Behavior Goals for An Early Intervention IEP

Setting Goals Aligned to the Functional Behavior Analysis

Self management is important for success. Getty/Banksphotos

Managing difficult behavior is one of the challenges that makes or breaks effective instruction.

Early Intervention

Once young children are identified as needing special education services, it is important to begin to work on those "learning to learn skills," which importantly, include self regulation. When a child begins an early intervention program, it is not uncommon to find that parents have worked harder to placate their child than to teach them the desired behavior.  At the same time, those children have learned how to manipulate their parents to avoid those things they don't like, or to get the things they do want.  

If a child’s behavior impacts his or her ability to perform academically, it requires a Functional Behavioral Analysis (FBA) and a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) by law (IDEA of 2004.) It is wise to attempt to identify and modify behavior informally, before you go to the lengths of an FBA and BIP. Avoid accusing parents or whining about behavior: if you gain the cooperation of parents early on you can avoid another IEP team meeting.

Behavior Goal Guidelines

Once you have established that you will need an FBA and BIP, then it’s time to write IEP Goals for behaviors.

  • Write you goals positively as much as possible. Name the replacement behavior. Instead of writing “Zachary will not hit his neighbors” write “Zachary will keep hands and feet to himself.” Measure it through interval observation, noting the percentage of 15 or 30 minutes with hands and feet free behavior.
  • Avoid preachy, values freighted words, especially “responsible” and “accountable.” When discussing with the student “why” feel free to use these words, such as “Lucy, I’m so happy you’re being responsible for your temper. You used your words instead!!” Or, “James, you’re 10 now, and I think you’re old enough to be accountable for your own homework.” But goals should read: “Lucy will tell a teacher or peer when she is angry and count to 10, 80 percent of the day (interval objective.) “ “James will return completed homework 80% of days, or 4 out of 5 days.”(frequency objective.)
  • There are basically two kinds of objectives as noted above: interval and frequency goals. Interval goals are measured across intervals, and imply an increase of replacement behavior. Frequency goals measure the number of occurrences of a preferred or replacement behavior during a time period.
  • The goal of behavior goals should be to extinguish, or eliminate, undesirable behavior and replace it with appropriate, productive behavior. Focusing on the target behavior may reinforce it and inadvertently make it stronger and more difficult to eliminate.  Focusing on the replacement behavior should help extinguishing the behavior. Anticipate an extinction burst before behavior improves.
  • Problem behavior is not usually the result of reflective, thoughtful choices. It is usually emotional and learned—because it has helped the child get what he or she wanted. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk about it, talk about the replacement behavior and talk about the emotional content of good behavior. It just doesn’t belong in an IEP.

Examples of Behavior Goals

  1. When prompted by the teacher or teaching staff, John will line up, keeping hands and feet to himself in 8 of ten opportunities as documented by teacher and staff in three of four consecutive days. 
  2. In an instructional setting (when instruction is presented by the teacher) Ronnie will remain in his seat for 80% of one minute intervals over 30 minutes as observed by teacher or teaching staff in three of four consecutive probes. 
  3. In small group activities and instructional groups Belinda will ask staff and peers for access to supplies (pencils, erasers, crayons) in 4 out of 5 opportunities as observed by teacher and teaching staff in three of four consecutive probes.  
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Your Citation
Webster, Jerry. "Behavior Goals for An Early Intervention IEP." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Webster, Jerry. (2020, August 26). Behavior Goals for An Early Intervention IEP. Retrieved from Webster, Jerry. "Behavior Goals for An Early Intervention IEP." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 27, 2023).