Logo for the Association for Positive Behavior Support

Getting Started with Positive Behavior Support in the Community for Professionals Working with Individuals in Community Settings

Your interest in community-based positive behavior support has led you to a helpful starting place. This document will guide you as you determine if positive behavior support is the right fit for your needs, access resources to learn more about the approach, and review options for next steps. Here are some ways you could move forward:

1. Find Out

Learn about positive behavior support, what it is and how it works for supporting individual needs and creating systems within which those supports are more likely to produce lasting results.

If you are wondering if you are already using the principles of positive behavior support, click here to check: Got Positive Behavior Support? – or complete this self-Assessment of Positive Behavior Support Practices. For more detailed information, read this article describing its features: http://www.apbs.org/new_apbs/files/PBSevolutions.pdf.

Determine what goals you would like to achieve through positive behavior support:

  • a. Improve the quality of life of a person you support by:
    • i. identifying and addressing bigger life goals of the person such as connecting the person with the community and enhancing relationships
    • ii. increasing desirable behavior and decreasing undesirable behavior
    • iii. For more on individualized positive behavior support, check out these recordings:
  • b. Better align your agency or system with person-centered and family-centered practices and positive behavior support. For information on systems-level positive behavior support in the community, click on:

2. Build Support

Consider who is already part of your “support team” (e.g., family members, friends, co-workers, members of the same community group, service providers, administrators). Do they know about positive behavior support and/or would they support the approach? If so, share information with them.

If needed, seek out additional professional support from one or more of the following:

  • a. Positive Behavior Support Professionals (some states have credentialing programs). To make sure they are actually using the principles, see these Standards of Practice developed by the Association for Positive Behavior Support). Examples of states with this credential are Kansas and Virginia.
  • b. Board Certified Behavior Analysts with training and experience in positive behavior support, through www.bacb.com
  • c. Other professionals such as licensed psychologists, physicians, social workers, counselors, and special educators who have training in positive behavior support.

Consider joining a local support group, or connecting with others who are familiar with community-based positive behavior support through social networking.

3. Start Small but Think About the Big Picture

You may be drawn to positive behavior support in hopes of reducing problem behavior. It is good to start small, and at the same time understand that positive behavior support begins and ends considering people’s quality of life. Problem behavior might be happening because of bigger issues (e.g., undesirable living situations, exclusion from family or friends, daily activities or employment that are a poor match). Think about ‘low hanging fruit’ – easy changes that can have a positive impact on people’s lives.

Help people you support to determine their goals and expectations for behavior. Design supports with them so they can strive for goals that are important to them, including learning to do new things and creating the home, social, community, and work lives they want. For a list of questions to get to know a person, click on http://oregonisp.org , "provided forms" then scroll down to "supporting questions". Learn more about Person-Centered Planning to improve the likelihood that goals and supports are matched to people’s preferences.

Try to find out what patterns are affecting behavior. This can be done by simply paying attention to circumstances that happen before behavior and what people seem to get or avoid through their behavior (e.g., attention, items or activities, avoiding demands) or through a more complete Functional Behavioral Assessment with the support of people who are trained in this process.

Arrange environments to support positive behavior and reduce the chances of problem behavior. For example, help people organize their belongings or schedules to fit their needs, build reminders into their days, and surround themselves with people who will support them. Learn more about what might be affecting people’s behavior using a tool like the Positive Environment Checklist.

Respond to people’s communication and not to problem behavior. Think about ways to reward positive behavior that people would appreciate – like praise, special activities or privileges, or reducing work. Follow activities people have a hard time doing or do not like to do with activities that are more enjoyable. Help people learn to express their needs appropriately or manage their own situations. Pick one routine that is important and/or challenging and start using these principles in just that routine to start. For examples of routines, see the Family Routine Guide.

Track changes in behavior and progress towards your own goals – and assist people you support to do the same! Change is hard and you both deserve to see the results of your hard work and a have a chance to celebrate these changes together.

For case examples and research summaries on positive behavior support strategies, check out the APBS Community page.

4. Take Next Steps

Seek additional resources to guide you through the positive behavior support process.