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Behavioral Intervention

It can be very frustrating for a parent to watch their child struggle with academic and social skills, or behavior. Response to Intervention is a multi-stepped intervention designed to help students who are struggling and falling behind.

The purpose of RTI is to intervene and provide services before a child fails.

Response to Intervention integrates assessment and intervention within a multi-leveled system to maximize student achievement and to reduce behavior problems. With RTI schools identify students at risk for poor learning outcomes, monitor student progress, provide evidence-based interventions, and adjust interventions depending on a student’s responsiveness. This can also help identify students with learning disabilities.


The Individuals with Disabilities Act

The Individuals with Disabilities Act allows schools to intervene before the child has to fail. This is considered an “early intervening service” and can take place before a child is referred to special education.

This law emphasizes providing high-quality, scientific-based instruction and interventions provided by highly qualified teachers. It attempt to hold school districts accountable for student achievement. Information gathered from student monitoring is then used to make informed decisions about instruction and levels of intervention.

This process narrows in on how individual students respond to changes in their instruction. Multiple national organizations and coalition groups, including the National Research Center on Learning Disabilities and the 14 organizations forming the 2004 LD Roundtable Coalition, have outlined the core features of an RTI process as follows:

  • High quality, research-based instruction, and behavioral support in general education.
  • Universal (school-wide or district-wide) screening of academics and behavior in order to determine which students need closer monitoring or additional interventions.
  • Multiple tiers of increasingly intense scientific, research-based interventions that are matched to student need.
  • Use of a collaborative approach by school staff for development, implementation, and monitoring of the intervention process.
  • Continuous monitoring of student progress during the interventions, using objective information to determine if students are meeting goals.
  • Follow-up measures providing information that the intervention was implemented as intended with appropriate consistency.
  • Documentation of parent involvement throughout the process.
  • Documentation that the special education evaluation timelines specified in IDEA 2004 and in the state regulations are followed.

As states and school districts work to implement an RTI process that provides early intervention to struggling students, parents need to be informed and understand what that process entails. Here are 10 questions from NCLD to ask about RTI to help guide you through the process.

  1. Is the school district currently using an RTI process to provide additional support to struggling students? If not, do they plan to?
  2. What screening procedures are used to identify students in need of intervention?
  3. What are the interventions and instructional programs being used? What research supports their effectiveness?
  4. What process is used to determine the intervention that will be provided?
  5. What length of time is allowed for an intervention before determining if the student is making adequate progress?
  6. What strategy is being used to monitor student progress? What re the types of data that will be collected and how will student progress be conveyed to parents?
  7. Is a written intervention plan provided to parents as part of the RTI process?
  8. Is the teacher or other person responsible for providing the interventions trained in using them?
  9. When and how will information about a student’s performance and progress be provided?
  10. At what point in the RTI process are students who are suspected of having a learning disability referred for formal evaluation?

MPACT’s Challenging the School to Prison Pipeline Juvenile Justice Initiative (RISE)

MPACT’s Tools that Challenge the School to Prison Pipeline Juvenile Justice Initiative focuses on providing training, information and supports that reach families of justice-involved youth and youth with behaviors that adults find challenging where they are; inspiring families and youth to advocate for their educational rights, and empowering them to become effective advocates for themselves. Our Tools that Challenge the School to Prison Pipeline training provides parents, youth and professionals tools and resources that reshape how we see behavior and discipline. Participants learn how zero tolerance discipline policies influence the suspension and graduation rates of students with disabilities and those of low economic status; how to strategically identify and address behaviors using evidence based approaches and how a Functional Behavior Assessment and be used to develop Positive Behavior Intervention Plans that work.

Functional Behavior Assessment

A functional behavior assessment/analysis (FBA) is a process for collecting information/data to help understand why problem behaviors occur. The data will also help identify ways to address the behaviors.  A FBA is then used to develop a behavior intervention plan (BIP).

Requesting an FBA:

Make your request in writing.  You might want to use a sample letters as a reference.

Planning ahead for a meeting about your child’s behavior needs will help you explain your own ideas about the best way to help your child in addition to listening to the ideas of others. Once a request for an evaluation has been made, there is a 30 day timeline to be followed.

ABC Assessment:

This is a popular feature of many behavior assessment forms.  Your school district will have a specific format they use for behavior assessment, and you can request a copy.  Parents might also use the ABC technique for challenging behaviors at home.

  • A is for Antecedents – the events occurring prior to the problem behavior.  Often, time and location are noted in this area too.  What was the child doing immediately before the behavior?  Who else was there?
  • B is for Behavior – the problem behavior such as tantrums, hitting, etc.  A note about the intensity or duration of the behavior can be noted here. What specifically happened? Was anyone the target of this behavior?
  • C is for Consequences – the consequences for the child of his behavior – the results which follow the child’s behavior (e.g., attention, power, or a correction such as time-out). How did others react?  Did the child get what they wanted by doing this behavior?

