Positive Behavior Supports

What is PBS?

Positive behavior support (PBS) is an assessment-based process to develop effective, individualized interventions to address challenging behavior.  Support plans focus on proactive and education approaches.

PBS always involves

  1. decisions based on data
  2. using functional behavioral assessment (FBA)
  3. proactive and positive teaching of appropriate behaviors
  4. monitoring the impact of of interventions.

What is SWPBS?

School-Wide Positive Behavior Support can be a foundation for teaching, encouraging, and rewarding expected behaviors throughout the whole school building/district. Read more on SWPBS here. 

Why PBS?

Adults often have two different approaches to dealing with problem behaviors.  One belief is that the child is a problem, and the other is that the child has a problem.  These different approaches are based on different beliefs.  PBS tells us the child is never the problem.

Explain positive vs punitive.

Behaviors are governed by their consequences.  These examples are adapted from PACER (see link below).

The teacher knows that Mary is more likely to argue with the teacher when she sits next to Mark.   If the teacher thinks Mary argues because she wants Mark to notice her, there are several things the teacher can do.   She can separate Mary and Mark so that Mary does not try so hard to get his attention. She can also teach Mary more positive ways to gain Mark’s attention and provide positive reinforcement for using the new behaviors.

John has a fight (behavior) and is suspended from school (consequence). If John loves school and can control the behavior, the consequence is negative because he has to give up something he wants (school). If John dislikes school, however, he may see that same consequence as positive. He may learn that fighting is a good way to be sent home. The next time John does not want to be in school, what behavior is he likely to use?

Billy is a 12-year-old sixth-grade student. He refuses to do his schoolwork, and then his teacher does not know what to do. He becomes angry when the teacher reminds him to get to work. He screams, swears, and even throws his work on the floor so the teacher will leave him alone. The teacher may think Billy is lazy, mean, or disrespectful. The teacher may feel angry or threatened.  Billy has behaviors that need to change. Let’s assume we have assessment data that give a clearer picture of Billy. We find that he reads at a second-grade level. Billy is angry over his parents’ recent divorce. He is worried about where he will live.  Clearly Billy’s problem behaviors must change. They are serious and interfere with learning. That is where a functional behavioral assessment comes in. It can help us identify why Billy is frustrated and angry, so we can help him to learn the skills he needs. A reasonable person would have a hard time believing that punishment alone could help Billy succeed.

Many of us have learned to deal with problem behaviors by doing nothing until they occur. After a child uses the behaviors, we punish. Punishment does not teach new skills, though. Its goal is to stop problem behaviors from continuing. If we do not teach a child what to do instead, the child will probably continue to misbehave.

Any time a child uses a behavior that is successful in meeting a need, the behavior is likely to be repeated. The behavior serves a function for the child.  Most people agree that we need to have consequences for problem behaviors. We must also focus on teaching the positive behavior skills we would like to see. If we can understand the function of problem behaviors, we can teach a child more positive behaviors that serve the same function,  and the problem behaviors are no longer needed.

What does the law say?

PBS (referred to as Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports in IDEA) is the only approach to addressing behavior that is specifically mentioned in federal law.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires a FBA whenever a child with a disability has his or her current placement changed for disciplinary reasons.  Behavior intervention plans are not exclusive to discipline.

The evaluation requirements of IDEA make it clear that children must be evaluated in all areas related to the suspected disability. This means that if your child has problem behaviors that are not improving, your child may need an evaluation to examine the behaviors more closely.

From IDEA- (5) Almost 30 years of research and experience has demonstrated that the education of children with disabilities can be made more effective by—(F) providing incentives for whole-school approaches, scientifically based early reading programs, positive behavioral interventions and supports, and early intervening services to reduce the need to label children as disabled in order to address the learning and behavioral needs of such children.

Additional Resources

Positive Behavior Supports Webinar– from the Michigan Alliance for Families Webinar Series

We also have a series of webpages to help understand behavior:

Accommodations/Modifications Sometimes an accommodation or modification to the classroom or the curriculum is the solution to a challenging behavior
Behavior Intervention Plan A written plan that identifies problem behaviors and how they will be addressed.
Behavior is Communication All behavior happens for a reason, but why?
Bullying Definitions, actions to take, specific protections for students with disabilities.
Discipline Covering discipline, suspension, expulsion, manifestation determination review.
Functional Behavior Assessment/Analysis A process for collecting data and analyzing the function of (ie- the reason why) a challenging behavior is occurring.
Positive Behavior Supports An approach to addressing challenging behaviors that teaches positive behavior skills rather than just using punishment.
Seclusion and Restraint When school personnel tie down, pin down, and confine children to locked rooms or boxes.
School-Wide Positive Behavior Supports A building-wide initiative to support all students in school.

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