The Behavior Code

The Behavior Code A Practical Guide to Understanding and Teaching the Most Challenging Students

Jessica Minahan and Nancy Rappaport, MD
cloth, 280 Pages
Pub. Date: April 2012
ISBN-13: 978-1-61250-137-6
Price: $49.95

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Pub. Date: April 2012
ISBN-13: 978-1-61250-268-7
paper, 280 Pages
Pub. Date: April 2012
ISBN-13: 978-1-61250-136-9
Price: $34.00

Add to Cart

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The Behavior Code unlocks a wealth of proven practices to help teachers, counselors, and parents identify the messages underlying challenging student behaviors and respond in supportive ways.


Teaching is an art, but it’s one that can be improved with science. Based on what we have learned in the field of psychology, The Behavior Code gives teachers the tools to transform the behavior patterns of some of their most challenging students. By using this essential book, teachers—instead of punishing or writing off troubled students—can get them onto a path for success. — Geoffrey Canada, president and ceo, Harlem Children’s Zone

The Behavior Code is truly a godsend. Concisely written and easy to read, this book offers a framework for creating successful behavioral plans. I predict that once teachers and principals begin to apply the authors’ approach for understanding and changing problematic behavior, they’ll never look elsewhere for help again. Buy it, read it, use it, read it again and again—and pass it on! — William S. Pollack, associate clinical professor, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School

This book is an essential guide for teachers and school personnel who find themselves in daily contact with students presenting with difficult behaviors. The authors outline an intervention procedure that is easily implemented in a busy classroom with multiple demands. Too often, behavioral intervention plans require so much attention to detail that teachers soon decide to disengage. Not so with the FAIR plan. By providing clear instructions and helpful examples, the authors promote a plan that prevents inappropriate behaviors while reinforcing socially acceptable alternatives. — LeAdelle Phelps, professor of counseling/school psychology, University at Buffalo, SUNY

The Behavior Code needs to be read by all teachers, counselors, administrators, and parents! The message is simple: our students’ challenging behaviors will continue if we only provide them with punishment- and reward-based consequences. Our job as caregivers is to understand our students’ dilemmas and teach them better coping strategies. The authors do not shy away from difficult topics, such as the students who say, ‘I don’t care,’ or who demonstrate sexualized behavior. This book is complete with supportive advice for teachers dealing with the challenging student and worksheets for organizing one’s own teaching around the FAIR Plan thoroughly described in this book. Waste no more time spinning your wheels with challenging students; allow yourself to be guided by the interventions articulated so well in the pages of this book. — Michelle Garcia Winner, founder, Social Thinking®

The Behavior Code is filled with wise and very concrete suggestions for K–6 educators and school counselors. This book insightfully illuminates the nature of anxious, oppositional, withdrawn, and overly sexualized behaviors. And it provides detailed, helpful suggestions that support school personnel anticipating and addressing these kind of challenging—and often, overwhelming—behaviors. — Jonathan Cohen, president, National School Climate Center

A practical guide that will help teachers understand and improve their students’ behavior and reduce the stress on everyone. This book is useful for experienced teachers and a great introduction for the student teacher or new school consultant. I was especially impressed by the originality and creativity of the materials provided and the many sample recommendations. — Michael Jellinek, MD, chief of child psychiatry service, Massachusetts General Hospital, and

Teachers and school mental health consultants will find this book a major resource; it’s eminently instructive and practical in guiding their work with students who have emotional and/or behavioral problems. The very experienced authors combine functional behavioral analysis with a more in-depth understanding about four common types of challenging students, and provide a wealth of strategies for optimally changing, teaching, and interacting with such children. — Richard E. Mattison, MD, director of school consultation and professor of psychiatry, Stony Brook University School of Medicine

The Behavior Code presents a cogent, succinct, highly readable support system for teachers, behavior specialists, and site administrators. Authors Rappaport and Minahan employ the process of Antecedent/Behavior/Consequence data collection/methodology coupled with case studies to illustrate its practicality and application. The manual is highly useful for staff professional development related to student behavior support plans and behavior intervention plans, both of which support improved student learning. — Leslie M. Codianne, associate superintendent of student support services, Monterey Peninsula Unified School District

