POSITIVE BEHAVIOR SUPPORT
by Barry K. Morris B.ScWk
Positive Behavior Support (PBS) is a behavioral
intervention gaining in popularity for use with Autism Spectrum Disorders for resolving behavior problems. Children are supported
in adopting socially meaningful behaviors, avoiding inappropriate
behaviors, and learning functional skills as a replacement for problem
behavior. It is based on principles regarding the rights of all
children to be treated with dignity and have access to educational
Principles of Positive Behavior Support
PBS implies an understanding that people (including
parents) do not control others, but seek to support others in their
own behavior change processes. There is a reason behind most inappropriate
behavior of difficulty in acquiring skills, so the child should
always be treated with respect. There should always be a focus on
humane changes in the child's life to learn better behavior, instead
of using coercion or punishment to manage behavior.
Positive Behavior Support involves a commitment
to continually search for new ways to minimize coercion. This does
not mean that parents should be judged too harshly if they occasionally
resort to yelling. We can tend to fall back on patterns of care
giving that have worked for us in the past, especially when we are
challenged by difficult behavior. PBS (in this case) means that
we have recognized when we have resorted to coercion, and continually
seek to find alternatives that we can use next time challenges occur.
Functional Behavioral Assessment
This is a process for describing behavior, including
environmental factors and setting events that predict the behavior,
and guiding the development of effective and efficient support plans.
Assessment lays the foundation of PBS. The assessment includes:
• a description of the problem behavior
• identification of events, times and situations predictive of problem
• identification of consequences that maintain behavior
• identification of the motivating function of behavior
• collection of direct observational data.
The results of the assessment help in developing
the individualized behavior support plan. This outlines procedures
for teaching alternatives to the behavior problems, and alterations
to the circumstances most associated with the problems.
Identify strengths and needs
What skills does the child have? For example a
student who cannot sit still in class may be a great help to working
on the stage crew for a production. It is important to establish
the child's level of insight, reasoning skills and capacity to control
What does the child enjoy and hate? This can help
to establish positive and negative reinforcements of behaviors.
Other points to be included for consideration are, values/culture,
biomedical/physical factors, environmental factors, motivation,
intervention history, learning history, learning style, and relationships.
CHOOSING A BEHAVIORAL STRATEGY
There are many different behavioral strategies
to encourage individuals to change their behavior. Some of the most
commonly used approaches are:
• Modifying the environment or routine
ignoring of the behavior
• Distracting the child
reinforcement for an appropriate behavior
• Changing expectations and demands placed upon the child
• Teaching the child new skills and behaviors
• Modification techniques such as desensitization
and graded extinction
• Changing how people around the child react
• Time out
behavior management program
The key questions in developing a behavior management
• What are the specific behaviors to address?
• What is the current pattern of behavior?
• What is the goal for change?
• What are the steps towards achieving the goal?
• How will change be recognized and monitored?
• What approach or combination of approaches is most likely to be
For all carers and family members involved in the program, a consistent
approach is often the most significant factor influencing success.
The expectations of behavioral change also need to be clearly defined
and realistic. It may not be possible to change all behaviors at
once, or in all situations.
management is a positive response to challenging behavior It
serves to give the person informed choice. It gives the person an
opportunity to learn. Consequences exist within our society, and
we live with the consequences of our actions on a daily basis. For
example, if we speed and are caught, the consequence is more than
likely to be that we will get a speeding ticket. The use of consequential
management is a positive response to behavior, it allows a person
informed choice and an opportunity for learning.
Consequences must be clearly related to the challenging
behavior. For example, if a glass of water was thrown and the glass
smashed, the logical consequence would be for the person to clean
up the mess and replace the glass. If an unrelated punishment was
enforced, such as not being able to go to the movies the next day,
the person would not be able to see or understand the link and the
learning benefits of the process would be lost.
Providing choices is very important and staff can set limits by
giving alternatives that are related to a behavior they are seeking.
It is important that the alternative is stated in a positive way
and that words are used which convey that the person has a choice.
Not so good way
“If you don't cut that out you'll have to leave the room.”
“You can watch TV quietly or leave the room.”
Managing Crisis Situations
When behavior becomes violent
towards others or self-injurious,
what options do we have to help the individual whilst also protecting
the rights of others? Should the person be removed and if so how?
Where should he go and for how long? Should he be left alone or
supervised? What are the expectations of the individual and the
caregivers during this period of removal? Whatever action is taken
it should be calm, unemotional and not use excessive force.
Dealing with others' expectations
Often parents’ reactions to crises are more influenced
by the ‘spectators’ than they are by the most effective way to deal
with the behavior. Outside observers are often quick to make judgments
such as ‘what a tantrum' or 'spoilt brat!’ and those judgments do
affect how a challenging situation is responded to. Parents need
tools to deal with the expectations of others, whether real or perceived,
if they are to be effective in helping their child to gain control
of their behavior.
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