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Special Factors in IEPs

Question 2.

If my child's behavior impedes her learning, should the IEP team refer her for a functional behavioral assessment (FBA)?


The law requires the IEP team to consider "special factors," including behavior that impedes the child's learning or the learning of other children, when they develop a child's IEP.

When your child's behavior has a negative impact on her ability to learn or her classmates' ability to learn, the IEP team should refer her for a functional behavioral assessment. A FBA identifies the purpose a behavior serves for your child.

If the school changes your child's placement for disciplinary reasons, the IEP team should complete a functional behavioral assessment.

The school should perform a behavioral assessment to see why your child may be acting out and what strategies will help your child. Those services should be added to her IEP. If your child has a BIP, an FBA will help determine if this plan should be modified, particularly before changing placement.

"If a child’s misconduct has been found to have a direct and substantial relationship to his or her disability, the IEP Team will need to conduct an FBA of the child, unless one has already been conducted.  Similarly, the IEP Team must write a BIP for this child, unless one already exists.  If a BIP already exists, then the IEP Team will need to review the plan and modify it, as necessary, to address the behavior." US DOE

If your child's behavior impedes her learning (or the learning of her classmates) or results in misconduct, parents should be aware of these questions:

Did the school complete a functional behavioral assessment on your child?

Did the IEP team develop a behavior intervention plan?

Did the IEP team develop positive behavioral interventions and strategies to address the behavior?

Did school personnel actually implement these positive behavioral interventions and strategies?

Did the school revise your child's IEP and behavior plan to address the behavior that makes it difficult for your child to learn?

Did the school train your child's teachers to use positive behavior interventions?

Legal Resource

Wrightslaw: All About IEPs Chapter 7 - Special Factors in IEPs

Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition


20 U.S.C.§ 1414(d)(3)(B)

IDEA Regulations

34 C.F.R. § 300.324.(a)(2)

34 C.F.R. § 300.530.(d)(ii)

34 C.F.R. § 300.530.(f)(i) and (ii)

Additional Resources

Wrightslaw: All About IEPs. In Chapter 7 - Special Factors in IEPs you will find a "Sample Letter to Request Functional Behavioral Assessment and Positive Behavior Support Plan.

What You Need to Know About IDEA 2004: IEPs for Children with Behavior Problems

US DOE Q and A on Discipline Procedures - Section E

Discipline: Suspension, Expulsions and IEPs

Behavior Problems & Discipline: What Parents & Teachers Need to Know

"Child is Disrupting My Class - What Can I Do?"

Functional Behavior Assessments

NICHCY - Behavior Suite

NICHCY - Special Factors/Behavior

Center for Effective Practice and Collaboration

National Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS)

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