Positive Behavior Support: 6 Steps to Success

Reviewed by:

April 22, 2022

Positive Behavior Support (PBS) is a research-based process used in ABA therapy to develop appropriate replacement behaviors for children with autism.

History of Positive Behavior Support

In the early 1980s, there were many developments in the application and designs for intervening in challenging behavior, but very few were proven to be effective. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, PBS was developed as a proven and safe process. Today, PBS is used as an umbrella term that incorporates all positive interventions in managing difficult behavior.

PBS Process

PBS follows the ABC model:

  • Antecedent — Events that occur directly before the behavior.
  • Behavior — The behavior that a child is demonstrating. 
  • Consequences — The actions or responses following the behavior.

The primary goals of PBS are:

  • To minimize disruptive behavior in a learning environment or community
  • Simultaneously encourage positive behavior and replace challenging behavior
  • To teach self-management skills

Positive Behavior Support or intervention (PBIS)

In addition to PBS, there is another process called Positive behavior support and intervention (PBSI) that is a tiered system used in schools to correct different behaviors.

  • Tier 1: These are regular support systems that apply to all students.
  • Tier 2: These systems focus on the 10 to 15 percent of students who may display behavioral challenges. 
  • Tier 3: These systems apply to students who typically receive individualized support to improve their behavior and academic progress.

Below are some examples of positive behavior interventions:

Routines

For children with special needs like autism, it may require significant effort for them to follow a routine. Teachers should make sure to set clear routines of everything that students should do in a classroom in a clear and predictable manner. 

Taking breaks

Taking breaks from the activity you are doing with the child is important— this helps them take a moment to understand the activity.  Breaks can also be used to teach self-management or self-regulation.

Signaling

In a group setting, creating silent signals can help the child communicate in a comfortable way while making the child feel needed and special. These signals are effective when it comes to reinforcement of positive behavior with minimal disruption and also give the child a safe way to express themselves. 

Proximity 

You can physically get closer to a student or give a physical cue to get them on task without giving verbal instructions. Although physical proximity can be intimidating in some cases, if you are sensitive, subtle, and caring about it, physical proximity can be a less disruptive method of behavioral intervention. 

Quiet corrections

In this scenario, you should try to quietly correct any display of challenging behavior verbally without discomforting the child in front of others. You should quickly remind the child what you want them to do and move away and monitor from afar.

Positive phrasing

Using aggressive or negative phrasing can cause tension within children and cause public embarrassment. Try to avoid statements that implicate a threat like “either-or” or “If you don’t, then I will” statements. Instead, frame your sentences more sensitively with positive phrasing like: “We always walk down the stairs” instead of saying, “Don’t run down the stairs.” Doing so will also give the child a clear idea of exactly what you want them to do.

Practicing the behavior you want to see

Acknowledging positive behavior by children or narrating the behavior you want to see in a child can be an immensely helpful tool. Sometimes, you may have to demonstrate the behavior you want to see in a child as children tend to mimic behaviors.

Tangible reinforcers 

Rewarding positive behavior can be a helpful way of reinforcing a specific behavior. Children tend to repeat behavior that has been rewarded in the past or has gained positive attention.

Steps in the Positive Behavior Support process

The process of PBS can be divided into six primary steps:

Step 1: Building a team

PBS begins with identifying the key individuals involved in the child’s life including family, friends, and therapists. 

Step 2: Person-centered planning

Person-centered planning brings the team together and discusses what success would look like for the child.

Step 3: Functional Behavior Assessment 

A functional Behavioral assessment determines the cause and effect behind triggers that maintain difficult behaviors.

Step 4: Hypothesis development

This stage summarizes what is known about the triggers and behaviors of a child and provides a hypothesis on why the behavior occurs.

Step 5: Support plan

Once hypotheses about why a behavior occurs are established, the team can develop a support plan that suggests different prevention strategies, replacement skills, or new ways to respond to the problematic behavior. 

Step 6: Monitoring outcomes

Once the support plan is implemented, the effectiveness of the plan should be measured based on changes in the problem behavior or achievement in new skills.

In Conclusion

PBS is the most modern way of taking care of a child with autism. However, implementing PBS is a team effort as you and your family may need to participate and monitor changes from time to time.

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