Cambridge, MA…Children with behavioral challenges often fail in school, wasting too much time in detention and suspensions and falling behind in academics, never mastering the skills they need to make adequate progress. Classroom teachers encounter these challenging students on a daily basis, and they can be highly disruptive to a classroom, interfering with other students’ learning as well as draining a teacher’s energy and time.
In The Behavior Code (Harvard Education Press, publication date: April 19, 2012), Cambridge Health Alliance psychiatrist Nancy Rappaport, MD, and Newton Public Schools special educator Jessica Minahan provide effective strategies to prevent inappropriate behavior from occurring from some of the most challenging students in Kindergarten through sixth grade. In the book, the authors offer the conceptual background for “breaking the code” of four of the most challenging students in the classroom: students with anxious, oppositional, withdrawn and sexualized behaviors.
Dr. Rappaport and Minahan take their deep clinical understanding and knowledge of multidisciplinary research and best practices for the students they discuss in this book and apply it within a behavioral construct. Their behavioral approach is flexible, empathetic, and practical, with an emphasis on preventative interventions.
The authors provide a framework for a different kind of behavioral intervention plan that they call the FAIR Plan. The four components of a FAIR behavior intervention plan are Functional Hypothesis, where teachers document behaviors and make a hypothesis about what the student is communicating through his or her behavior; Accommodations that need to be in place to help the student function better; Interaction strategies that will promote desired behavior; and Response strategies that may be considered if prevention efforts fail. The authors spell out the best ways to intervene and support students with varying presentations as well as provide behavior support plans for teachers to tailor for the hardest to reach students in their classroom.
The Behavior Code is an extension of Dr. Rappaport’s efforts to change how the education system approaches mental illness in kids. As a child and adolescent psychiatrist and director of school-based mental health programs with Cambridge Health Alliance, she has dedicated her career to helping troubled kids. Her research on school violence prompted the Boston City Council to hold a public hearing to explore mental health services in the school system, and she was also invited by the Mass. Attorney General's office to provide testimony offering clinical perspectives on further steps to address bullying. She is an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of In Her Wake: A Child Psychiatrist Explores the Mystery of Her Mother’s Suicide (Basic Books, 2009).
Co-author Jessica Minahan is a board-certified behavior analyst and special educator who is currently employed in the Newton (Mass.) public school system as a district-wide behavior analyst.
For more information on The Behavior Code, visit http://www.hepg.org/hep/book/161/TheBehaviorCode.
Cambridge Health Alliance is an integrated, award-winning health system that provides high quality care in Cambridge, Somerville, and Boston’s metro-north communities. It includes three hospital campuses, a network of primary care and specialty practices, and the Cambridge Public Health Dept. CHA is a Harvard Medical School teaching affiliate and is also affiliated with Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, and Tufts University School of Medicine. Visit us online at www.challiance.org.