Behavior Plans Made E-Z

Suggested Reading: Writing a Behavior Plan

I have mentioned before on my blog that the extensive behavior plans/interventions ABA professionals create are typically handed to someone else to implement. That may be a parent, teacher, ST, OT, etc. It can be difficult getting someone else to follow your recommendations, and to commit to sticking with the behavior plan especially if an Extinction Burst initially occurs.

I have seen some wonderfully bright and talented BCBAs falter in this area. I like to look at it as Knowing your Audience. A typical busy parent of 2 children really doesn’t want me to hand them a 4 page document with Behavior Plan typed on the first page. That wasn’t what they had in mind when they asked for help with behavioral issues. 

However as a professional, that’s all some us have been taught… to conduct FBAs, how to generate hypotheses, and how to form a plan based on results of evaluation.
 What about taking all of this amazing knowledge and expertise, and transforming it into something that’s easy to digest? Now that takes skill! 

Something I like to do with my clients is create “Cheat Sheets” for behavior plans, that I strongly recommend the family post in visible locations. That could be on the fridge, on the child’s bedroom wall, and making a laminated card to carry out in public. In order for a family to implement my behavior plan, they must know what it says.

 Simply reading and reviewing the plan with a family may not be that helpful. Often after reviewing a 5 page intensive behavior plan, the parents are too intimidated to ask any questions. Or they are in a daze, or feeling extremely overwhelmed .... I actually had a parent start crying once in the middle of a treatment plan meeting, due to just being SO overwhelmed. That’s not the reaction you want !

Creating a small, portable cheat sheet does a few things: it makes the behavior plan seem less scary and unattainable, it serves as a visual prompt for what to do in the moment, it is helpful for family members who work outside of the home and maybe aren’t always available during supervision sessions, and as we all know out of sight, out of mind….simply having the cheat sheet posted in the house helps everyone in the family stay alert to how they are managing problem behavior, or how they may be contributing to problem behavior. Putting my photo on the cheat sheet can be helpful for that too (I’m so joking).

A few tips for making a great cheat sheet for your clients:

  • Leave the jargon at the door:  It’s great that you can easily use terms like Schedules of Reinforcement and Partial Interval Data Collection, but the cheat sheet is supposed to be NON- intimidating. So use simple, everyday language.
  • Visuals can be helpful!:  Picture icons can be added to the schedule for ease of use, they catch the eye, and if there are siblings in the home adding photos to the cheat sheet makes it more kid friendly.  Use of bright colors, highlighters, stickers, etc., is also suggested. We want little sister or big brother to know how to implement the behavior plan too.
  • Use positive language that is non-judgmental: Keep statements like “Don’t do this”, or “Stop saying this” minimal, and focus on what you want the family to DO or SAY to manage problem behaviors.
  • Provide practice or role play opportunities for the family: Sometimes during supervision sessions my clients experience what I like to call Mechanic Syndrome. Similar to how when you take your car to the mechanic because it is making a noise, and then the mechanic swears they don’t hear anything. Then as you drive away, you immediately hear the noise again. Sometimes even with triggers present, my clients won’t engage in the problem behavior when I’m at the home. So I do a role play with Mom or Dad. Using the cheat sheet as our guide, I have them pretend to be their child engaging in a problem behavior. Then I pretend to be them, and show them how they would react. This can be a SUPER helpful exercise because inevitably when I give parents a behavior plan they will say “But Tameika what about when he_______”, “What about if she does _______”, “This plan doesn’t cover if he suddenly ________”. So role play scenarios are good for troubleshooting all those What If situations.

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