Behaviour Intervention Planning
Interventions: Explanation of Critical Component
When developing interventions for children who have severe emotional/behavioural disorders, it is critical that System, Social Learning and Personal/Emotional programming needs be addressed. Since these are "programming needs," the translation into action should be quite direct. The part of the plan that addresses social learning and personal/emotional needs constitutes the treatment part of the plan. It identifies how we will adapt the environment so that the child has the opportunity to remain there and how we will teach the child new social skills so that s/he can eventually handle less protective environments. In a Behaviour Intervention Plan there are four components to this treatment part. These include proactive and reactive components, and structure and process components. The interventions given in the sample BIP are primarily addressing the social learning and personal/emotional programming needs and thus represent a school-based treatment plan. These treatment interventions are further supported by involvement of outside agencies working with the child and/or home.
In some cases, it is critical to address system needs in a very direct manner. When this happens, the team will sometimes develop a separate Safety Plan to ensure that system needs are met.
It is difficult for children with severe emotional/behavioural problems to remain within a school setting for any length of time without careful planning. The purpose of proactive strategies is to design interventions based on our understanding of the child and his/her personal/emotional programming needs so the child does not have to use his/her survival strategies to cope with classroom situations. For example, if a child is consistently worn out by 3:00 p.m. and can no longer handle a heavy workload, we may schedule a positive, low-stress activity for the last period of the day.
Some people confuse proactive interventions with preventative interventions. The two can be similar but a distinction should be made. Proactive interventions are given before there is any sign of a problem. They are simply our best judgement of interventions that must be in place for the student to function without difficulty. For example, having a positive, low-stress activity every afternoon at 3:00 p.m. could be a proactive intervention. Preventative interventions are given when there are signs that a problem is about to occur. They are used to head off problems. When we see a student walking toward another with an angry countenance, we may call the student over to talk. The intent is to stop the potential problem before it begins. This is preventative. It is not critical that the team determine whether their interventions are proactive or preventative. Both approaches can be helpful. However, there is information to suggest that some interventions should be truly proactive. In this sense, we help the student have a positive day by planning interventions that reduce the need for the student to use problem behaviours.
It is the effective selection of proactive interventions that give the child the opportunity to remain within the classroom, school, or alternative learning environment. It is this opportunity to interact without the need to employ self-protective or self-defeating strategies that gives the child the ability to have a positive experience as part of a community. It may well be this positive involvement with a community that has the most lasting impact on the child, and drives his/her desire to learn and use the prosocial learning skills we wish to teach.
Even with careful planning and effective proactive interventions, students with severe emotional/behavioural difficulties will get into difficulty. Their problem behaviours are driven by survival or organic issues and, at some point, these will be triggered. When this happens, direct caregivers need to have a planned response that can
- assist the student to move out of destructive psychological states where survival strategies can be easily triggered
- help the student return to a more competent psychological state where s/he can gain rational control over emotions and behavioural responses
- minimize the disruption to the learning of others
- assist others in feeling safe
In addition, we may want to take some actions that allow the student to learn from the incident and assist them in making better choices next time.
In some cases where the student's behaviours place others in danger and when their psychological state makes it difficult for them to respond to reasonable direction or staff control, it may be necessary to develop a safety plan.
The structure of our interventions simply identifies what we plan to do. It is a summary of the team's decision on which strategy will be done. Where appropriate, it should also identify who is going to implement the strategy, and where and when it will be done. The focus is on what team members will do and not on what the child will do. Exceptions to this occur when the child is part of the planning process. However, one should not confuse a "contract" with a Behaviour Intervention Plan.
The process describes how something is done. When working with children who have emotional/behavioural disorders, the success or failure of an intervention can depend as much on how something is done as what is done. Once a team member realizes that an intervention must be done in a certain way to be successful, it is important to share this with the team. This will help other caregivers implement the intervention more effectively.