Some forms include a section to mark the perceived function of the behavior, broken down into four sections:

  1. escape/avoidance
  2. get attention
  3. get desired object/activity
  4. self-stimulation

Remember that this is a best-guess as to why the behavior is occurring.

Once We Have The Data:

The data gathered during the FBA will be analyzed.  It is important to look for any patterns or common trends, such as patterns in the days of the week, or times of the day when the problem behavior occurs. You will also want to think about when the behavior does not occur. This may give you additional clues about contributing factors.

The team should consider many factors, including:

  • Is the behavior happening during the same activity and/or with the same materials?
  • Does the behavior occur with specific people?
  • Are there certain events/conditions that lead up to (or happen before) the behavior?
  • Is there a consistent consequence?
  • Does the behavior stop after a particular consequence? If this is consistent, does this mean anything about the function/ purpose of the behavior?
  • Are there other personal factors that may be influencing the behavior such as illness, tiredness, or hunger?

What if I disagree with the results of the evaluation?

If you do not agree with the results of the individualized evaluation of your child, as conducted by the school system, you have the right to obtain what is known as an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE).

What The Law Says:

You may request a FBA at any time if your child’s problem behaviors are becoming worse, or when the team cannot explain to you why the problem behaviors occur.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires a FBA whenever a child with a disability has his or her current placement changed for disciplinary reasons.

The evaluation requirements of IDEA make it clear that children must be evaluated in all areas related to the suspected disability. This means that if your child has problem behaviors that are not improving, your child may need an evaluation to examine the behaviors more closely.

Once you have data, the next step is to plan for change with a Behavior Intervention Plan.

The Behavioral Intervention Plan

After a functional behavior assessment (FBA) has been conducted, the IEP team must develop (or revise) the student’s behavior intervention plan (BIP). The BIP has many components. It should:

  • describe the problem behavior,
  • give best guesses as to why the behavior occurs,
  • and, include positive strategies, program or curricular modifications, and additional supports.

The BIP should also include:

  • a baseline measure of the problem behavior, this should include the frequency, duration, and intensity of the targeted behaviors  (It is imperative that the baseline measure includes data taken across activities, settings, people and times of the day);
  • intervention strategies to be used to alter events that precede a behavior (antecedent) to prevent the occurrence of the behavior, teach individual alternative and adaptive behaviors to the student, and provide consequences for the targeted inappropriate behavior(s) and alternative acceptable behavior(s); and
  • a schedule to measure the effectiveness of the interventions.

Intervention plans emphasizing the skills that students need in order to behave in a more appropriate manner, or plans providing motivation to conform to required standards, will be more effective than plans that simply serve to control behavior. Positive plans for behavioral intervention will address both the source of the problem and the problem itself.

IEP teams may want to consider the following techniques when designing behavior intervention plans and supports:

  • Manipulate the antecedents and/or consequences of the behavior;
  • Teach more acceptable replacement behaviors that serve the same function as the inappropriate behavior;
  • Implement changes in curriculum and instructional strategies; and
  • Modify the physical environment.

If a BIP is working, the challenging behaviors will be reduced.  If the behaviors do not improve, then the BIP needs to be revisited and updated.  Parents may request an FBA and BIP at any time if a child’s problem behaviors are becoming worse, or when the team cannot explain to you why the problem behaviors occur.

A student’s need for a behavioral intervention plan must be documented throughout the IEP.  The IEP must indicate if a particular device or service, including an intervention, accommodation or other program modification is needed to address the student’s behavior that impedes the student’s learning or classmates’ learning.  When the BIP is attached to the IEP, it becomes part of the IEP.  An updated BIP can be attached to the IEP with an IEP amendment.

Positive Behavior Support

Persistent, challenging behavior is a way that some children communicate that something is not right or that their needs are not being met. The behavior serves a function for the child. Any time that a child uses a behavior that is successful in meeting a need, the behavior is likely to be repeated. Punishment often does not change a challenging behavior because it does not teach a child an appropriate replacement behavior or skill that will meet their need. Instead, a child must be taught positive behaviors that serve the same function as the challenging behavior. Positive Behavior Support (PBS) focuses on the function that a challenging behavior serves for a child.

PBS is a process that provides teachers and families with a way to understand and address a child’s persistent challenging behavior. Support plans focus on proactive and educational approaches to change behavior. The positive strategies used to change behavior include teaching new skills, preventing the occurrence of challenging behavior, and supporting the child in achieving meaningful, long-term outcomes.

PBS always involves:

  1. Decisions based on data.
  2. Using functional behavioral assessment (FBA).
  3. Proactive and positive teaching of appropriate behaviors.
  4. Monitoring the impact of interventions.

