coach® I advocate for children with special needs, I can assist you in navigating the evaluation and planning process and ensuring that your child receives the support and resources they need to succeed. Let's work together to promote positive behavior and help prepare your child for their future. Book a Call with me today!



Follow me on Instagram so you don't miss anything!


Never miss a new blog post!

Join the mailing list to receive the latest news and updates.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.