Serving Wisconsin and Beyond
Launching. . . 2023
The Why Toolkit™ was created by Connie Persike out of a deep passion to help change the way we perceive student behaviors. While the final product has been years in the making, it’s based on Connie’s training as well as her decades of experience utilizing an innovative approach to assess and support behaviors that interfere with learning across 100’s of schools. The cumulative end product being The Why Toolkit™️, a tool built for and approved by teachers, parents, and administrators that can both assess and support individuals struggling with behaviors.
The assessment tool, Finding The Why, is a comprehensive tool that moves beyond behaviorism to use what we know now about the importance of relationships & belonging, neuroscience, and neurodiverse needs. It goes beyond the surface level and helps staff conduct a data-driven, root cause analysis to determine the deeper whys to behaviors that interfere with learning.
This web-based assessment guides support teams along their journey to discover the causes of distress behavior in individuals all while at the same time utilizing a visual approach to help shift perspectives. The ultimate goal is to find the appropriate support and experiences that will decrease behaviors over time.
The support plan, Beyond The Why, uses information gathered from the assessment to provide adequate, neurodiversity-affirming supports that are trauma-sensitive, relationship-driven, and rooted in neuroscience. The web-based form guides staff in a way that allows them to decrease stressors and provide positive supports to address the needs of each learner. It goes beyond individual support, prompting teams to think about how they can support the staff, allowing them to show up and be the best they can be for the individuals they serve.
The Why Toolkit™ is a testament to the fact that we all do well if we can.
Which is why we worked with allies throughout the diverse field to ensure that The Why Toolkit was written using language that would be approachable, comfortable and sensitive to practitioners, teachers, parents and neurodivergent individuals.
Many people were involved in making The Why Toolkit possible. See below for a full list allies who reviewed, designed, edited or contributed in some way.
But we would especially like to thank the neurodivergent individuals and parents of neurodivergent individuals who participated as sensitivity readers to ensure that The Why Toolkit would resonate with everyone it was intended to help.
With permission, we would like to thank the following sensitivity readers:
- Megan Ashburn – Not an Autism Mom
- Brian Middleton – Bearded Behaviorist
- Clarissa Hinshaw
- Carmen Ganser
- Guy Stephens – Alliance Against Restraint & Seclusion
- Jody Steiger
- Holly Breidel
- Victoria Whitmarsh
With over 20 years experience in the field, Connie Persike set out to develop The Why Toolkit based on the most cutting-edge and up-to-date research in the world of education, neuroscience, and behaviors.
The Toolkit was designed to take the best information from the field and make it approachable and useful for as many people as possible.
It was inspired by the impactful and invaluable work done by Dr. Mona Dellahook, Alfie Kohn, Dr. Ross Greene, Dr. Stephen Porges, Dr. Tina Payne-Bryson, Dr. Dan Siegal and Dr. Lori Desaultes as well as the many neurodivergent individuals who have shared their lived experiences with us and for whom we are beyond grateful to.
“Connie Persike has created leading edge work as she has transformed the traditional Behavior Support Plan and Functional Behavior Assessment, bridging educational pedagogy and relational neuroscience providing educators with a developmental nervous system aligned lens assessing physiological root causes of a student’s behavior. This modified plan and assessment is steeped in relational and regulatory questions, exploring the neurodivergent characteristics and accommodations that address felt safety and connection.”
“To truly help children who are having a difficult time, requires seeing them through a lens of compassion and digging deep to understand why they are struggling. Too often schools only consider observable behaviors when developing a plan to support children. The solutions that come from these plans are reward and consequence models that are not helping the children that most need our help. Connie Persike’s assessment tool facilitates a deep understanding of why children exhibit stress-related behaviors. A deep understanding allows educators to develop positive support plans that lead to lasting solutions for students, teachers, and staff. Connie’s tool is a far better approach than traditional behavior-driven models that don’t look beyond behaviors.”
