ADHD Behavior Plans : A useful educational tool

Many of our ADHD or behaviorally challenged kids can benefit from the use of behavior plans and daily behavior monitoring techniques.

The use of these plans can serve multiple purposes and these purposes can often be combined to develop a comprehensive program designed to help our children achieve success. You will likely find that quality teachers might implement behavior plans as an early intervention technique, understanding their importance in the classroom. Other teachers must have the idea suggested to them and initially might struggle with proper implementation. This is not to suggest these teachers are not quality teachers. Behavior plans can be a learning curve for teachers as easily as school expectations can be for our kids.

And I will say, proper implementation is a MUST or the plan will fail. The program should be set up with the success of the child first in thought. While I will cover behavior monitoring techniques, no program should rest solely on the goal of noticing all the things a child is doing that are bad.

As you read this page please note something about the way I have written it. This page is written with the assumption that parents are reading it. It is here so that you, the parent, know what behavior plans are, how they look, and how they work. Then, you might find yourself suggesting one be done for your child in school. But as you read this page, please note that though it appears I am telling you the parent what and how to do things, the specifics of what I say are really me telling you the parent how the teacher should be doing things. I hope you don't find the remainder of this page as confusing as this paragraph seems to me!!

The goal of a daily behavior plan is two-fold :

  • To get a handle on behaviors that are interfering with their success
  • To provide positive reinforcement and feelings of being successful

Daily Behavior Charts with rewards

Behavior charts can be as simple or complex as the maker wishes. However, the most successful plans are VERY simple, PURPOSELY limited, and USER FRIENDLY.

I recommend charts that are limited with 2-4 behavioral goals and broken into either 2 periods in the day (before lunch/after lunch) or specific periods based on the class schedule.

The chart should be designed with the child earning stars (smiley faces, etc.) at each period when goals are met. Here is an example of a chart targeting the periods before and after lunch...

Date:Before lunchAfter lunch
Stay in seat
No talking out
completed work

3 out of 6 stars earn sticker
3 out of 5 good days earns treasure box

Here is another example of a chart I created for a kindergarten student using the subject periods in the day.

Kept hands and feet to self
Did not take anything that was not mine

14 Happy Faces = Snack
9-13 Happy Faces = Sticker
8 or less Happy Faces = no prize

As you can see from each chart, specific behaviors have been targeted and specific numbers have been laid out for what constitutes a "good day."

Some things to remember when designing a behavior plan:

  • Pick the most bothersome behaviors to focus on first
  • Only focus on a couple or few at a time - I recommend 2 for grades K-2 and up to 4 for grades 3-6
  • When appropriate, let the child help you determine what the earned rewards should be - this ensures they are meaningful to them
  • Rewards do not have to be only tangible objects - don't forget things like extra computer time, working with a buddy, helping out a younger classroom, etc.

Behavior plans are most effective with our ADHD kiddos in grades K-4. Modified, more mature plans can be done for grades 5-6 but they are not likely to want anyone to know about it. I personally don't have any experience with plans being implemented at any levels higher than elementary. However, I would guess that the reality of natural consequences for bad behavior at those levels are pretty significant. Plus, our goal is to correct behavior before middle and high school.

Daily Behavior Monitoring Charts

Monitoring charts can be used at two different times. FIRST: to help determine the most emergent behaviors before implementing a daily plan. SECOND: to keep track of frequency of behaviors for the purposes of record keeping. This information would generally be used as a guide before, during, and after any interventions (like a daily chart) have been in place to see if they helped.

Any daily monitoring system should, just like a daily reward chart, be SIMPLE. It should consist of nothing more than the behaviors we are watching and tally marks of how often they are happening. Monitoring should take place within the same time periods as a reward chart if the two are being conducted simultaneously (i.e. before/after lunch, or class periods).

Here is an example of a monitoring chart using the before and after lunch periods. As I said before, you can also monitor subject periods (as I did in the reward chart above) if that is more efficient or easier to implement.

Date:Before lunchAfter lunch
out of seat
talking out
off task
hid under desk

If a daily reward chart is in play at the same time a monitoring chart is being implemented, it in NOT NECESSARY for them to cover the same behaviors. It might be pertinent to focus on 2 specific behavior goals for the reward chart but simultaneously, equally as important to keep track of other difficult behaviors for informational purposes.

The Tricks of Proper Implementation

EVERYBODY who works with the child during the school day must be trained and on board with implementing the program.

The program WILL NOT WORK if the teacher's feelings regarding the child are already too negative OR if their general way of interacting with the student is always negative.

Rewards must be kept SCHOOL SPECIFIC. Parents can offer to provide a separate reward at home after a good week or whatnot, but it is not necessary for success of the plan. Just like consequences for bad school behavior take place in school, so should rewards for good school behavior.

Set the student up for success FROM THE START. Keep the expectations lower than you might want in the beginning so they can feel success. After 3 or so weeks of success, move the expectations up a little. The goal is to phase out the plan entirely.

Be prepared to BE FLEXIBLE. Whatever you set up might start to fall apart from the beginning. It is always okay to keep tweaking the plan to make it better for the student and easy for the teacher to implement.

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