Navigate Life Texas: Resources for kids with disabilities and special needs

Navigate Life Texas: Resources for kids with disabilities and special needs

Positive Behavior Supports

07/12/2017 | Published by: Kelly Mastin

I recently attended an Admission, Review and Dismissal (ARD) meeting with a friend. The committee discussed my friend’s son’s behavior. The behavior specialist explained that she had utilized Positive Behavior Supports (PBS) with her son. She went on to give her examples of PBS: 

  • If he engaged in his problem behavior, he would lose the privilege of looking at his Minecraft magazine.
  • If he didn’t earn all his good behavior points for a class, he would not get to listen to his music with his headphones.
  • If he didn’t complete his work, he would not get to have computer time after lunch.

It is important to understand that even the behavior experts disagree about how to best help students with behavior challenges. My friend and I take a different approach to PBS. By definition, the idea of PBS is not to punish the bad behavior. Instead, PBS recommends first determining what the behavior means for the child, what happens before the behavior, and what happens after the behavior. PBS is built on the simple idea that behavior is communication. 

In order to change a bad behavior disrupt that cycle and lead the child into a new behavior or response. If the disruption of the cycle fails, and the child engages in the behavior after all, then discipline of some sort is needed. But the idea is to avoid the situation and the behavior altogether.

Changing behavior has long depended on punishment to force change. PBS focuses on tools the child can use that will steer them away from the undesired behavior. 

PBS is often a very personal, individualized approach. It requires careful consideration and planning. It is important for all caregivers to be onboard and committed to the plan. PBS depends on caregivers to help equip the child in a consistent manner. 

Examples of ways to practice PBS include but are not limited to:

  • Use a visual schedule and clearly defined expectations
  • Create visual gestures/reminders
  • Give warning/countdown for transitions or non-preferred activities
  • Read social stories of desired behaviors
  • Teach new skills and phrases to say and responses
  • Use First/Then strategy, doing non-preferred activities first
  • Give choices, especially during non-preferred activities
  • Give frequent, specific praise for desired behaviors

It is important to understand what students are communicating through their behavior. It is also important to teach more socially acceptable behaviors. PBS offers a way to change behavior while still protecting and maintaining the student’s dignity. 

With PBS, students can be armed and equipped with the skills and tools to engage in appropriate behaviors. 

To learn more about PBS, visit the Positive Behavior and Intervention Supports website.

Here is an excellent article about PBS


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