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If you have any questions regarding your child’s IEP, contact one of our attorneys at (203) 221-3100.

The IEP

You might already know that your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) should cover not only their academic weaknesses and learning difficulties but also address their behavioral, social, and emotional requirements. For instance, if a student qualifies for an IEP due to a Specific Learning Disability necessitating specialized reading instruction, it’s important to recognize that behavioral challenges like peer conflicts, off-task behavior, and attention difficulties should also be addressed in the IEP. Therefore, the student’s IEP should incorporate suitable objectives, teaching methods, and supportive services tailored to address these behavioral needs. This could mean the student receives both small-group reading sessions and school-based counseling to support their overall development.

Behavioral Needs

Some students in special education have a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) included in their Individualized Education Program (IEP). This document outlines the specific behavioral challenges of the student and details the strategies the school will implement to address these behaviors. It includes the promotion of positive “replacement behaviors” designed to meet the student’s needs without the negative consequences associated with their current problematic behaviors. The BIP is not merely a list of desired behavioral changes but a focused intervention plan based on findings from a Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA).

Put simply, the FBA is an assessment that seeks to identify problem behaviors and understand why these behaviors occur within the school environment — essentially, the reasons behind the student’s actions. For instance, a student who breaks pencils when asked to write may be attempting to avoid the stress associated with writing tasks due to difficulty with mechanics and emotional frustration. If the FBA identifies task avoidance as the function of the pencil-breaking behavior, the resulting BIP might recommend that the teacher provide specific cues or incentives to alleviate the student’s anxiety about writing and reward them for completing assignments.

Ineffective Behavioral Intervention

Unfortunately, not every Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) or intervention outlined in the Individualized Education Program (IEP) effectively addresses the student’s behavioral needs. Sometimes, this occurs because the suggested intervention or replacement behavior does not accurately align with the underlying reason for the child’s behavior. In other instances, a suitable BIP may exist but is not consistently or fully implemented by the team, resulting in ineffective intervention.

A child who frequently displays tantrums, meltdowns, or other disruptive behaviors may be attempting to avoid overwhelming academic demands. Alternatively, she might seek attention that she perceives as lacking from her teachers or service providers, albeit through maladaptive means. Therefore, it is crucial to have a qualified evaluator conduct a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) to ascertain the genuine purpose of the child’s behavior.

Parental Involvement

In certain cases, when a child frequently has emotional outbursts at school, the parent may be asked to pick them up to help calm them down and refocus on learning. It’s crucial for the school to promptly notify parents of any physical or verbal altercations or unsafe behavior from the child. However, some parents find themselves repeatedly called to the school, resulting in missed instruction and homework. Even without formal disciplinary action, this cycle of disruptions could potentially infringe upon the child’s right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) mandated by the federal special education law, IDEA.

Using behavioral interventions outlined in the Individualized Education Program (IEP) shouldn’t be a mechanism for sending the child home whenever their behavior becomes challenging in the classroom. Instead, parents and educators should collaborate to review assessments and update programs to better address the child’s educational needs. This approach aims to reduce problematic behaviors over time and ensure the child can effectively participate in their educational environment.

Maya Murphy P.C. has proudly been included in the 2024 Edition of Best Law Firms®, ranked among the top firms in the nation. In addition, Managing Partner Joseph C. Maya has been selected to The Best Lawyers in America® 2024 for his work in Employment Law and Education Law in Connecticut. Recognition in Best Lawyers® is awarded to firms and attorneys who demonstrate excellence in the industry and is widely regarded by both clients and legal professionals as a significant honor.

Our firm in Westport, Connecticut serves clients with legal assistance all over the state, including the towns of Ansonia, Beacon Falls, Bethany, Bethel, Branford, Bridgeport, Brookfield, Cheshire, Danbury, Darien, Derby, East Haven, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Guilford, Hamden, Madison, Meriden, Middlebury, Milford, Monroe, Naugatuck, New Canaan, New Fairfield, New Haven, Newton, North Branford, North Haven, Norwalk, Orange, Oxford, Prospect, Redding, Ridgefield, Seymour, Shelton, Sherman, Southbury, Stamford, Stratford, Trumbull, Wallingford, Waterbury, West Haven, Weston, Westport, Wilton, and Woodbridge. In addition to assisting clients in Connecticut, our firm handles education law matters in New York as well.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to an attorney about a legal matter, please contact Joseph C. Maya and the other experienced attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C. at (203) 221-3100 or JMaya@Mayalaw.com to schedule a free initial consultation today.