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Behavior Problems & Discipline: What parents and teachers need to know

Posted May 22 2009 8:45pm 2 Comments

by Sue Whitney and Pam Wright

"Our 11 year old son has autism. His mental functioning is at the level of a very youngchild. Since he was placed with an aide for most of the school day, his aggressive behavior at school increased. He says the aide hurts him. We discussed these problems with the IEP team. They agreed that the aide was the problem."

"Six weeks ago, he cursed the aide. The school filed charges against him for 'sexual misconduct.' He has been at home since. A teacher comes to the house 2 or 3 times a week for about an hour. He receives little or no instruction and none of the related services (speech therapy, occupational therapy) in his IEP. What can we do?"

As the school year winds down, we are receiving many emails from parents and teachers about children who are being suspended, expelled and sent home from school for long periods of time.

An eleven-year old child with autism is charged with sexual misconduct and is suspended from school for six weeks? It is clear that this child's behaviors are symptoms of a larger problem that needs to be addressed. Putting him out of school will not address these problems.

Consult with an Attorney

These parents need to consult with an attorney who has expertise in special education issues. 

Contact your state  disability rights organization  (Protection & Advocacy system) or an education attorney. Describe your situation in detail. Here are some places to look for an attorney: 

Attorneys by state  from the Council of Parent Attorney and Advocates 
Yellow Pages for Kids with Disabilities  from Wrightslaw
Special Needs Advocate and Attorney Directory  from Education-a-Must

Behavior Issues and Discipline

If you are a parent, teacher or administrator who is dealing with behavior problems or school discipline issues, you need to know about the right to a free appropriate public education, the role of the IEP team, functional behavior assessments, and behavior intervention plans. 

All Children with Disabilities Are Entitled to a Free Appropriate Public Education   (FAPE)  

When Congress reauthorized IDEA 2004, they maintained the child's right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE). The law requires the state to have policies and procedures to ensure that a  free appropriate public education (FAPE) is available to all children with disabilities  ...  including children who have been suspended or expelled from school." (20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(1), see  Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition, page 71)

Developing the IEP

In developing the IEP, the IEP team is required to consider:
* the  strengths  of the child;
* the  concerns of the parents  for enhancing the education of their child;
* the results of the initial evaluation or the  most recent evaluation  of the child;
* the  academic, developmental, and functional needs  of the child. (20 U.S.C. § 1414(d)(3)(A), see  Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition, page 103)

The child's IEP team is also required to consider " Special Factors" that affect the child's ability to learn:

"In the case of a  child whose behavior impedes the child's learning  or that of others, consider the use of  positive behavior interventions and supports, and other strategies to address that behavior;" (20 U.S.C. § 1414(d)(3)(B), see  Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition, page 103)

Protections (Procedural Safeguards)

IDEA includes safeguards that are designed to protect the rights of children with disabilities and their parents. Read the Procedural Safeguards Notice  you received at the last IEP meeting so you understand these rights (you may need to read this Notice several times).

The law about disciplining children with disabilities is in Section 1415(k) ( Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition, pages 118-123). If you have a child who is being disciplined or put out of school, you need to read this section. Use a highlighter and make notes.

In essence, the school "may remove a child who violates a code of student conduct from their current placement to an appropriate interim alternative educational setting, another setting, or suspension for  not more than 10 school days." 

If a child is removed from the current placement, the child  shall  

(i) " continue to receive educational services  ... to enable the child to participate in the general education curriculum, although in another setting, and to progress toward meeting the goals set out in the child's IEP ..."

(ii) receive, as appropriate, a  functional behavioral assessment, behavior intervention services and modifications, that are  designed to address the behavior violation so that it does not recur." (Section 1415(k)(1)(D)); see  Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition, page 119)

Manifestation Determination

The IDEA requires that " within 10 school days of any decision to change the placement  of a child with a disability because of a violation of a code of school conduct ..." the school, "the parent, and relevant members of the IEP Team shall review all relevant information  in the student's file, including  the child's IEP, any teacher observations, and any relevant information provided by the parents  to determine -

(I) if the conduct in question was  caused by, or had a direct and substantial relationship to the child's disability; or

(II) if the conduct in question was the  direct result of the local educational agency's failure to implement the IEP.

If the group determines that the  child's behavior was a manifestation of the child's disability, the IEP team  shall  -

(i) conduct a  functional behavioral assessment, and  implement a behavior intervention plan  ...

