In an effort to better manage the behavior of children in the classroom, many special needs schools are taking a proactive approach by implementing the positive behavioral intervention and supports (PBIS) approach. The three-tiered PBIS framework focuses on prevention rather than punishment and is rooted in the belief that all children can learn proper behavior.
The National Autism Center (NAC) has identified 11 established treatments that are deemed effective for children with autism. While universal improvements cannot be expected for all individuals, these strategies have been demonstrated to improve the social skills and behavior of many children. In this article, we will explore the basics of the PBIS approach and discuss targeted treatments that are being utilized to teach children positive behavior.
The Positive Behavioral Intervention And Supports (PBIS) Approach
In the late 1980s, educators began developing a multi-tiered system to improve children’s behavior at school. Combining the principles of behavior support with a focus on group settings, special education professionals created the PBIS approach. Rather than exclusively addressing behavior at the individual level, it seeks to create a positive learning environment for the entire school.
The Main Principles Of PBIS
The goal of the PBIS approach is to promote school safety and foster positive behavior in the classroom. In schools that have adopted PBIS, the framework guides how educators manage students’ behavior and respond when a child misbehaves. The approach was founded on a few core beliefs.
Educators who utilize PBIS believe that every child can learn to behave appropriately when given sufficient support. When used consistently, proactive behavioral interventions can prevent more serious incidents of misbehavior. The PBIS approach recognizes that each child is different, so educators should provide different types of evidence-based behavioral support.
By using the PBIS framework, schools apply scientific principles to behavior management. Monitoring and tracking each child’s behavior and progress is essential. This data serves as a benchmark to evaluate their efforts and informs educators’ decisions on how to address problem behaviors.
How PBIS Works
PBIS provides a framework to guide the way teachers, administrators, support staff, parents and other caregivers manage children’s behavior. Schools that have implemented PBIS utilize the approach with all students, not just those who receive special education services.
Contrast the PBIS framework with the traditional, disciplined-based behavioral approach. In most American classrooms, the same rules and punishments apply to all students. A student who disrupts a lesson will be chastised by the teacher or removed from class. This is supposed to discourage the child from misbehaving again. If the misbehavior continues, the punishments will escalate accordingly.
Schools that follow the PBIS approach focus on preventing behavioral problems. Social skills and appropriate behavior are taught like any other subject. Through role-playing activities and more traditional lessons, children learn how to behave in different situations. Teachers, administrators and other school staff regularly use positive reinforcement to reward good behavior.
Teachers are trained to identify and address the early signs of behavior escalation. For example, before a child becomes disruptive, the teacher may notice that he seems restless. The teacher could then ask that child to pass out supplies to the class or otherwise engage him before he feels the need to act out.
If a student misbehaves, educators will create a plan to implement positive interventions in the future. Perhaps the teacher would suggest that the student take a break or ask if something is bothering her when a student appears agitated. Some schools even provide behavioral intervention training for parents.
Teachers monitor and track students’ behavior to better understand whether their strategies are working. If a student is not demonstrating progress, educators will try different tactics. While discipline still occurs in schools that use the PBIS framework, proactive interventions are the focus, not punishments.
The Three Tiers Of PBIS
When schools implement PBIS, they take a three-tiered approach to behavior management. Educators focus on developing and sustaining school-wide, classroom and individual systems of support to improve students’ outcomes by discouraging misbehavior and promoting appropriate social skills. The three-tiered PBIS approach views student populations as a triangle with a base that includes all students, a secondary targeted group and a third, intensive level that includes only a small percentage of students who need more attention.
- The first tier is referred to as the primary prevention level. In primary prevention strategies, the focus is on reducing problem behaviors among the entire student population. Educators work to develop a positive learning environment schoolwide. Administrators establish policies and procedures to train staff, teach students positive behaviors, evaluate interventions’ effectiveness and encourage school-family partnerships.
