Does Your Child Struggle with School Activities? Request Positive Behavioral Interventions in the IEP

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Girl in the foreground looks sad as two girls whisper behind her back.

Young girl with a backpack looks sad as two girls whisper behind her back.

My daughter has autism.  She has trouble connecting with other kids in recess and other school activities. She wants to participate in after school activities but she will need help. The team said Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) don’t apply to recess and other non-academic activities.

Can I request an IEP meeting to ask the school to provide a person who can help her learn social skills?

Yes. When Congress reauthorized the IDEA, they made several findings about how the law was implemented. They found that for special ed to be effective, schools needed to provide positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) to children with special needs.

Almost 30 years of research and experience has demonstrated that the education of children with disabilities can be made more effective by … providing incentives for whole-school approaches, … positive behavioral interventions and supports, … to reduce the need to label children as disabled in order to address the learning and behavioral needs of such children.” (1400(c)(5)(F))

Open your law book and turn to page 103 –  20 U.S.C. Section 1414(d)(3).

“(3) Development of IEP.

(B) Consideration of Special Factors. The IEP Team shall
(i) in the case of a child whose behavior impedes the child’s learning or that of others, consider the use of positive behavioral interventions and supports, and other strategies, to address that behavior …”

The schools tell parents they are not required to provide assistance for these school activities since they occur after school, take place off the school grounds, or do not involve academics.

Goals, accommodations, and supplementary aids and services include social and behavioral areas (social skills development, peer support, interaction, friendship) in addition to academics and instruction.

The IEP team needs to identify appropriate activities for your child and include them in the IEP. These activities are not limited to “academic” activities to “educate the child.”

Your child’s IEP should identify all her needs and provide supplementary aids and services to help her “participate in extracurricular & other nonacademic activities”. 34 CFR 300.320(a)(4)(ii). (p. 245)

Recess, extracurricular activities and clubs are “nonacademic activities.” 34 CFR 300.117 (p 208)

US Department of Education Issues Guidance (08/01/16)

In 2016, the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) issued Guidance on the Use of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports to address children’s behavior issues. IDEA requires schools to provide behavioral interventions as part of the IEP process. In this Guidance, the Office of Special Education Programs warns that a failure to to provide these interventions is likely to mean a child is not receiving a free appropriate public education (FAPE) and meaningful educational benefit, as IDEA requires.

OK, But What Does That Mean for Me?

The IEP team is required to assess your child in all areas, including her social and emotional status. The team needs to provide ways to meet her functional needs, in addition to her developmental and academic needs.

The new guidance clarifies that Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports may be a required component of your child’s special education program, in addition to related services. The overall goal is to enable the child to participate in extracurricular and non-academic activities. 34 CFR 300.320(a)(4)(i) and (ii). This includes providing supplementary aids and services in extracurricular and nonacademic settings. 34 CFR 300 -114-300.116.–08-01-2016.pdf

You Can Request an IEP Meeting to Consider PBIS

You need to understand the role of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support in the IEP.

As you review the US Department of Education’s Q and A on Discipline. (Print a copy for the IEP Team), take a look at Question E-3:

E-3. How can an IEP address behavior?

Answer:    When a child’s behavior impedes the child’s learning or that of others, the IEP Team must consider the use of positive behavioral interventions and supports, and other strategies, to address that behavior (34 CFR §300.324(a)(2)(i)).  Additionally, the Team may address the behavior through annual goals in the IEP (34 CFR §300.320(a)(2)(i)).  The child’s IEP may include modifications in his or her program, support for his or her teachers, and any related services necessary to achieve those behavioral goals (34 CFR §300.320(a)(4)).  If the child needs a BIP to improve learning and socialization, the BIP can be included in the IEP and aligned with the goals in the IEP. 

Tips for Parents: Incorporating Positive Behavior Support into the IEP

PBIS: Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports, OSEP Technical Assistance Center

  1. My son is autistic and bi polar. He has great difficulty relating to peers. School has taken away his recess and class trips. The reasoning is that the other kids need a break from him. Other kids seem to not like my son and he is excluded from play dates with the kids on the weekends. Can the school help me in anyway with the play dates on the weekends? He is desperate to have friends.

    • Yes they could. The issue is: do they know how to, & want to. Schools are to address the needs of students with disabilities. That includes social skills deficits. I suggest asking in writing for an IEP meeting to develop a plan to do this. If the school does not have any one who can help with this, there will be people in the area or state who can. You can connect with Autism groups, or your state parent training & information center to get information on helping your child & working with the school.

  2. My grandson was recently told he would not be a participant in class field trips (5 were scheduled for the week) unless a parent or family member would accompany him due to behavior. Should this have been addressed in our IEP?

    • Did the school give you a reason why? They cannot just decide to not include your grandson. He has every right to participate as any other child. You mention an IEP you may want to look into having a FBA functional behavioral assessment done and BIP behavioral intervention plan put together. This should have been addressed at the the meeting and an IEP meeting can be bought up at anytime. Changes can be me to the IEP as you see fit. I would meet with the school and find out what is going on.

  3. Where can I find resources about how to use PBIS for improving behavior of my son in the classroom? Our schools seems to be using it differently than this article talks about.

  4. Does anyone have any insight regarding children who have a diagnosed disability being excluded from certain activities due to behavior related to child’s disability.

  5. I was told that the paraprofessionals are on an hourly contract and are not able to go beyond the contract hours. Does this sound correct? What about the district not being able to have them work after school hours if the para did not want to????

    • It depends more on contracts, school culture. etc. In my work as a para (union organized), my hours were only during the school day. Some paras would get contracted for after school programs but many were grant funded and not part of their school contract. Principals also had some flexibility in placement and hours assigned. I do remember an issue where a teacher had me attend a PPT meeting to manage the student as the student was present. The meeting went past my work hours and my union leader interrupted the meeting and dismissed me from that meeting. I left. The union leader felt that I was done and it was the parents or teacher’s job to manage the student during their hours as my pay day had ended.

  6. Absolutely bring up any concerns at the IEP meeting. That is what the meeting is for in addition to revising the IEP. As far as after school clubs go the IEP team is to determine everything that your daughter needs in order to receive FAPE and clubs are a part of it. Sit with your daughter and make a list of things that interest her and see if you can find some clubs at school that speak to her. If not you can look for clubs outside of school to keep her confidence up and interacting with other kids her age.

  7. I suggest you make a list of ways that the difficulties your daughter experiences relating to fellow students affect her learning. It’s helpful if you can tie the recess difficulties to things like cooperative education activities in the classroom. Look at your state’s learning standards for her grade level, especially ELA and math, and quote from them in your meeting. For example, in New York, the ELA standards say, “Participate cooperatively and collaboratively in group discussions of texts.” It might help to start with a parent teacher conference, where you could collect specific feedback about your daughter’s ability to participate in group projects and discussions.

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