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Jul 17
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by Dennise Goldberg

Robert Langdon has nothing on Jessica Minahan and Nancy Rappaport.  While Robert Langdon was out cracking the DaVinci Code using symbology and being chased by deadly assassins Jessica and Nancy were hard at work in our public schools cracking “The Behavior Code” for our most challenging students.  In their new book, “The Behavior Code: A Practical Guide to Understanding and Teaching the Most Challenging Students,” Jessica and Nancy share their wisdom and experience working with the most misunderstood population in our schools.  This book is a must read for every Teacher in elementary school whether you are in a general education or special education setting.  I also highly recommend that Parents read this book as well to get an understanding of what it takes to change behavior and how important it is to carry these philosophies over to the home environment.

Jessica and Nancy focus their behavior strategies on the four most challenging types of students:

  1. The Student with Anxiety Related Behavior;
  2. The Student with Oppositional Behavior;
  3. The Student with Withdrawn Behavior; and
  4. The Student with Sexualized Behavior

Each chapter gives the reader clues for identifying these types of behavior and specific examples of the types of behavior plans that should be written to change the negative behaviors overtime in a proactive manner.  One of the things I love about this book is they end each chapter with a bullet point summary highlighting the most important aspects from the chapter.  For the parents and teachers reading this book without a background in behavior analysis, these bullet point summaries are a wonderful way to make sure you focus on the most important aspects of the chapter.

For example, the first few bullet points in the Chapter Summary regarding anxiety related behavior reads:

  • Anxiety is hard to identify because there are few consistent outward signs;
  • Students with anxiety can have inconsistent behavior patterns – antecedents can be inconsistent;
  • Students with anxiety commonly have escape-motivated behavior; and
  • Students with anxiety can be inflexible, irrational, impulsive, emotionally intense, or prone to overreact.

Each bullet point summary is clearly explained in the preceding chapter in greater detail in clear easy to understand language.  I thoroughly enjoyed the structure and layout of each chapter and thought the authors did a great job of keeping me interested in what can be a very dry topic.

By now you may be wondering what makes the behavior plans in this book different from the ones you are currently using in your District, School or Class.  The Authors have created what they call a FAIR Plan with four elements:

  1. Functional hypothesis of behavior;
  2. Accommodations
  3. Interaction strategies; and
  4. Response strategies

I am going to spend a few minutes on the third component of the plan, Interaction strategies.  The authors write:

“Interaction strategies are the third component of the FAIR plan.  We devote a section of every chapter to this important activity because it is typically left out of traditional behavior intervention plans and yet is one of the most important components of changing behavior.  Relationship building with challenging students is an art, especially with those who are defensive, such as some students with withdrawn behavior or trauma histories.  Building relationships with students is also a must!”

Let me say that last sentence again, “Building relationships with students is also a must!”  It is a must but yet it is not a common answer to the question, “What makes a good Teacher for a child with special needs?”  How do I know this?  I asked this exact question on my facebook page last night and got 36 amazing responses but none of them said the ability to connect or build relationships with their students.  I got responses such as patience, empathy, knowledge, passion, respect and flexibility which are wonderful answers BUT before learning can take place you also need a connection between student and teacher.  In my opinion, this connection between student and teacher is the key to success for both learning and behavior changes.  It is also what makes this book special because Jessica and Nancy have recognized this and added it as a component in their behavior plans.

The last chapter of the book focuses on commonly asked questions that may arise from reading this book.  It focuses on how a teacher can maintain their stamina while dealing with behaviors, if the FAIR plan is to time-consuming, how to get the administration’s support, how to communicate with the families and many more.  The appendixes for the book include sample charts, resources, activities and worksheets to be used in conjunction with the FAIR plan.  The book gives you everything you need to successfully start changing behavior one child at a time.

Go out and buy the Behavior Code today!!!  It should be sitting on the desk of every Teacher and the bookshelves of every parent dealing with difficult behaviors in and out of schools.


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Book Review: The Behavior Code, 5.0 out of 5 based on 2 ratings
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3 Responses to “Book Review: The Behavior Code”

  1. This sounds like a really great book! You say that every elementary teacher should read it, but I’m wondering: does it apply to older kids? If it doesn’t mention older kids outright, can the strategies easily be adapted for use with teenagers?

    Thanks for this great review! I am really interested in this book now!

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    • The authors have geared the book for elementary aged students but I think it can be useful or older kids as well. It’s a great book.

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    • I agree, we focused more on concrete strategies for elementary school
      students because these teachers are often very motivated as they spend a lot of time with their students and so having some new ways to approach behavior that can derail a class plan seemed key. Many high school teachers find the chapter on anxiety particularly helpful. We so appreciated the review!!
      Sincerely, Nancy
      ( I was traveling so I didn’t have chance to reply until now. )

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