PBS is the only approach to addressing behavior that is specifically mentioned in federal law. IDEA states, “almost 30 years of research and experience has demonstrated that the education of children with disabilities can be made more effective by—(F) providing incentives for whole-school approaches, scientifically based early reading programs, positive behavioral interventions and supports, and early intervening services to reduce the need to label children as disabled in order to address the learning and behavioral needs of such children.”

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires a FBA whenever a child with a disability has his or her current placement changed for disciplinary reasons.  Behavior intervention plans are not exclusive to discipline.

The evaluation requirements of IDEA make it clear that children must be evaluated in all areas related to the suspected disability. This means that if your child has problem behaviors that are not improving, your child may need an evaluation to examine the behaviors more closely.

Tiered Intervention

While there is no single, thoroughly researched and widely practiced “model” of the RTI process, it is generally defined as a three-tier (or 3-step) model of school supports that used research-based academic and/or behavioral interventions. At all stages of the process, RTI should focus on discovering how to make the student more successful rather than focusing on the student’s lack of success. The three model includes:

Tier 1: Screening and Group Interventions

The instruction that students receive in the general education classroom with their regular teacher is called Tier 1 instruction. All children receive this first level of reading instruction, which usually lasts about 90 minutes each day. When a screening test shows that a child is at risk for reading problems, the child may receive extra help in the general education classroom with the general education teacher. If, after a brief period of time, progress monitoring shows that there has been very little progress, the teacher will consult with other staff members at the school. Together, they might decide that the best way to help a child who has not improved with the general education curriculum (Tier 1), even with extra help, would be to give the child Tier 2 instruction.

Tier 2: Targeted Interventions

Students not making adequate progress in the regular classroom in Tier 1 are provided with more intensive services and interventions. These services are provided in addition to instruction in the general curriculum. These interventions are provided in small group setting. In the early grades (K-3) interventions are usually in the areas of reading and math. A longer period of time may be required for this tier, but it should not exceed a grading period.

Students who continue to show too little progress at this level of intervention are then considered for more intensive interventions as part of Tier 3.

Depending on the school’s particular model of RTI, parents may or may not be involved in Tier 2. Ideally, schools involve parents at the earliest stages of RTI by explaining the process in face-to-face meetings, providing written intervention plans and requesting parental consent.

Tier 3: Intensive Interventions and Comprehensive Evaluation

Students receive individualized, intensive interventions that target student’s skill deficits. Students who do not respond to these targeted interventions are then considered for eligibility as required by the Individual’s with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The data collected during Tiers 1, 2, and 3 should be included and used to help make eligibility decisions.

At any point in an RTI process, IDEA allows parents to request a formal evaluation to determine eligibility for special education. An RTI process cannot be used to deny or delay a formal evaluation for special education.

Progress Monitoring

Progress monitoring is a scientifically based practice that is used to assess students’ academic performance and evaluate the effectiveness of instruction. Progress monitoring can be implemented with individual students or an entire class.

How it works:

To implement progress monitoring, the student’s current levels of performance are determined and goals are identified for learning that will take place over time. The student’s academic performance is measured on a regular basis (weekly or monthly). Progress toward meeting the student’s goals is measured by comparing expected and actual rates of learning. Based on these measurements, teaching is adjusted as needed. Thus, the student’s progression of achievement is monitored, and instructional techniques are adjusted to meet the individual students learning needs.

The Benefits:

When progress monitoring is implemented correctly, the benefits are great for everyone involved. Some benefits include:

  • Accelerated learning because students are receiving more appropriate instruction
  • More informed instructional decisions
  • Documentation of student progress for accountability purposes
  • More efficient communication with families and other professionals about student’s progress
  • Higher expectations for students by teachers
  • Fewer Special Education referrals

Overall, the use of progress monitoring results in more efficient and appropriately targeted instructional techniques and goals, which together, more all students to faster attainment of important state standards of achievement.

Anyone who is interested in improving results for children should be implementing progress monitoring. Whether you are a general educator, special educator, related service provider, administrator, or family member, you should be interested in implementing research-based progress monitoring practices.


  • Educators and families need information about the effectiveness of progress monitoring that would encourage them to adopt the practice.
  • Teachers and other practitioners need support in translating progress monitoring research into easily implemented, usable strategies.
  • Technical assistance on progress monitoring must transfer knowledge in ways that accommodate difference in background, training, and beliefs, as well as differences in the nature and philosophy of the instructional programs and practices already in place.
  • The information dissemination must take place in a variety of formats, in useable forms, and at different levels of specificity.

Progress monitoring is a relatively new term. Some other terms you may be more familiar with are Curriculum-Based Measurement and Curriculum-Based Assessment. Whatever method you decide to use, it is most important that you ensure it is a scientifically based practice that is supported by significant research.

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