Jessica Minahan is a board-certified behavior analyst and special educator employed in the Newton (Massachusetts) public school system. Jessica has done educators a great service by writing her book (along with Nancy Rappaport) entitled The Behavior Code. I have begun reading it and find it refreshing and helpful. Are all of Jessica’s strategies and insights new? No. What she does is nicely capture and summarize essential components of how to support behaviorally challenged students with solid data and fidelity. After working with difficult students year after year, it can become easy to forget that their actions are purposeful and are their attempt to solve a problem (pg. 15). I appreciate Minahan’s charge to teachers to become “behavior detectives” as described in the following excerpt:
“Our perspective is that all teachers who are willing to be behavior detectives can learn to identify why challenging students behave a certain way, what school factors contribute to the behavior, and what strategies will lead to more appropriate, constructive behavior for school and life.” (pg. 8)
In chapter one, Minahan identifies the following essential concepts for understanding behavior (and goes on to expound on each concept throughout the remainder of the chapter):
- Misbehavior is a symptom of an underlying cause.
- Behavior is communication.
- Behavior has a function.
- Behavior occurs in patterns.
- The only behavior teachers can control is their own.
- Behavior can be changed.
In chapter two, Minahan introduces the FAIR plan – a behavior intervention plan that includes four elements:
- Functional hypothesis of behavior
- Interaction strategies
- Response strategies
Chapters three through seven dive into strategies for working with students who struggle with anxiety-related behavior, oppositional behavior, withdrawn behavior, and sexualized behavior. Helpful examples are given, and a Q&A section is provided as well. Appendices contain forms and other helpful information.
My agency is fortunate to be hosting Jessica Minahan for a training day in mid-January 2018. I look forward to hearing her speak and learning much! I’m sure I will have more to post after her visit…