“… a behavioural support plan is a document that is designed to change the behaviour of adults with the expectation that if adult behaviour changes, the behaviour of the student will change.”

–  Robert Horner and George Sugai, “Developing Positive Behavioral Support Systems”

Students with behaviour disabilities may respond to some universal strategies used in the school-wide positive behaviour support system. However, these students require additional intensive and individualized strategies and support. These strategies need to be documented and communicated in a formal individual behaviour support plan based on these students’ unique and individual characteristics. These step-by-step plans provide key information about a student’s behaviour for staff who work with the student. The information in the plan needs to include:

  • key understandings about this student’s behaviour
  • conditions or antecedent events that are most likely to trigger the problem behaviour
  • warning signs that the student is experiencing difficulty
  • plans for diffusing the situation
  • positive supports to help the student increase his or her abilities
  • what peers need to learn to do to support this student
  • other strategies school staff can use to support and encourage this student.
Tool Tool 8 provides a sample template of an individual behaviour support plan.

Staff need to read this plan before they work with the student. The plan should be kept in the office, with duplicate copies with each teacher working with that student. The objective of the plan is that all staff working with the student are aware of and committed to using positive behaviour support strategies to create and maintain a safe learning environment for the student, other students and school staff.

Parent involvement

It is important that parents are aware of this plan and are supportive of the proactive strategies, preplanned consequences and crisis management plan. Ideally, the development of a support plan is a collaborative effort between parents and school staff.

Download Sample Individual Behaviour Support Plan

Developing an individual behaviour support plan takes a team effort and should be done at the beginning of each school year or shortly after a student has been identified as needing a support plan.

Key understandings

Begin the planning process by identifying at least three key behaviours that significantly impact this student’s school success. Use data from the functional behavioural assessment to describe typical problem behaviours, and the typical functions of these behaviours. In addition, identify at least one positive or strength-based behaviour. These behaviours will be the focus of the plan.

Consider the types of problem behaviours that might be targetted from the following lists.

Internalizing behaviours

  • Anxiety
    • worries incessantly
    • is nervous
    • is fearful
    • avoids tasks or situations
  • Depression
    • cries easily 
    • is easily upset
    • is pessimistic
  • Somatization (illness related to psychological distress)
    • has headaches and/or stomach aches
    • complains of general pain or fatigue
  • Withdrawal
    • refuses to talk or join in group activities
    • avoids others
  • Inattention
    • has a short attention span 
    • is easily distracted
    • does not complete tasks

Externalizing behaviours

  • Anger control
    • has temper outbursts or “explosions”
    • is unable to regulate emotions
  • Aggression
    • teases others  
    • threatens others 
    • swears at or is rude to others
    • breaks others’ things
    • physically hurts others
  • Hyperactivity/impulsivity
    • is excitable
    • is restless or overactive
    • talks excessively
    • inerrupts others
    • cannot wait to take turns
  • Oppositional behaviour
    • argues
    • disrupts the play of others
    • annoys others on purpose
    • refuses to follow directions or respond to requests
    • breaks rules, including lying and stealing

The list above does not identify the reasons for specific behaviours. For example, a student may not be completing tasks for a variety of reasons, including inattention, oppositional behaviour or anxiety. To identify functions of these behaviours, use data gathered from a functional behavioural assessment (FBA).

Determine priorities

Students with behaviour disabilities often display several challenging behaviours, and many of them urgently need to be addressed. If a behaviour support plan attempts to address too many challenging behaviours at once, the plan becomes too complex and unwieldy, and it ultimately fails. Even when only one or two behaviours are targetted for change in the individualized program plan (IPP) and behaviour support plan, school staff continue to address the other behaviours through regular rules and routines.

Begin by choosing one behaviour of concern as the target for intervention in the behaviour support plan. This choice often depends on factors such as the impact of that behaviour on the student’s:

  • well-being and the well-being of others. Behaviours that place the student at risk or other staff or students at risk, must be addressed first
  • participation and learning
  • relationships with other students and teachers
  • ability to learn in the classroom.

Another factor to consider in choosing the target behaviour is the likelihood of success over the short term; for example, within three months. Once students have had success in one area, they can build on that success and systematically address other problem behaviours. Parents can often participate in the identification of priority behaviours.

Identify function of behaviour

When priority behaviours have been identified, use data from a functional behavioural analysis to determine the function or purpose of each type of problem behaviour. Include a description of the function in the “Key understandings” section of the plan.