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Breaking the Cycle: Overcoming Resistance to Behavior Plans that Work

In any special education classroom, behavior plans play a crucial role in supporting students with diverse learning needs. Yet, even the most well thought out behavior plans can encounter resistance from staff, hindering progress and perpetuating challenging behaviors. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the common barriers that educators and behavior analysts face when implementing behavior plans and explore effective strategies for overcoming resistance.

new blog square photos 22 Breaking the Cycle: Overcoming Resistance to Behavior Plans that Work

Understanding Resistance to Behavior Plans

Resistance to behavior plans can manifest in various forms, including skepticism from staff, lack of buy-in from stakeholders, and challenges in implementation fidelity. Often, resistance stems from misconceptions about behavior management strategies, fear of change, or perceived inadequacy of the plan’s effectiveness. Additionally, conflicting priorities, limited resources, and systemic barriers within classroom or therapy settings can increase resistance from staff members and impede progress.

It’s important to recognize that staff members who resist proposed strategies often have good intentions and genuine concerns about their effectiveness. Many may have had negative experiences with previous interventions or witnessed unsuccessful outcomes, leading to understandable apprehension or skepticism. By empathizing with their perspectives and acknowledging their past experiences, we can foster a supportive environment that encourages open dialogue as well as a shared commitment to student success.

Empowering staff members to voice their concerns and providing opportunities for reflection can help address underlying anxieties and build confidence in the efficacy of behavior plans. After all, there is nothing worse than presenting a behavior plan, having classroom staff agree to implement it without feeling comfortable to voice any questions or concerns, and then revisit this classroom only to find that they gave up implementing the plan after only a few days.

Strategies for Overcoming Resistance

  1. Education and Training: Provide in-depth training sessions to educate staff members on the rationale behind behavior plans, evidence-based strategies, and their role in implementation. We all know that our time, especially in a public school setting, is extremely previous. As such, encourage staff members to vote on the best time to meet and discuss the behavior plan, whether it is for a few minutes before or after school, via a pre-recorded training where they can leave comments and email questions, or with a collaborative online discussion.

  2. Collaboration and Communication: Foster a collaborative approach by involving all stakeholders in the development and review of behavior plans, ensuring alignment with student goals and individualized needs. This can be a difficult balance to strike, as there are likely core elements of the plan that are non negotiable after conducting a thorough functional assessment. However, smaller elements of the plan (“Do you prefer taking data with paper and pencil sheets or through a digital form?” or “I made 2 visual cues, which do you think the learner will respond to best?”) can really help staff members feel a part of the process and thus be more likely to implement the plan faithfully.

  3. Clear Expectations: Establish clear expectations for plan implementation. Handing a staff member a typed out behavior plan, with little explanation or discussion is a quick way to ensure that that plan will NOT be implemented successfully. Rather, providing a printed copy for reference, explaining it in detail, and then possibly adding visuals for staff or written reminders on the student’s notebook or instructional area, can help infuse the expectations into the classroom’s daily routine.

  4. Continued Support: Provide ongoing support and resources for staff, and celebrate successes to reinforce commitment and motivation. Frequent check-ins with staff in the days or weeks following a new behavior plan are vital to foster a sense of support and encouragement.

  5. Data-Driven Decision Making: Utilize data to monitor progress, make informed adjustments to behavior plans, and demonstrate the effectiveness of interventions to stakeholders. Sharing objective successes or failures within implementation will build trust and maintain a sense of teamwork. I try to be transparent with team members in that I do not want this particular behavior plan to be successful because it is a reflection of my ideas, but rather because I have based it on evidence-based practices and individual assessment. Focusing the conversation on objective progress mitigates any ‘me versus you’ dynamic, fostering instead a collaborative atmosphere of shared accountability.

  6. Flexibility and Adaptability: Remain flexible and open to feedback, adjusting behavior plans as needed based on student response, environmental changes, and evolving needs. Encourage staff members to view the data and share their opinions on what aspects of the behavior plan they feel are most or least successful, as well as easy or difficult to implement. After all, you may be crafting the overall behavior plan, but unless you are the one implementing it day-to-day, you do not have the full perspective of how it is impacting the student and classroom setting.


Resistance to behavior plans is a common challenge in special education, but it’s not insurmountable. By understanding the root causes of resistance, collaborating with stakeholders, and implementing targeted strategies for overcoming barriers, we can break the cycle and ensure that behavior plans are not only implemented but embraced as powerful tools for student success.


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