Introduction to Positive Behavior Support

Early Childhood

Elementary, Middle and High Schools

Alternative Settings

Positive behavior support (PBS) involves a data-based assessment and decision-making process, empirically-validated (peer-reviewed, research-based) intervention strategies, systems change approaches that promote utilization and sustainability of interventions, and procedures for heightening responsiveness to consumers’ preferences and community relevance. PBS is an intervention technology that uses educational, social, behavioral, biomedical and systems change methods, including environmental redesign, to prevent or minimize problem behavior from occurring. PBS is also a very practical approach for decreasing problem behaviors that is based primarily on an assessment of the function of the problem behavior(s) and the subsequent development of a multi-component “package” of function-based interventions and supports that, when implemented with fidelity and treatment integrity, can significantly improve quality of life for individuals of all ages and abilities.

PBS evolved within the field of developmental disabilities and emerged in the mid-1980s initially as an organized and concerted response to escalating concerns over the use of aversive procedures, with the desire to produce more meaningful and sustainable outcomes in complex community settings for individuals with disabilities. PBS has been influenced by several major sources, including the scientific and procedural foundations of applied behavior analysis (ABA), the normalization/inclusion movement, and person-centered planning values.

Elements of PBS can be found in other intervention approaches, however, its uniqueness can be found in the way in which the following critical features are integrated into a cohesive whole: (1) comprehensive and preferred lifestyle changes, (2) a long-term, lifespan perspective, (3) interventions that posses ecological validity (e.g., are feasible, relevant and effective in real-life settings and situations), (4) stakeholder participation and collaboration in developing and implementing person-centered intervention and support plans, (5) social validity, as a primary criterion of effective procedures and intended outcomes, (6) systems change, (7) multi-component interventions, (8) emphasis on prevention of problem behavior, (9) flexibility in scientific practices, and (10) multiple theoretical perspectives.

The PBS approach reflects a trend in the social sciences and field of education away from pathology-based approaches (e.g., focusing on intervening in order to “fix” the person with the problem) to a new, more positive model that stresses interventions that (a) eliminate or reduce environmental triggers that set the stage for problem behavior (prevent), (b) build personal competence by teaching alternative replacement behaviors that accomplish the same function for the individual as the problem behavior used to accomplish (teach), and (c) reward/ acknowledge individuals when they choose to engage in acceptable, appropriate social-interpersonal behaviors in order to get/obtain what they want, or to escape/avoid/delay what they do not want (reinforce).

This template was adapted and is based upon a template developed via copyright © 2008
Kansas State Department of Education. All Rights Reserved.
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The content and organization was initiated by support provided by the Kansas Department of Education. Current maintenance and continued work is supported by the consortium of districts and by PBS Kansas. Copyright, 2009 University of Kansas. Request for edits or changes in content to these pages should be made only after contacting the authors.
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