Navigating Behavior Challenges at School

The Challenge of Putting Written Plans Into Practice
two figures walking away from the cameral down a beach at sunset.

Throughout Conor’s school years, his behavior frequently interfered with his ability to successfully participate in class and caused much frustration – and sometimes pain – for his teachers, instructional assistants, school administrators and of course his parents, Maureen and John Mills. On several occasions, Conor was formally suspended for aggressive or inappropriate behavior.

The Mills family searched for ways to help Conor regulate his behavior which led them to take classes in positive behavior support and special education rights and responsibilities. Using the information they learned, they worked with Conor’s IEP team to have the district behavior specialist conduct a functional behavior assessment (FBA) and develop a behavior intervention plan (BIP). Eventually, after making minimal progress toward his behavior goals, Conor’s parents advocated for the district to contract with a Board Certified Behavior Analyst from outside the district to conduct an independent FBA and develop a BIP. Although comprehensive and illuminating, the plans on paper did not translate into success in practice.

“It was very frustrating at the beginning of each school year to feel like it was Groundhog Day,” Maureen shared. “The calls would start, and we’d be asked to pick Conor up from school because he licked a classmate’s head, used inappropriate language or wouldn’t come off the bleachers.” Although she admits not all calls were due to such benign actions. There were times when his behavior was more aggressive and potentially dangerous to himself or others.

Once his parents became more knowledgeable about their rights, they recognized that sending Conor home when he was not ill or injured was suspending him from school. They began requesting the school document these early removal times as suspensions. That data became helpful when Conor was in high school. His parents enlisted the assistance of an Individualized Education Program (IEP) partner from Raising Special Kids to help them advocate for a private placement at a school focused on providing positive behavior support.

“The calm guidance of the family support specialist was so helpful,” Maureen recalled. “She kept us focused and we were able to convey our concerns cohesively and professionally.” Conor was eventually placed at the requested school and completed his education there. His family and providers continue to work with him to de-escalate his behavior at home and in the community.

“We’ve come a long way and continue to make slow progress,” Maureen shared. “Come to think of it, he hasn’t licked anyone’s head lately!”

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