This was an excellent book with really unique ideas on how to help children with challenging behaviors channel their energies in acceptable ways. This is the best book I’ve ever read on the topic, hands down. — Teacher's Toolbox

The Behavior Code needs to be read by all teachers, counselors, administrators, and parents from cover to cover! I felt Minahan and Rappaport were speaking to me, an elementary teacher and a mom. I felt they knew me, and knew those students who kept me awake at night. Teachers, this book is written by authors who KNOW what our jobs are like. — Lorna d’Entremont, Special Needs Book Review

This text takes us one step closer toward blending the education and mental health worlds, extracting the best strategies from both, and applying them to challenging cases. As child psychiatrists become even more embedded in schools, consulting to some of the most challenging students, the resources in The Behavior Code are helpful, practical tools we can offer teachers with whom we work. — Sheryl H. Kataoka, Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

The Behavior Code and The Behavior Code Companion are essential texts for a graduate teacher education course I teach on understanding behavior and classroom management. Used for the past five years, both in Boston and Barbados, these books help teachers understand the purpose and triggers of children’s challenging behaviors and they provide effective responsive strategies that support a child to learn positive social and behavioral skills. These books have changed the way I work with new teachers, with a focus on social emotional learning, reducing anxiety, and getting to the root of challenging behaviors. Teachers develop FAIR Plans that support an individual child but find that their plans foster a learning environment that supports all children. — Stephanie Cox Suárez, associate clinical professor emeritus, Teaching and Learning Department, Boston University

The Behavior Code is one of the best resources for educators. The practical, data-driven approach to looking at challenging behavior and coming up with solutions based on an understanding of anxiety makes it a must-read. Our organization has held multiple book studies on The Behavior Code with educators, and they have been incredibly popular and well-received. As one participant said, the book provides ‘real-life situations and great solutions for the classroom. — Catherine Zenko, director, Florida State University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities

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About the Authors

Jessica Minahan, MEd, BCBA, is a board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA) and special educator who is currently employed in the Newton, Massachusetts, public school system as a district-wide behavior analyst, where she does direct consulting for administrators, teachers, and support staff. She also consults to an in-house, forty-five-day stabilization program for Newton K–12 public school students who are in crisis. Jessica has more than ten years of experience with students exhibiting challenging behavior in both urban and suburban public school systems. She specializes in providing staff training and creating behavior intervention plans for students who demonstrate explosive and unsafe behavior, as well as for students with emotional and behavioral disabilities, high-functioning autism, and Asperger syndrome. She holds a BS in intensive special education from Boston University and a dual master’s degree in special education and elementary education from Wheelock College. She has a certificate of graduate study (CGS) in teaching children with autism from University of Albany and received her BCBA training from Northeastern University. She has been an instructor for the Severe Disabilities Department at Lesley University and is a sought-after public speaker on subjects ranging from effective interventions for students with anxiety to supporting hard-to-reach students in full-inclusion public school settings. For more information about Jessica Minahan please visit

Nancy Rappaport, MD, is the Director of School Programs at the Cambridge Health Alliance and an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Rappaport has dedicated her career to improving the lives of children by constructing effective support for troubled youth who are in need of vital access to critical mental health services and who often have difficulty connecting with the services they require. She has created a case evaluation model for safety assessments of aggressive students. She oversees and coordinates mental health services at Cambridge Health Alliance’s four school-based health centers in Cambridge, Somerville, and Everett, Massachusetts. A board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist, Nancy also teaches undergraduates, medical students, and residents about child development and supervises child psychiatry fellows in local schools. In addition to publishing many journal articles, she is the award-winning author of In Her Wake: A Child Psychiatrist Explores the Mystery of Her Mother’s Suicide (2009). In 2011, she received the Sidney Berman Award for School-Based Study and Intervention for Learning Disorders and Mental Health from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Dr. Rappaport is a graduate of Princeton University and Tufts University School of Medicine. For more information about Nancy Rappaport please visit