Positive Behavior Support: An Individualized Approach for Addressing Challenging Behavior (Handout)

This handout accompanies the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL) materials about Positive Behavioral Supports (PBS), a system of improving behavior through appropriate modifications in behavior. Managers and Technical Assistance providers will find this resource useful in providing quick and easy direction to Head Start staff. Including basic ideas about the practice, this handout gives simple bulletpoints to explain PBS practices.

PBS is a team effort:
PBS is positive:
PBS comprises three important steps:
Behavior support plans have three important components: preventing, replacing, and responding:
The instruction of new skills is one of the most important parts of PBS. The child must learn new skills to replace the challenging behavior:
As the child learns new skills, he or she must be praised, recognized or rewarded:
Sometimes challenging behavior returns or new behaviors occur:

See PDF version: Positive Behavior Support: An Individualized Approach for Addressing Challenging Behavior (Handout) [PDF, 492KB]

PBS is a team effort:

  • Communicate with team members.
  • Support the involvement of families, for they should be part of the solution, not the problem.
  • Meet and discuss the child's progress often.

PBS is positive:

  • Redirect the child or respond to the child's challenging behavior with understanding (e.g., "I know it's hard to wait for your turn. You may not hit.").
  • Try to understand the child's behavior and let the child know you realize that she is frustrated ("You are frustrated, this puzzle is hard.").
  • Do not use shame, blame, or reveal your frustration with the behavior.

PBS comprises three important steps:

  • First, bring together a team of concerned, knowledgeable individuals.
  • Second, conduct a functional assessment.
  • Third, develop the behavior support plan that includes (1) strategies for modifying the curriculum, environment, activity, or interactions to prevent occurrences of the challenging behavior; (2) procedures to teach a new skill to use in place of the challenging behavior; and (3) strategies to ensure that new skills are learned and acknowledged, and that challenging behavior is not maintained.

Behavior support plans have three important components: preventing, replacing, and responding:

  • Make sure that all adults understand the plan and are able to implement the strategies.
  • Make sure that the plan fits into the values, teaching style, and activities of the teacher and parent; if not, the plan will not be used.

The instruction of new skills is one of the most important parts of PBS. The child must learn new skills to replace the challenging behavior:

  • Make sure the new skills are taught throughout the day and in all environments.
  • Teach new skills when the child is not engaging in challenging behavior (the time when a child is having a tantrum is not a teachable moment).

As the child learns new skills, he or she must be praised, recognized or rewarded:

  • Use verbal praise and recognition, pats, high-fives...whatever makes the child "light up."
  • Make sure that instruction is always positive and successful. If the child cannot perform the new skill with a verbal direction, give physical assistance, then praise or provide recognition.

Sometimes challenging behavior returns or new behaviors occur:

  • Make sure the plan is implemented consistently; if not, review the plan or change it so it is easier to implement.
  • Examine the situation where challenging behavior is occurring and see whether there are new triggers for the behavior; if so, develop a new plan for that situation.
  • Use the functional assessment to determine if the behaviors have a different purpose than the challenging behavior that was addressed in the previous behavior support plan.

This material was developed by the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning with federal funds from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families (Cooperative Agreement N. PHS 90YD0119). The contents of this publication do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nor does mention of trade names, commercial projects, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. You may reproduce this material for training and information purposes. The authors wish to acknowledge Larry S. Joireman for the illustrations.

We welcome your feedback on this What Works Brief. Please go to the CSEFEL Website (http://www.vanderbilt.edu/csefel) or call us at 1-866-433-1966 (toll free) to offer suggestions.

See also:
     Positive Behavior Support: An Individualized Approach for Addressing Challenging Behavior (Article)

Positive Behavior Support: An Individualized Approach for Addressing Challenging Behavior (Handout). What Works Brief No. 10. What Fox, Lise and Duda, Michelle. CSEFEL. n.d. English.

Last Reviewed: January 2010

Last Updated: October 3, 2014