Positive Alternatives

The key to reducing the use of aversives, restraints, and seclusion is to ensure that individuals who exhibit challenging behaviors have access to comprehensive and individualized positive behavior support. Behavior that challenges us is a symptom of a problem, not the problem itself. It tells us to look closer and listen harder, because something is wrong. Behavior is a message about what is happening in someone’s life. By joining in the communication, rather than shutting it down, we can identify the problem and find positive solutions.

More than two decades of peer-reviewed studies have provided strong evidence of positive alternatives for addressing even the most serious behavior challenges, such as self-injury, aggression, and property damage.

The success of Positive Behavior Support (PBS) has been documented across settings, including schools, family homes, and typical places in the community. Because PBS is not intrusive or inappropriate for public places, PBS supports and encourages children to participate more fully in normal everyday activities and community life. It is the “least restrictive intervention” designed for the “least restrictive setting.”

PBS, which is called for under the IDEA and is based upon a completed Functional Behavioral Assessment, is an evidence-based technology and process for developing effective, individualized, nonaversive interventions for children whose behavior challenges us. PBS draws information from psychology, medical research, and neuroscience to understand how learning and long-term behavior change occur.

The goal of PBS is not merely to suppress or eliminate unwanted responses but to understand and respond thoughtfully to their cause and/or purpose. The child can then be assisted to substitute more appropriate and effective behaviors, including better ways to make his or her feelings, needs, and choices known. The Positive Behavior Support approach also involves evaluating a child’s physical environment and changing those things or events that are overwhelming or stressful (e.g., loud noises, crowded situations, unstructured time, inappropriate instructional strategies, lack of adaptations in curriculum). Last but not least, it involves a commitment to changing attitudes and behaviors on the part of adults with whom the child interacts.

Key Elements of Positive Behavior Support

PBS is an orientation based on research, oe that aims to build a culture of support by understanding the function of behavior; creating individualized and socially meaningful supports; creating person-centered environments; and using a collaborative team approach.

To accomplish this, PBS focuses on:

  • Understanding through Functional Behavioral Assessment and hypothesis-based interventions that are selectively determined based on an individual’s needs, characteristics, and preferences.
  • Prevention and early intervention;
  • Education and capacity building;
  • Utilization of long-term, comprehensive approaches;
  • Involvement and ownership of key stakeholders; and
  • Commitment to outcomes that are meaningful for that individual.

Focusing solely on the reduction of problem behaviors through the use of positive or negative consequences, and/or simply reinforcing appropriate behaviors by itself is not PBS.

Positive Behavior Intervention and Support involves teaching new skills that replace challenging behavior over time, assisting the individual to change his or her interactions (physical and social), and must be based on the conduct of a Functional Behavioral Assessment.