All About Behavior Support Plans
BSPs and BIPs are socioemotional supports for students with disabilities. This page focuses on what they are and how to make them. To see examples of socioemotional goals or tips on behavior management, check out the links below!
All about BSPs and BIPs
Behavior Support Plans (BSPs) and Behavior Intervention Plans (BIPs) are formal documents that outline how the school team can help a student be safe and successful even when they experience socioemotional challenges by teaching and reinforcing positive behaviors.
BSPs and BIPs are written to target a few (aka one to three or so) specific negative behaviors. When that specific behavior is improved, the BSP or BIP is then revised to focus on the next one. In order to work, these have to be highly focused, targeted documents not kitchen sink wish lists!
Neither BIP or BSP is directly used in IDEA, the federal law for special education, and so there is some variance from district to district in how each term is used and when. When districts use both terms, they will typically reserve BIP for the document created after a formal Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) and use BSP for any behavior support plan that is created more informally.
Here are some key things to know about who gets BIPs and BSPs:
- Any student with a behavior challenge, even without an IEP, can get a BSP or BIP.
- For students with IEPs, the law states that, “In developing each child’s IEP, the IEP Team must consider—(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.” BSPs and BIPs are where schools formally list the positive behavior interventions and supports they will use to support the child.
- In plain English, if a student has behaviors that impede their own learning or that of their peers, they should, most likely, have a BSP or BIP. If not, there should be a reason why not– and still that student would need socioemotional goals and accommodations for behavior in the IEP.
If the BSP/BIP is part of an IEP:
- In general a school psychologist or counselor should write both BIPs and BSPs.
- If the BIP comes from a formal behavioral assessment (FBA) or is at all part of a manifest determination (aka has relevance to suspensions or expulsions) a school psychologist MUST be the one to do it.
- In some districts, it is okay for a case manager who feels comfortable to write the BSP but that is rare. It is more common that the case manager would help revise the plan the following year to keep it up to date than be the one to create it.
If the student does not have an IEP:
- A school psychologist should still, ideally, be the writer of the BSP or BIP but, often, a school counselor will step in and write it instead.
BSPs and BIPs both depend on good data. In order to create a plan that works you have to understand:
- What is happening? When, where, and how often are the behaviors occurring? What exactly are the behaviors of concern?
- Why is it happening? What function is the behavior serving for the student? The four key functions that are often discussed are to gain attention, to escape a task or situation, to gain access to something like an object or person, and to gain or avoid sensory stimulation. The purpose of a functional behavioral assessment is to figure out the functions of the students’ behaviors and to understand what happens before them and what happens after that might be maintaining them.
- What do you want the student to do instead? For a BIP or BSP to work, it needs to include replacement behaviors for the student that address the function the behavior is serving for the student.
- How will you teach and reinforce the replacement behaviors? Will there be social skills groups, sessions with the counselor, daily check ins and pre-teach opportunities, or something else? Will the student be rewarded every time they use the replacement behaviors, once a day, once a week, or at some other interval?
- Are there any changes that need to be made to the environment or instruction to help the student succeed? The student might need access to a quiet area in the classroom to work, shortened assignments, or some other accommodation or modification that can increase their behavioral success.
Once you have that information, you can start writing the plan! All of that information will go into a BSP or BIP. If you want a longer piece on this, MasterABA has a very thorough explanation of each of these steps!
While the structure of BSPs and BIPs can differ district to district, at their core each one addresses all of the components discussed in the last section.
Specifically, a BSP or BIP needs to describe:
- What the negative behaviors are
- The function of the behaviors
- Interventions that have been tried (and if they worked)
- Plan for teaching and reinforcing the replacement behaviors
- Measures of success
- A plan for following up and monitoring
- Socioemotional goals (aka the BSP/BIP goals need to map onto annual goals!)
To learn more, check out this 25 page handout from the state of Indiana which walks you through doing an FBA and getting read to make the BIP!
If a student has a BSP or BIP, it is essential that there be IEP goals that match it! The language of the BSP/BIP itself should nicely set up a goal because you already have 1) what the replacement behavior is that you want to see; and 2) how you plan to measure success.
We have socioemotional goals up on this website as well. Most of them, however, focus on the low level behaviors that you don’t normally target in a BSP/BIP but a few might be helpful for inspiration!
Goals from BSPs and BIPs often focus on safety as BIPs and BSPs are often created when there has been a fight, things throw, a running away incident, or a threat of self-harm– something that triggers an oh crud reaction and gets the team to really zero in on what is going on with a student. They can also be written for things like work refusal, but that just tends to be a bit less common.
As a result, the challenge in the goals is to focus on the positive behavior you want to see NOT the negative behavior you want to go away. Like, you don’t write a goal that says, “Liam will run away from school one or fewer times between now and the next IEP date.”
Instead, you would write something like, “When Liam is feeling overwhelmed and a need to escape at school, he will, given pre-teaching and two or fewer adult prompts, identify that feeling, choose, and use a strategy to help him manage his emotions such as using a break card and taking five minutes in the classroom break area.”
This is a long and messy goal because it is trying to hit all of the things you will work on in the next year– identifying strategies, identifying feelings, using strategies when needed. But the point of the example is that it focuses on what you want the student to do–not what you don’t want to see!
There are some sites with amazing BIP and BSP resources. Here a few!
- PBIS World has an entire page of downloadable BIPs for many different behavioral challenges that you can edit. Note: Only the ones labeled PBIS World BIPs work– the others are mostly dead links.
- It is a blank form, but DC Public Schools has a pdf of their BIP form so you can see what a form looks like and what should be on it.
- Carolyn Webster Stratton also has a multipage handout with a full BIP example in it that is super useful.
- North Metro GNETS has a worked through BIP example too.
- The Kalamazoo district also has a completely worked through BSP to work off of!
- And, finally, so does Vanderbilt.
Note that each of the worked through BSP/BIP examples have slightly different formatting but the essential content is pretty consistent!
In order to work, BIPs and BSPs have to be living documents. A student’s behaviors are not going to look the same in a year– nor is the student likely to have the same exact triggers!
One of the most important parts of a BSP or BIP is the plan for monitoring. How will you know if the plan is succeeding or failing? If it is failing, how will you adjust it? Spell out the plan for following up and for monitoring in the creation meeting and then stick to it!
It is incredibly common to get new students on your caseload with a BSP that was written three years ago and has never been touched. That is about the most useless piece of paper out there. Here are some things you can do to avoid that:
- Plan for interim IEP meetings to check in on the plan and update it. These can be brief (mine are often under 30 minutes) and allow the team to check in.
- If you don’t want to meet, plan for IEP amendments. IEP amendments are changes made to IEPs (like updating parts of a BSP or BIP) without a meeting. To do an amendment, you need to send the parent notification in writing of the plan to amend and, if they agree, you then send them the amended IEP to sign. This is perfect for a BSP that is working or for minor changes. If the plan is failing, you probably want to get the team back together!
- Set measurable benchmarks for success. Regularly communicate with the family (and the student!) so they know whether you are hitting the benchmarks or need to adjust course.
- For BIPs/BSPs that are working, have a plan of the next behavior you want to target. BIPs and BSPs are written to target only a few specific behaviors and you should have a much longer list than that from your FBA!
- For BIPs/BSPs that are not working, go back to your FBA. Was the function of the behavior wrong? What about the replacement behavior? Is it meeting the same need for the student or not? What about the teaching of the replacement behaviors– is that happening enough? What about reinforcement? Does that student actually want that? What about the environment? Is there something going on that you missed? Are there more related services you can bring in that you missed?