“The Why Toolkit propels us from the problematic, outdated behavior-world of punishment and consequences into the loving, compassionate universe of neuroscience. Connie has created a tool that distills cutting-edge brain science into an easy to digest, intuitive instrument that doesn’t seek to change a person’s individual differences, but rather celebrates them. Unlike other assessments that have to do with human behavior, The Why Toolkit isn’t an instruction manual on how to change a person to ‘fit into the world’ (whatever that means). Rather, it serves as a guidebook on how others change their actions and worldview to ‘fit’ the person. The Why Toolkit is the ultimate testament of the value of human connections over compliance.”
“Connie’s updated FBA/ BIP process combines the most recent research based approaches in a way that resonates with parents and educators. Her visual supports, in-depth training, and student-centered approach brings a team together with a focus on the child’s strengths and the lagging skills that need to be addressed. Parent feedback on our process and the Visual BIP has been overwhelmingly positive. Our approach and ability to meet our students’ needs has improved as a result of our work with Connie!”
“In the schools where I have worked and visit, I find that professionals struggle with supporting students who have complex needs that result in challenging behavior. They especially struggle with how to put a plan in writing in an effective and understandable way. It should be respectful to the student by acknowledging what is causing concerning behaviors but affords a clear roadmap for staff. Connie Persike’s new assessment tool does just that. Her updated behavior assessment helps the adults better understand the student and empowers them to meet the student’s needs. It is groundbreaking.”
“[The] Why Toolkit is an excellent resource to support teams as they dig into understanding student behavior. This process helps shape and guide a positive discussion around a student’s behavior and lagging skills as the team works to develop a purposeful plan that is easily understood by all members, including the parents. One of my favorite components is the visual response plan that is created by the end of this process.”
“This updated Functional Behavioral Assessment and Behavior Intervention Plan is a game changer! When I use it with families and school staff it immediately changes how a child’s behavior is viewed, putting their strengths first. It goes beyond just looking at how to extinguish behaviors and provides you with a platform to dig deep into the child’s neurology, lagging skills, etc. The whole time strengthening the relationship between caregivers and school staff. For once parents didn’t feel like they were being blamed for their child’s behavior.”
“I wanted to thank you for creating your updated Functional Behavior Assessment and Positive Behavior Support Plan. We have had several students that have a history of great trauma, and I was not satisfied with the traditional FBAs and BIPs we had in the past. They were so black and white and more focused on a result of a behavior rather than taking action of the reason why the behavior occurred in the first place.
So far we have put three students officially on this plan. The dialog that happens between parents, staff, and the child have been remarkable. When the families and students notice that we are looking at the whole child, and not just a desired attitude or behavior, but truly working to shape brain and body states, there is a mutual connection and understanding.
While going through the plan, the various quotes, ease of design, and language for identifying triggers, characteristics, and skills helps give a neat, well-rounded picture of how to support the student. Teachers and families have been awestruck by this approach.
Thank you, and we look forward to utilizing this resource more often.”
“The Supportable Solutions Why Toolkit is exactly the sort of tool that is needed to identify factors in environments of learners that impact behavior. The reality is that there are so many things that impact behavior, and have a reliable tool that helps to identify possible variables is a necessary. When I was asked to review this tool it blew me away with the depth and caring that was present in it. I definitely recommend this toolkit to anyone who is trying to identify variables that impact behavior because having a systemic approach removes guess work and sheds light on areas that otherwise would go unnoticed.”
“From a parents perspective, I really like how The Why Toolkit is set up and calls for a plan that is positive, concrete, specific and actionable. It speaks to learning the root causes vs. focusing on the behavior. The Root Cause Analysis visual really spoke to me.
I wish IEP’s spoke more to how we can help your child vs. here are their downfalls and everything they are doing “wrong”.”
