Positive Behavior Support Interventions

What types of PBS interventions can be implemented?

PBS interventions should be directly related to the hypothesis statement from a functional behavioral assessment (FBA). After conducting a FBA, the PBS brainstorming tool is used by the student and his or her team to generate ideas for interventions. If you have not completed the FBA and PBS Planning Modules it would be helpful to do so before continuing with the Positive Behavior Support Interventions Module.

Learn more about Functional Behavior Assessment

Most of the PBS interventions are directly related to each element of the hypothesis statement including setting events, antecedent (triggers), the problem behavior and the consequences immediately following the problem behavior: 

  • Setting Events
  • Antecedents(Triggers)
  • Problem Behavior
  • Consequences

Some interventions that are implemented are based upon the person-centered plan that was conducted at the beginning of the FBA process. Person-centered planning (PCP) is an ongoing problem-solving process that is used by a group of people who are interested in helping the student build a lifestyle based upon his or her preferences, needs, and choices. The purpose of a PCP is to create a context in which a student can create a vision for how he or she wants to live and then to brainstorm, strategize, and plan to make that vision a reality. Person-centered planning interventions are related to increasing the quality of a student’s life. Interventions that increase quality of life can be designed during the person-centered process and during the PBS planning process as well. 

  • Person-centered & Quality of Life Interventions
  • Setting Event Interventions
  • Antecedent Interventions(eliminate triggers)
  • Teach New Skills
  • Consequence Interventions

For instance, the student and his or her team may identify additional interventions during the PBS brainstorming process that are related to increasing quality of life. These new ideas may not have been as clear at the beginning of the person-centered planning process. The team may decide that one of the ways to decrease the likelihood a student will engage in problem behavior to get attention from her peers is to find activities and community groups that focus on the same areas of interest as the student. Finding mutual interests and hobbies can set the stage for positive interactions. Other strategies that encourage natural interactions between the student and her peers may be identified in the PBS brainstorming session. The team may suggest increasing the number of group learning tasks where the student and her peers interact together. These types of strategies enrich the student’s environment and can assist the PCP process by creating more opportunities for the student to experience positive interactions with peers.

How are PBS interventions implemented?

The student and his or her team starts the process of implementing PBS planning interventions in a series of meetings using the implementation checklist from the PBS planning module. Once the interventions are selected from the PBS Planning Tool, the team uses the meeting process to decide who will take a lead role in implementing each element of an intervention and when those interventions will begin. Interventions should be implemented during specific routines that are associated with problem behavior. These routines are identified through the FBA process and interventions are tailored to address the specific situations and settings.

Focusing on problematic routines is especially important when a behavior is maintained by more than one consequence. A student may curse to gain attention in one situation and to escape from a difficult task in another setting. Designing interventions around specific routines and the function maintaining behavior in that routine increases the effectiveness of the implementation efforts. The team should start with an intervention that addresses the most problematic routines first since this will result in the biggest change. Once problem behavior decreases within the more difficult settings, the team can expand the intervention implementation to other situations.

How does the team decide where to start?

Some interventions are easy to implement. The team may be able to make changes in the environment to reduce the likelihood a student will engage in problem behavior by changing seat assignments or asking a paraprofessional to assist the student during difficult tasks. Other interventions take more time to plan and implement effectively. For instance, teaching a student new communication skills that achieve the same outcome previously associated with a problem behavior can require more time to implement effectively, especially when the student has difficulties communicating. For instance, the process for teaching a student with disabilities who does not communicate verbally may include the use of assistive technology and supports. Simple communication boards can be created to teach the student to communicate others. In other situations, a more complicated assistive communication device may be appropriate. The team will need to make preparations before implementing these types of interventions (e.g. investigating options, securing resources). Team members may spend time identifying the best types of communication systems for the student and creating a system that is tailored to the student’s needs. Plans will be needed to introduce the student to the new communication system and to teach the student’s teachers, parents, friends and others to prompt communication attempts.

There isn’t one way to begin implementing PBS interventions. However, the team should consider the following issues in order to get started implementing PBS interventions:

  • Which routines are the most problematic and should be targeted for intervention first?
  • Has a baseline measure of problem behavior and/or positive behaviors that the team wants to increase been collected?
  • Are there interventions that can be implemented quickly?
  • What steps are needed before more intensive interventions can be implemented?
  • Will the interventions be implemented across multiple settings (for example, at home, in several classes, out in the community?)
  • Are resources needed before the interventions can be implemented?
  • What types of supports are needed to teach team members and others how to implement the interventions effectively?

How can the student and his or her team ensure that the interventions that are implemented are sustained over long period of time?

An effective PBS plan that has eliminated or significantly reduced problem behaviors over time may not be maintained for a number of reasons. Individuals may leave the team and new members join. Some individuals may not realize the importance of particular interventions since the student isn’t engaging in problem behaviors anymore. This can result in inconsistent PBS plan implementation and lead to a reoccurrence of problem behaviors. The student and his or her team should continue to evaluate the effectiveness of each intervention and spend time communicating the importance of the interventions to new team members. Planning meetings may change over time as the student becomes more skilled using new social skills, communication or self management strategies. The number of meetings may decrease but should remain consistent and should include the following activities:

  • Evaluating the outcomes of current interventions
  • Expanding the number of routines in which interventions are implemented
  • Creating opportunities for the student to use new social, communication, and self management skills across many situations and settings
  • Reviewing long term person-centered goals (e.g. expanding friendships, joining the football team)
  • Conducting an ongoing functional behavioral assessment process
  • Planning for significant changes in the students life (e.g. moving to a new community, graduating and moving to a new school)
  • Identifying setting events early and initiating setting event interventions as needed.

How do I learn more about PBS interventions?

If you are just learning about PBS interventions, it will be important to find someone with a background and expertise in positive behavior support to facilitate the implementation process. Every PBS planning team should have a person participating who has been trained in positive behavior support or applied behavior analysis to ensure that the team has access to information about the principles of behavior. For more information about positive behavior support in your state, go to www.pbis.org.

Developed by: Rachel Freeman, University of Kansas