Section V: Positive Behavior Support

This section provides introductory information about Positive Behavior Support by discussing some principles and practices which have been effective in supporing many people with developmental disabilities. The Positive Behavior Support planning process and how people use behavior to communicate are also discussed.

Positive Behavior Support (PBS) is a person-centered approach to addressing challenging behavior by changing the surroundings and support, while teaching the person new skills to better communicate and provide more choice and control over his/her life. PBS is the preferred approach adopted by the DBHDS to ensure people have supports to be successful. Rather than eliminating difficult behaviors, PBS stresses personal growth with the end result being an improved quality of life for the person. Minimizing problem or challenging behavior is a secondary goal. More training about Positive Behavioral Support practices may be obtained from your agency or DBHDS staff.

Definition of Positive Behavior Support:

PBS is an approach to behavior support that includes an ongoing process of research-based assessment, intervention, and data based decision making. It is focused on building social and other functional competencies, creating supportive contexts, and preventing the occurrence of problem behaviors.

PBS relies on strategies that are respectful of a person’s dignity and overall well-being, and that are drawn primarily from behavioral, educational, and social sciences, although other evidencebased approaches may be incorporated.

PBS may be applied within a multi-tiered framework at the level of the individual and at the level of larger systems (e.g., families, classrooms, schools social service programs and facilities) (Kincaid, Dunlap, Kern, Lanye, Bambara, Brown, Fox & Knoster, 2016).

It’s important to note that PBS is committed to positive approaches that are not punishing or unpleasant and to strategies that are respectful of a person’s dignity and their overall well-being. Those who use PBS strategies should look at everything that supports the person, at home, at work, and in the community to be sure that all strategies used are respectful to a person with behavioral needs and the staff who support him/her.  

People who have few opportunities to participate in enjoyable, meaningful activities with people they like are more likely to display challenging behaviors out of boredom or unhappiness. In this case, helping the person to find and participate in enjoyable activities with people he likes may go a long way toward removing the reason for the negative behavior.

For example, the staff’s idea of a fun night is to load up the group home van with all 5 residents and go to McDonald’s every Friday night. Bob resists getting on the van and has begun taking off his seatbelt and hitting whoever is sitting next to him.