I’m pleased to welcome back Tameika Meadows, BCBA, from www.iloveaba.com to share her second installment in this series: What BCBAs Wish Every Parent Knew! If you missed the first one, check it out here!


​Next up in the series, let’s talk about Behavior Plans. If you just felt a surge of anxiety, confusion, or general unease, then definitely keep reading!
Your BCBA may use the term Behavior Intervention Plan, Behavior Reduction Plan, etc., but no matter which term is used many parents find Behavior Plans to be very intimidating and confusing.
Just so we are all on the same page, here are 3 quick points to remember about WHY BCBA’s create Behavior Plans:

  1. Behavior Plans are part of effective behavior management (reducing or extinguishing problem behavior)
  2. Behavior Plans can also be part of effective teaching (increasing current, or introducing new target behaviors or skills)
  3. Behavior Plans may also be part of effective parent training (helping transfer instructional control to caregivers)

So the Behavior Plan is intended to be a helpful document, that will tell caregivers/staff what TO do, what to STOP doing, and also explain the rationale behind the recommendations (WHY does your child hit/kick/tantrum, etc.).
See, aren’t those Behavior Plans already becoming less intimidating? No? Okay, then keep reading…
Both before you receive the Behavior Plan, and once it is in place, you might feel overwhelmed and anxious about the process…. because behavior management is absolutely a process. Just because the BCBA puts a Behavior Plan in place, that doesn’t mean it won’t change. 

The main concerns I hear from parents before, or after, the Behavior Plan is completed are summarized below:


“You need to watch me do what??”
​As part of behavior assessment, the BCBA may observe your child, interview caregivers, contrive the environment, or…. even silently watch you manage your child’s behavior. Yes, this does mean if your child has meltdowns at the grocery store then I need to come with you guys and observe that meltdown. Yes, I know that sounds crazy. But it’s necessary for me to gather information.
“Can we just get to the part where you fix it already?”
​Short answer: No. Just like when baking a cake, it’s important to mix the right ingredients together, apply the right temperature of heat, and then wait for the process to be complete. I understand that the information gathering process can seem very slow to a parent who has been dealing with daily tantrums for 3 years, but generally in life “amazing-ness” takes time.
“I want to get rid of his tantrums, his food refusal, his aggression, his elopement, his pica, his inability to attend, his lying……….”
​Whoaaaaaa, let’s slow down a bit. It is highly unlikely I would create an initial Behavior Plan with this many target behaviors. The reason why, is for each behavior selected there will be various strategies implemented. Do you really want to receive an 88-page Behavior Plan? I don’t think so….and I really don’t want to write one J Problem behaviors will be prioritized, and typically harmful or disruptive behaviors are targeted first.

“Oh wow, this is a lot of pages!”
I did say I won’t give you an 88-page Behavior Plan, but I didn’t say I wouldn’t give you a 4 page one. Yes, when you receive your first Behavior Plan from a BCBA it may be much more comprehensive than you were expecting. This is because we don’t want to just give you a list of what not to do; we want to equip you with proactive and reactive strategies, as well as thoroughly explain the function of the behavior(s).
“What in the world is a Partial-Interval?”
No worries, the BCBA does not expect you to have a pre-existing knowledge of all the technical words that may be in the Behavior Plan (we do try to limit the jargon, but some technical language may be necessary). Your BCBA has no problem sitting with you and explaining the Behavior Plan in simple language, so you can understand exactly what it says.
“You expect me to do what??”
​I often find that parents are a bit surprised to be so prevalent in the Behavior Plan. Yes, there are responsibilities the ABA team will have, but you as the parent will also have responsibilities. If I wrote a Behavior Plan that was only carried out by the staff, then what would happen when the staff goes home? A horrible time for Mom and Dad, is what would happen. So please do not be surprised when the Behavior Plan includes data collection or procedures that you as the parent will implement.

 ​The BCBA you are working with should be able to simply explain the Behavior Plan process (both before and after) so you can understand what to expect, how to make changes in the environment, and also so you can learn the basics of behavior change.
So why do you still feel anxiety? Behavior change is stressful! It is hard work to dig deep into an established behavior pattern that your child may have been engaging in for years.

Give yourself a break, and allow a brief time of panic (notice I said brief ). Then roll up your sleeves, and lean heavily on your BCBA to help you change your own behavior in order to change your child’s behavior.
Until next time,

Tameika Meadows, M.Ed., Board Certified Behavior Analyst, has worked with young children on the Autism spectrum for over 12 years. Ms. Meadows currently serves families, organizations, and schools both locally and internationally as a BCBA Consultant. 
Ms. Meadows is the owner of the blog & resource website www.Iloveaba.com, and the author of three introductory level ABA books: “101 Ways to do ABA”, “From A to Z: Teaching Skills to Children with Autism”, & “A Manual: Creating an Autism Intervention Program”.