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Working with Schools

The Beach Center on Disability

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Working with Schools
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Creating Effective School-Home Partnerships. Approaches to handling challenging behavior require consistent efforts across various settings — i.e., school, home, and community. When a child displays serious challenging behavior at school, a strong partnership between the school and family needs to be established to maximize the effectiveness of behavior intervention strategies. Both the school and parents need to be aware of the importance of establishing a partnership. It is important for schools to create a system to encourage family involvement. Parents also need to actively and positively participate in their child's behavior support program at school.

Information from parents is critical when designing a behavior support plan or Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) at school. The information from parents may include observations of and insights into their child's behavior at home and in the community, the child's preferences and strengths, information on any medical issues, and descriptions of the home environment and family routines. Those pieces of information also help school personnel understand important family life-style issues, which should be reflected in the development of any comprehensive positive behavior supports that will be implemented across multiple settings.

A critical factor in maximizing the likelihood of success with a comprehensive, multi-domain behavior support plan or BIP is effective on-going communication. Although it may not be easy because of barriers such as time constraints, other children in the family, transportation, language barriers, and so on, the decision-making process for designing and implementing effective behavioral supports must include parental input and collaboration through on-going communication. Parents should ask their school about the following issues and concerns in order to ensure better communication:

  • Times for teachers to discuss behavior issues
  • Involvement of parents in decision making
  • Network of parents of students with challenging behavior
  • Verbal or written communication methods in languages of parents
  • Availability of a parent education program
  • Parent para-educators in bilingual and special programs for linguistic and cultural diversity

Participating on a Team. Establishing a collaborative team is the first step in creating a successful school-wide PBS program, as well as in developing an effective individual student behavior support plan (BSP/BIP). Parents are the most powerful and valuable resource to the school team. Throughout the teaming process, parents should be able to provide their opinions, experiences, feelings, and insights. All team members should keep in mind that effective behavior intervention strategies are based on a comprehensive understanding of both the student and the environmental factors that influence his/her challenging behavior. Parents are key to making the team strong and effective. A strong team requires:

  • Common interest in student's behavior
  • Agreement on goals and purposes
  • Shared leadership
  • On-going learning and sharing environment

Engaging in Intervention Activities. Parent participation starts with collecting and providing information about their child and his/her behavior. All information can be useful in the initial stage of PBS planning. The information can include:

  • General family story
  • Child's strengths, needs, preferences, and expectations
  • Long-term goals and dreams for the future
  • Current responses to challenging behavior
  • Previous approaches used to address behavior problems
  • Priorities, current needs, and ongoing concerns

This information will help school personnel understand the student's behavior and lifestyle. Parents also can be involved in the Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) process by providing data from the home and community environments regarding antecedents, setting events, consequences of behavior, and behavior patterns (time, a day of the week, place, or people related to the challenging behavior).

Positive behavior support is ongoing process and needs consistency in approaches to enhance effective implementation. When similar strategies are applied at home, in the community, and at school, behavioral interventions and supports can be much more effective. Intervention strategies require frequent feedback and modification to maximize their effectiveness. Data on the effectiveness of behavioral interventions implemented at home should be shared with all team members during regular team meetings.

From the Beach Center on Disability, University of Kansas. Used with permission. www.beachcenter.org

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