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The Ultimate Behavior Plan Template for Special Education

A behavior plan template is essential for success in special education, providing a structured approach to address challenging behaviors and support positive change. To help streamline this process, it is useful to utilize a comprehensive behavior plan template that covers all the essential components: identifying target behaviors, implementing antecedent strategies, teaching replacement skills, and utilizing reinforcement and consequence strategies. This ensures that you have the tools needed to create and implement a successful, individualized behavior plan for each student.

Components of a Behavior Plan Template

The following components make up an effective behavior plan template:

  • Target Behaviors
  • Antecedent Strategies
  • Replacement Skills
  • Reinforcement Based Strategies
  • Consequence Based Strategies
  • Data Collection Method
  • Parental Involvement

Let’s explore each of these sections in more detail.

Defining Target Behaviors

Identifying target behaviors is the first step in an effective behavior plan template. These are the specific behaviors that need to be addressed to improve the student’s overall functioning and success. When selecting target behaviors, ensure they are:

  • Observable and Measurable: Behaviors should be defined in a way that can be consistently observed and measured. For example, instead of “acting out,” you might define “hitting: any instance of student striking object or person non-contextual to situation.”
  • Relevant and Significant: Choose behaviors that significantly impact the student’s ability to learn and interact positively with others. If there are more than one, try to prioritize 1-2 behaviors to target first, as it is not feasible to target more than that at once.
  • Achievable: Focus on behaviors that can be realistically changed within a given timeframe.

Clearly defining target behaviors sets a solid foundation for the rest of your behavior plan, as well as ensures consistent data collection among staff.

Identifying Antecedent Strategies

Antecedent strategies are proactive measures that modify the environment to prevent challenging behaviors before they occur. These strategies aim to change the conditions that trigger the target behaviors. Key antecedent strategies in any behavior plan template include:

  • Environmental Adjustments: Modify the classroom setup to minimize distractions and potential triggers. Examples could include: preferential seating, clear workspaces, using a calm and neutral voice.
  • Structured Routines: Establish clear and predictable routines to provide stability and reduce anxiety. Examples could include: maintaining a structured schedule, providing warnings when changes to schedules may occur.
  • Visual Supports: Use visual schedules, cues, and reminders to help students understand expectations and transitions. Examples could include: “First ___, Then ___” visual strips, token boards, picture schedules.
  • Instructional Adjustments: Tailor instructions to match the student’s learning style and pace. Examples could include: providing clear and concise directions, keeping materials within arm’s reach to minimize wait times, and beginning work session with easy, mastered skills before targeting more difficult academic goals.

Implementing these strategies can reduce the likelihood of challenging behaviors arising.

Teaching Replacement Skills

Teaching replacement skills involves helping the student learn positive behaviors that serve the same function as the challenging behaviors we are targeting for reduction. Effective replacement skills in a behavior plan template should be:

  • Functionally Equivalent: The new skill should meet the same need or serve the same purpose as the challenging behavior. An example might be teaching a child to raise their hand to get called on rather than call out with answers. Both responses likely serve the same function of receiving attention (from the teacher).
  • Contextually Appropriate: The skill should be suitable for the environment in which it is used. An example of this could be using a “break card” to request a brief walk or escape from demands, to replace running out of the room without permission.
  • Easily Taught and Reinforced: Choose replacement behaviors that are straightforward for the student to learn and can be consistently reinforced. For instance, using a “break card” allows the student to simply tap or hand over the card instead of verbalizing “I want a break.” This method is especially effective when the student is emotionally heightened and may struggle with verbal communication. Initially, ensure that the request is frequently reinforced by granting the break each time the card is used. This frequent reinforcement helps the student reliably access their break without reverting to inappropriate behaviors.

Teaching these replacement skills is crucial for long-term behavior change.

Incorporating Reinforcement Based Strategies

Reinforcement strategies in a behavior plan template involve rewarding positive behaviors to increase their frequency. These strategies are critical for encouraging positive behaviors. Key elements include:

  • Immediacy: Provide immediate and specific praise or rewards when the student exhibits the desired behavior. Rewards can be tangible (e.g., stickers, tokens) or intangible (e.g., verbal praise, extra playtime).
  • Consistency: Apply reinforcement consistently to establish a clear connection between the behavior and the reward. Using behavior-specific praise (e.g., “I love how you are sitting quietly!”) can further strengthen the relationship between the behavior and the positive outcome.
  • Variety: Use a range of reinforcers to maintain the student’s interest and motivation. Conduct interviews or preference assessments to ensure that rewards are individualized for each learner. After all, what motivates one student may not motivate the next! I have had learners enjoy earning everything from dance breaks to carrots to bird watching.
  • Matching Law: Strive to match the rate of reinforcement to the rate of behavior. For example, if a learner is engaging in target behaviors on average of once per hour, set the rate of reinforcement at every 45 minutes to try to celebrate success. Conversely, consider a learner who frequently engages in challenging behaviors. If they are told they can earn a prize for not engaging in any behaviors all day, they are unlikely to succeed.

Effective reinforcement strengthens the desired behaviors and promotes lasting change.

Identifying Consequence Based Strategies

Consequence based strategies address how to respond to challenging behaviors when they occur, aiming to reduce their frequency. These strategies should be clear, fair, and consistently applied. Key components include:

  • Redirection: Guiding the student to a more appropriate behavior or activity. Often times when a learner engages in an inappropriate behavior, it is because they are lacking the specific skills to obtain their desired outcomes in a more appropriate way. For example, if a student throws their pencil toward the floor in frustration, rather than saying, “Hey, no throwing in class!”, you could model a more appropriate response (e.g., “It looks like you’re upset. You can say, ‘I’m mad’ and give me your break card if you need a minute to yourself.”)
  • Response Cost: Loss of a preferred item or privilege as a consequence to the challenging behavior. While punitive measures are far from being the ideal core of a behavior plan, at times they may be necessary to supplement the reinforcement based and teaching strategies you are implementing. For example, you could provide a learner with 5 tokens that represent five extra minutes of recess at the end of the day, and remove a token contingent on each instance of the learner engaging in their target behavior.
  • Reflection: If a student’s behavior is unsafe or impedes the learning of another student, a brief removal from an activity may be necessary. During this time period, a brief reflection on the behavior could help to prevent it from occurring again. Depending on the learner’s cognitive abilities, this reflection might range from anything like an apology note to a peer to simply taking 3 deep breaths.

It’s important that consequence strategies are used as part of a much broader behavior plan template that includes antecedent and reinforcement strategies, as well as teaching replacement skills.

Choosing the Right Data Collection Method

Data collection is essential for monitoring progress and making informed adjustments to the behavior plan. Here are some effective methods to consider:

  • ABC (Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence) Chart: Tracks the antecedent, behavior, and consequence to identify patterns and potential functions of target behaviors.
  • Frequency Recording: Counts how often a behavior occurs within a specific time period.
  • Duration Recording: Measures how long a behavior incident lasts (ideal for behaviors that persist without a clear beginning or end, such as “crying”).
  • Interval Recording: Observes whether or not a behavior occurs during predefined intervals (e.g., recording “yes” or “no” if a behavior occurred at all within 5 minute time intervals across the school day). This culminates in calculating a percentage of intervals in which “yes” was scored, divided by the total number of intervals in the day.

Select a data collection method that aligns with the behavior plan’s goals and is feasible for the staff to implement consistently.


By incorporating these key components into your behavior plan template, you’ll be well-equipped to address challenging behaviors effectively. A well-structured behavior plan not only supports the student’s growth but also empowers educators and support staff with clear, actionable strategies.


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