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A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Education, Major: Educational Studies (Special Education); Under the Supervision of Professor Reece Peterson
Lincoln, Nebraska: December 2009
Copyright (c) 2009 Cynthia Serfass


The purpose of this study was to determine whether students with identified behavioral needs were provided a different level of behavioral intervention based on their special education disability category verification. A second purpose of this study was to determine what caused potential differences as interpreted by individuals working in the field.

The participants in this study were school-aged students (K-12) verified in the special education categories of Behaviorally Disordered (BD), Autism, and Other Health Impaired (OHI) from four Nebraska school districts. Multidisciplinary Team (MDT), Individualized Education Plan (IEP), functional behavioral assessment (FBA), and behavior intervention plan (BIP) documents were analyzed from a sample of 310 students (107 Autism, 91 EBD, and 112 OHI). In addition to the student participants in each district, a qualitative component to the study was completed with interviews of a sample of six educators in each district in order to determine their perceptions about why there were differences in the way behavior is treated across the three verification categories.

Results indicated a significant difference in the behavior interventions for students with identified behavioral needs depending on their disability category. Significant differences were calculated from those student records, which indicated behavioral needs (Autism 65, EBD 89, and OHI 59). Students in the EBD disability category had a significantly higher percent of behavioral goals, FBAs, and BIPs when compared to students in the categories of OHI and Autism. Students classified as OHI were least likely to have behavioral goals, FBAs and BIPS. Themes derived from the qualitative portion of the study were “process” (assessment, time, paperwork, and support), “effectiveness” (thought on training issues and implementation), and “differences” (participants’ views about service differences for students depending on the disability category).

These results implied that some students with behavioral needs are not receiving what research has shown to be effective intervention; that is the use of FBAs and BIPs. It is recommended that procedures and policies surrounding FBAs and BIPS be reviewed keeping in mind the current demands on educators’ time and mandatory requirements for both creation and implementation of FBAs and BIPs. Institutions of higher learning as well as school districts should also take note to ensure that programming for professionals include training that would encourage behavior intervention for all students. These results further imply that districts, states, and national administrators should undertake similar research to discover the status of behavior intervention and possible adjustments needed in their policies, procedures and staff training.
Advisor: Reece L. Peterson

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