“I had the pleasure of working with Connie on a FBA/BIP for my younger son when our school district reached out to her. My son had gone through a lot of changes due to the pandemic and we wanted to better support him as he transitioned back to school full time. After my first interactions with Connie, I was already so grateful for the lens she was seeing my son through. She was able to see the underlying trauma he had endured during the pandemic and how that affected every aspect of his school experience. Any kind of struggle or challenge he had that she observed was explained in a way that made complete sense to me as a parent and felt very true to his character and personality. Connie checked in with me multiple times throughout the FBA and BIP process to confirm I felt that my son was being advocated for properly and that she was supporting me as a parent and what I had hoped to get out of the process for my son.
The BIP was presented to me in very clear and concise terms. Every step that she was proposing the school implement had clear data and observations to back it up. I felt like the plan she created was custom tailored to my son and our school district. Outside of the BIP, she found ways to support me in my understanding of the trauma my son was experiencing and she provided me with ample resources to broaden my education and support my son better.
What could have been an extremely overwhelming and stressful situation was made easier thanks to Connie. I am so grateful for all of the insight she provided to myself and our school team. Her knowledge on autism and trauma, and how those work together, has completely changed how I support my son in this post-pandemic time. I feel confident moving forward that we will be able to implement her BIP and help my son feel secure and happy at school. Even in the midst of discussing challenges, the entire process left me feeling very encouraged as a parent and hopeful for my son moving forward.”
“I read through [The Why Toolkit™ ] a couple times. I found the use of positives rather than negative words to be refreshing. Posing the what have you been successful with versus what hasn’t worked: I found that to be the theme of the Toolkit, positives over negatives. I thought the visual [of the Wave of Distress] was great for the student’s team and to help them. Putting the focus on what the team/staff will do to support the student instead of focusing on getting the student to regulate themselves.
As a parent of a child who is only 4 1/2 I am already overwhelmed with filling out sheets about all of his negative behaviors, where he lacks a skill or emotion. I am not asked to list the positives a lot and those outweigh the rest any day. As a parent in an IEP meeting or meeting with teachers to discuss my child’s behaviors, a form like this would help me breath a sigh of relief that someone is looking to help my child get assistance on working through his life’s triggers instead of looking to stick his desk in a corner, take away fun days and recesses, and more horrible punishments I see being used.”
“As an Occupational Therapist, I’ve been looking at behaviors through a neuroscience and sensory processing lens throughout my career when assessing individuals and environments. I was blown away with how comprehensive and highly sensitive Connie Persike’s Why Toolkit™ is! The quotes throughout the assessment tool help educate the user/reader on different thoughts and authors they may seek out to “rethink” their past beliefs and really dig deeper to find reasons beneath the behavior. Shifting the perspective to the “why” instead of focusing on the behavior is needed to get to the root cause and help all those involved. Asking the right questions, including the individual’s experience, and going through the wave of distress all leads to a Response Support Plan for that is easily understood and implemented for the individual and the staff! The Why Toolkit™ is exactly what this world needs!”
Big thank you to the following people for their assistance in making this project possible.
Rachel Rasmussen – Rescue Desk
Eva Solcova Smith – EVAlution Management
Denise Zimmermann – Sketches by Denise
Carmen Ganser – Copy Women
Damon Schopen – Porchlight Technologies
And, a big shout out to the practitioners who reviewed and piloted The Why Toolkit to ensure that this tool was approachable and useful for all!
Dr. Emmanuel Taiwo, Ed.D.
Peter Wilson, Ph.D., Superintendent
Jerry Nicholson, Director of Pupil Services
Becky Haen, Director of Pupil Services
Erin Kuehn-Schettler, Ph.D., Director of Pupil Services
Dustin Springer, Ph.D., principal
Kristen Hankins, principal
Renae Braun, principal
April Smith, special education teacher
Karen Bartlet, occupational therapist
Amber Burwell, school psychologist
Veronica Krueger, school psychologist
Danielle Reynolds, special education teacher
Anna Boikov, special education teacher
Gina Zanella-Sample, school counselor
Victoria Cornell, mental health specialist
Anna Bina. speech pathologist
Nichole Ponzer, literacy coach
Dawn DeJulio, special education teacher
…and the countless teams who Connie has had the pleasure of working with over the last decade