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What is Positive Behavior Support?

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Positive Behavior Support: Evolution of an Applied Science

Carr, E.G., Dunlap, G., Horner, R.H., Koegel, R.L., Turnbull, A., Sailor, W., Anderson, J., Albin, R., Koegel, L.K., & Fox, L. (2002). Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 4(1), 4-16. Copyright (2002) by PRO-ED, Inc. Adapted with permission.

You may download this article to make single a copy for your own use. If you wish to make copies for distribution, please contact the Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions. This article is highlighted here as it is a foundational article on PBS.

What is Positive Behavior Support?

Positive Behavior Support (PBS) is a set of research-based strategies used to increase quality of life and decrease problem behavior by teaching new skills and making changes in a person's environment. Positive behavior support combines:

Valued Outcomes

In the past, intervention strategies were designed to decrease problem behavior without considering how these interventions might affect other areas of an individual's life. A single intervention, implemented to reduce problem behavior, often resulted in narrowly focused behavior support plans. The effectiveness of today's behavior support plan is judged by different standards. Positive behavior support (PBS) strategies are considered effective when interventions result in increases in an individual's success and personal satisfaction, and the enhancement of positive social interactions across work, academic, recreational, and community settings. Valued outcomes include increases in quality of life as defined by an individual's unique preferences and needs and positive lifestyle changes that increase social belonging.

Behavioral and Biomedical Science

Positive behavior support is based upon behavioral and biomedical science. Research in applied behavior analysis has demonstrated the importance of analyzing the interaction between behavior and the environment. From this perspective, behavior is considered purposeful and is under the control of environmental factors that can be changed. Positive behavior support assessment and intervention strategies are based upon research in applied behavior analysis and emphasize the importance of implementing intervention strategies that are effective in natural everyday settings.

Positive behavior support assessment and intervention strategies are also based on biomedical science. In the past, behavioral and psychiatric interventions have often been managed separately with very little collaboration between behavior consultants and medical personnel. Information related to an individual's psychiatric state and the knowledge of other biological factors can assist professionals in understanding the interaction between the physiological and environmental factors that influence behavior.

Validated Procedures

Individual interventions in applied behavior analysis have been validated using a research method called single subject design. Single subject designs are very effective when studying a small number of variables that influence a person's behavior. However, professionals often implement multiple interventions while dealing with numerous variables in complex and ever-changing systems. As a result, a number of different research strategies are needed to evaluate a behavior support plan's success. These strategies move beyond single subject experiments that isolate one variable while holding all others constant. Positive behavior support professionals implement system-level interventions to ensure the success of multiple interventions while working within everyday settings. Data collected to evaluate positive behavior support outcomes can include program evaluation measures, qualitative research, surveys, rating scales, interviews, correlational analyses, direct observation, and self-report information.

Systems Change

Many excellent positive behavior support plans are never implemented because of problems that are related to how a PBS plan was developed. These problems can be related to resource allocation, staff development issues, team building and collaboration, and the extent to which a positive behavior support plan is a good fit for the people who will implement it. Assessment and intervention strategies that consider the larger environment within an organization or home are needed in order to ensure the success of a positive behavior support plan.