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Brief Description of PBS Related to Early Childhood

The links below are intended to help you navigate among the pages related to Early Childhood. The references or source material associated with the references on this website do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Association for Positive Behavior Support (APBS) nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by APBS.


The fields of early childhood education and early intervention have many approaches and philosophies that integrate well with positive behavior support (PBS). Early childhood organizations are interested in increasing the participation of young children and their families in the community. When children are young, the primary learning environments are within the home (family) and the community. Community members of all types are considered teachers of young children.

Communication development is critical for young children and teaching communication skills at an early age is especially important when children engage in challenging behaviors. Research studies demonstrate that communication-based intervention strategies can be used to decrease problem behaviors. In addition, a thorough understanding of the context in which problem behaviors occur and the child's relationships with others assist teams working with children to enhance and expand support in family and community settings.

Early intervention practices (special education services for young children) are rooted in interdisciplinary collaborative approaches and involve multiple agencies and community members in ongoing planning. Students with disabilities are identified through a single point of entry referral process and are assessed by team members including early childhood professionals, day care providers, family members, and other individuals who are important to the child. If a young child qualifies for special education, he or she receives an individualized family services plan (IFSP, 0-3 years of age) or an individualized education plan (IEP, 3-8 years of age) to support that child's unique educational and developmental needs.

In PBS, team members provide detailed information about the young child's reaction and response to different individuals, environments, and activities. Team members report and analyze what works well and is successful for the young child, as well as what needs to change. A functional behavioral assessment provides observational data, as well as interview and other documentation about the young child and his/her problem behavior. It is critical that the team develop a holistic vision of the child and family's strengths and needs. In early intervention and PBS, the plans generated focus on both individual and family goals in order for the child to be successful and happy at home and in the community. An important starting point in the PBS process is the person-centered or wraparound plan. Both person-centered planning and wraparound involve planning meetings that place the individual and his or her family in the lead role of defining the individual child or adult's strengths and preferred quality of life. Goals and objectives are identified and evaluated over time to ensure that progress is being made in reaching a higher quality of life and that the services provided to the child and his or her family are effective.

Multi-component planning is a key ingredient in PBS. These multi-component plans include strategies for identifying stressful situations and addressing problem behavior before it occurs, as it occurs, or after it has stopped. A team process for supporting a young child's needs provides family members with a sounding board and feedback from a variety of perspectives, all of which can be very helpful to young parents who are learning about how to prevent problem behavior.

School-wide positive behavior support models that are implemented in elementary, middle, and high school levels have been adapted to support programs for young children. Program-wide PBS in early childhood and preschool settings is now being implemented in across the United States. Program-wide PBS provides strategies and tools for preventing problem behavior and supporting all children based on their level of need. Functional behavioral assessment, person centered planning, and PBS with young children are considered important tools to prevent problem behavior by using a strengths-based approach. The members section of this website includes information about members who are working in this important field and website resources that can be used to learn more about early childhood positive behavior support.

Click here to learn more about APBS membership information.

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