- Secondary-level prevention involves implementing classroom or small group behavior management tactics to reduce the frequency and intensity of misbehavior. With these strategies, teachers intervene to attempt to deter problem behaviors among those students who were not responsive to primary prevention tactics.Tier two prevention efforts focus on increased adult supervision, proactive behavioral interventions and positive reinforcement.
- In the tertiary or advanced organizer support level, educators target those students who require more intensive supports. Tier three tactics seek to reduce the frequency and severity of problem behaviors that are not effectively prevented by primary and secondary prevention strategies.
The 11 Established Treatments For Autism Identified By NCA
More than 50 years of autism research has led to the development of 11 treatments that have been proven effective in peer-reviewed studies. Effective special education programs incorporate these strategies into their tier three PBIS interventions and students’ individual education plans (IEPs) when beneficial.
- Antecedent interventions include strategies to modify a child’s environment before a problem behavior occurs. By finding ways to change the situation by altering something in the child’s environment, educators can help children with autism or behavioral challenges develop appropriate skills and decrease misbehavior.
- As the name implies, behavioral package treatments focus on applying behavioral principles to the child’s environment. First, a behavior specialist will evaluate what is happening in a child’s environment before, during and after a targeted behavior. This data is then used to make modifications in the environment to help the student succeed.
- A comprehensive behavioral treatment program for young children (CBTYC) is a set of treatments intended to alleviate the behavioral symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children ages 9 and younger. The program is personalized to the child and usually combines several different proven behavioral interventions. Using this comprehensive plan as a guide, the behavioral specialist will develop strategies for educators, parents and caregivers to implement in the child’s classroom, home and out in the community.
- Joint attention interventions seek to train children with autism to focus both on an activity or object and another person. These skills typically do not develop naturally in children with autism. For example, if a parent holds up a blanket to play peek-a-boo, neuro-typical infants will focus on both the parent and the blanket, but most babies with autism will not. Joint attention interventions are designed to teach young children with autism to respond appropriately to basic social interaction.
- Modeling strategies teach children how to behave by demonstrating the desired behavior. If you have ever watched a video and emulated it to learn a new skill, then you have used behavior modeling. The model can be an adult, a peer or even a recording of a previous time the child performed the targeted behavior.
- Naturalistic teaching strategies emphasize teaching children with ASD to perform desired skills and behaviors in all of the settings where they should naturally occur. In addition to facing challenges acquiring new skills, children with autism also have difficulty generalizing those skills. Naturalistic teaching strategies use a variety of motivators and reinforcements to encourage children with ASD to perform a new skill or desired behavior in a variety of different situations.
- Peer training leverages trained, supervised peer age students to help children with autism develop social skills. While many children with ASD avoid social interaction, others attempt to engage with their peers in odd or socially inappropriate ways. Peer training creates opportunities for a child with autism to interact positively with one or more of their socially skilled peers.
- The goal of pivotal response treatment (PRT) is to target a wide range of behavioral areas to positively impact the development of other skills. In PRT, behavior specialists encourage students to respond to teaching opportunities in their environment and act independently without prompting from adults.
- Adults can use schedules as an intervention to increase predictability for children with ASD. Since they have more difficulty picking up on cues, children with autism thrive when their daily activities and transitions are planned and predictable. Parents, teachers and caregivers can communicate what to expect and when with a developmentally appropriate schedule.
- Self-management involves teaching children the skills they need to become self-aware and responsible for their own behavior. After a child learns a new skill, the next step is to begin evaluating and monitoring their own progress. Adults can help children develop self-management skills by teaching them how to objectively record and assess their behavior.
- Story-based interventions use written descriptions to teach appropriate social interactions and increase independence. Through a written story, children learn the “who, what, where, when and why” for exhibiting the targeted behavior.
- While no one solution works for every child, there are a variety of behavioral management strategies that have been proven to advance positive outcomes for children with autism or other special needs. Our Lexington Life Academy uses the PBIS framework and targeted behavioral interventions to help students develop the skills they need to succeed. Learn more about how our individualized education services empower children with autism to reach their full potential.
To read more like this, check out our previous blog post.