(ii) in the situation where a behavioral intervention plan has been developed,  review the behavioral intervention plan... and  modify it, as necessary,  to address the behavior; and

(iii) ...  return the child to the placement from which the child was removed  ..." (20 U.S.C. 1415(k)(1)(F)); see Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition , page 120) 

Publications and Resources: Behavior and Discipline  

Disciplining Students with Disabilities

"A child runs, out-of-control, down the busy school hallway and punches another child who is quietly waiting in line outside her classroom. She starts to cry while the disruptive child continues down the hall, not responding to the teacher aide's commands to stop."

"Another adult says, 'He's special ed, there's nothing that we can do. You can't send him to detention. I'll tell his teacher.' The aide is frustrated and upset as she comforts the crying child."

What do you think of this scenario?

As Dr. Kevin Dwyer points out, "Nothing in IDEA restricts schools from disciplining children with disabilities. In fact, some contend that if the school does not address a dangerous behavior, the school is not providing the student with special needs with an 'appropriate' education. Children may need specialized services to change the disruptive and dangerous behavior and to make sure that whatever discipline is used works in preventing a reoccurrence of that behavior."

In  Disciplining Student with Disabilities  ( National Association of School Pyschologists, NASP Communique, Vol 26-2), Dr. Dwyer provides practical ideas about how to improve the chances that the child's positive behaviors will increase and negative behaviors will decrease. These concepts can be applied to children with disabilities who have behavior problems and other troubling students.

Functional Behavioral Assessment & Positive Interventions: What Parents Need to Know

Is the child a problem? Does the child have a problem? Is suspension from school "good medicine for bad behavior?" 

In  Functional Behavioral Assessment & Positive Interventions: What Parents Need to Know,  attorney Dixie Jordan describes strategies parents and teachers can use to assess problem behavior and teach appropriate behavior skills to children.

Download  Functional Behavioral Assessment & Positive Interventions: What Parents Need to Know  from

An IEP Team's Introduction to Functional Behavioral Assessment and Behavior Intervention Plans (2nd edition)

The functional behavioral assessment is a problem-solving process for addressing student problem behavior. The functional behavioral assessment identifies the purposes of a specific behavior and helps IEP teams select interventions to address the problem behavior. 

In  An IEP Team’s Introduction To Functional Behavioral Assessment and Behavior Intervention Plans, you will learn about:

* IDEA Rights and Requirements; IEP Team Roles and Responsibilities 
* Why a Functional Assessment of Behavior is Important 
* How to Conduct a Functional Behavioral Assessment 
* Identifying the Problem Behavior 
* Alternative Assessment Strategies 
* Techniques for Conducting the Functional Behavioral Assessment 
* Indirect Assessment, Direct Assessment, Data Analysis
* Hypothesis Statement 
* Individuals Who Assess Behavior 
* Behavior Intervention Plans 
* Addressing Skill Deficits & Performance Deficits
* Modifying the Learning Environment & Providing Supports 
* Evaluating the Behavior Intervention Plan

Download  An IEP Team’s Introduction To Functional Behavioral Assessment and Behavior Intervention Plans  from

Functional Behavioral Assessments: What? Why? When? Where? Who?

In  Functional Behavioral Assessments: What? Why? When? Where? Who?  Dr. Stephen Starin describes problem behaviors, functional behavior assessments, environmental manipulation, and qualifications and training of evaluators.

You can download  Functional Behavioral Assessments: What? Why? When? Where? Who?
More Resources

Why Johnny Doesn't Behave: Twenty Tips for Measurable BIPs by Barbara Bateman and Annemieke Golly

Why Johnny Doesn't Behave provides useful, concrete tips to help manage behavior, including:
* Make expectations clear 
* Teach expectations 
* Minimize attention for inappropriate behaviors
* Pay attention to behavior you want

One section about Functional Behavior Assessments (FBAs) and Behavioral Intervention Plans (BIPs) includes sample FBAs and BIPs. Parents of children with challenging behaviors may want to order two copies of this book - one for them, and one for the school.

Why Johnny Doesn't Behave is available from  Amazon  and other online bookstores.

Comments (2)
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There are number of options available for parents; by effectively applying it can change behaviors of children. I think Most considerable programs for changing children behavior problems should be a home based programs like the Home Intervention System that will help you deal with wide range of problems that children often encounter including; anger, substance abuse, school issues, self-esteem, arguing, motivation, interacting with family, and more. Parents, teachers, school counselors, grandparents, and any other individuals who frequently interact with children will benefit from techniques and concepts presented by the Home Intervention System.
If you are a teacher or a parent and your child has school behavior problems there is help available.
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