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3 Tips For Creating Effective Behavior Intervention Plans

Photo by Alexander Dummer on Unsplash

A new school year starts for many children this week and with that comes a myriad of emotions. As many students will be starting virtually, parents are continuing to find creative ways to balance work responsibilities, overseeing their children’s participation in distance learning, and most importantly trying to keep themselves and their loved ones safe and healthy. Additionally, supporting your children’s social, emotional, and behavioral functioning continues to be of utmost importance.

With many of our therapists having experience working in a school setting, we wanted to provide families with tips to help support their children's development of positive behaviors based on our knowledge of creating behavior plans in a school setting and assisting parents with implementing strategies in the home setting. We previously focused on how collecting data on problematic behavior(s) at home could help determine the function of your child’s behavior by analyzing the antecedent, behavior, and the consequence. By having this information, you can generate a hypothesis that will then allow you to be able to create an effective intervention plan for your child.

Let’s use the following hypothesis example related to virtual learning: When asked to participate in distance learning (antecedent), your child turns off the camera and microphone settings and comes over to where you are working (behavior), in order to avoid participating in class and seek attention from you (consequence). When working to change the undesired behavior, the goal is to have your child engage in a replacement behavior, which in this case is participating in class. The trick though is that for the replacement behavior to be effective, it needs to give your child access to the same desired consequence (outcome), which in this example is spending time with you. With this in mind, here are three tips for helping to create an effective behavior intervention plan:

1. Be Specific- When talking with your child about your expectations, describe the desired behavior(s) as specifically as you can. In the above example, discuss what participation in distance learning means (i.e. having the microphone and maybe camera on, ways to show active listening skills). Create an environment that helps your child stick to the desired behavior by keeping distractions at a minimum to the greatest extent possible.

2. Positive reinforcement- Since participating in distance learning is a non-preferred task in this example, using positive reinforcement is important to help encourage your child to engage in this activity. Positive reinforcement can be in the form of praise and tangible reinforcers. Again, your child would prefer to spend time with you (or engage in another preferred activity), so instead of giving your child the attention when engaged in off task behaviors, provide reminders to your child of how to earn the time for the preferred activity. Set aside a designated time to spend together (i.e. lunch time, smaller breaks between classes, or at the end of the day for a longer period of time). While it is expected that your schedule likely will not allow you to have the same routine each day, you can still maintain consistency by communicating with your child at the beginning of the day when the designated reward time will occur to help prevent any misunderstandings later that day.

3. Use a Visual Reminder- This can vary based on the age and developmental level of your child. This could be a behavior chart, which would include the desired behavior(s) broken down into smaller components. For this example, participation in class could be broken down into a couple of steps and look like the following: Login to class with camera and/or microphone, use active listening skills (look at screen and listen while others are talking), and share at least one idea with the class verbally or in writing. For older children, creating a behavior contract outlining expectations with both parents and children signing the form is another good strategy to use. Having the tangible reinforcer, or reward, written on whatever visual is used can be a helpful motivator for your children to remind them of what they are working towards.

It is important that we remind ourselves that children and adolescent’s behavior is a form of communication and they are trying to share with us how they are feeling when they cannot express it using their words. In this example, children engaging in avoidance behaviors toward participating in distance learning can occur for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to social anxiety and performance anxiety surrounding academics.

If you find that your child continues to struggle with participating in distance learning, our team is here to help. Please reach out to us at info@thinkhappylivehealthy.com or call us at 703-942-9745 for more information.

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