It’s that dreaded moment when the school call you in to announce that your child is going to be put on a Behaviour Intervention plan. Usually, you will have had some notice; having either been called into school or received a letter or phone call reporting unacceptable behaviour but it still hits you hard and hurts.
It is difficult not take it personally. Your parenting skills are being criticized and your child is not as perfect as you thought he/she would be. Having had my own child expelled from mums and tots for biting, I can empathise with all parents who have undergone this. You wonder where you have gone wrong and wonder if this is going to be a pattern for years to come. However, there is something positive about it. Your child is obviously having some issues at school that need addressing now to prevent worse case scenarios of being excluded or being labelled as the “naughty” one who parents warn their child against mixing with both inside and outside school.
It’s a hard nut to swallow but its better dealing with it now rather than later when trouble has escalated.
A caring professional school will have the right motives. It is their responsibility to safe guard both your child and others in the school. To work collaboratively so everyone involved in the child’s behaviour guarantees a higher chance of success. Consistency of responses, reactions and consequences, together with a united front, is more likely to give the child the right message.
But what is a Behaviour Intervention plan? These will vary according to schools and countries of origin, and can be called Behaviour Management Plans, Behaviour Support Plans or Positive Behaviour Support Plan, but basically an assessment will be made of the behaviour which is causing the trouble and a concrete plan of action will be drawn up and shared by all participating parties.
Remember that undesired behaviour may not always mean aggression. Behaviour is simply what people do and it is when that behaviour becomes detrimental to either the child or his peers learning or well-being, that intervention takes place. For example, I have had children in my class who never stop talking or conversely never do speak. Both of these behaviours, although not what we call “naughty” per se, do have an effect on learning in the classroom.
An assessment will be made, usually after observation, of the whole perspective surrounding the behaviour. Often an A.B.C. method is employed:
A: Antecedents. –What has happened before? What are the triggers? For example, is it the changeover between lessons, or is the noise level in the class high. It could be there was an altercation in the recess break or that the child had a late night. All things should be taken into consideration. I often liken it to being a Sherlock Holmes. Something is causing the behaviour. If we can find that then we have a good chance of doing something about it.
B: Behaviour- What was the behaviour? Sometimes teachers miss the whole event and only catch the outcome. For example, is another child starting something?
C: Consequence- What happens after the behaviour? Is the child “given another chance” so often it becomes ineffective. Are consequences followed through? Is the child getting the right message after the behaviour?
This assessment usually takes place over a period of time and a parent should be made aware this is happening. Once the report is finalised a meeting should be called for all concerned parties including teachers, support assistants, learning support, leadership team and most importantly, parents, and I repeat parents. This is a time when you must show a united front and tackle the problem together plus support each other emotionally. It is not a time for blame or recriminations but a time to work together as parents for the best possible outcome for your child.
Behaviour Intervention Plans are NOT punishments but rather seek to identify causes and offer solutions. Therefore they should be proactive and strength based. We want to increase the good positives and reduce or get rid of the negatives. Remember too that it is the behaviour we are targeting. It is important that we also nourish the child’s self-esteem and confidence. It is the behaviour we don’t like not the child!
Your child is key to this plan’s success, therefore involve them. In order for the plan to make improvements in the child’s whole life, it is important to teach the child self-management skills. The ability to implement the plan effectively is trust and relationship dependent. The child must be willing to work with the adults who are implementing the plan and believe that they are trying to help him or her.
Some examples of positive supports in a plan may include:
• Teaching the child replacement behaviours. For example, if I feel angry and frustrated, I will ask for time-out.
• Rewarding the child for using socially acceptable behaviours. (But not with gifts and bribes but by praise and directed time)
• Teaching the child to avoid behaviour triggers.
• Teaching the child to identify emotions
• Changing the responses from adults
• Changing negative stimuli in the environment
• Identifying a caring adult to give positive time in school
• Supporting the child at problematic times.
At times it may be possible and desirable to change the environment by implementing preventative strategies. For example, teachers to state clear expectations, modifying seating, adapting the pace of instruction, avoiding exposure to long periods of waiting, providing a choice of activities and allowing the student to take breaks.
Of course, this is a much simplified overview and there are many other factors which can be introduced and strategies used but suffice it to say that it will take a while to change any behaviour and patience and perseverance is required. Regular communication is tantamount and often a communication book is used where all parties can add the strengths and weaknesses of the day so a united front is shown to the child. Lapses can be talked through and successes praised. There may still be crises and certainly there will be highs and lows but a collaborative plan will have its successes if only that your child understands that people care enough about him/her to want to help their problematic behaviour.
The final advice I have is to be kind to yourself. Don’t go beating yourself up about blame or what people might think. It has happened to a lot of us and we’ve got through it, knowing that our relationship with our child is stronger and that we care enough to act. Good luck!
Sally Evans is a highly experienced Inclusive Education Consultant. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org