ERIC Identifier: ED434437
Publication Date: 1999-09-00
Author: Warger, Cynthia
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Disabilities and Gifted Education Reston VA.
Positive Behavior Support and Functional Assessment. ERIC/OSEP
Fighting, biting, hitting, scratching, kicking, screaming--as well as extreme
withdrawal-are behaviors that challenge even the best educators and families.
For years, researchers and practitioners alike have asked the question: Why does
a particular child act that way?
Unlike traditional behavioral management, which views the individual as the
problem and seeks to "fix" him or her by quickly eliminating the challenging
behavior, positive behavioral support (PBS) and functional analysis (FA) view
systems, settings, and lack of skill as parts of the "problem" and work to
change those. As such, these approaches are characterized as long-term
strategies to reduce inappropriate behavior, teach more appropriate behavior,
and provide contextual supports necessary for successful outcomes.
PBS and FA can help practitioners and parents understand why the challenging
behavior occurs--its function or purpose for the individual. In addition to
helping practitioners and families understand the individual with the
challenging behavior, PBS and FA also help them understand the physical and
social contexts of the behavior. Moreover, PBS and FA provide a framework for
helping the child to change challenging behaviors.
The 1997 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
(IDEA) requires the IEP team to consider using PBS to address behavior that
impedes the child's learning and/or the learning of others [614 (d)(3)(B)]. In
addition, IDEA requires that a functional behavioral assessment be conducted for
a student either before or not later than 10 days after a disciplinary action
[615 (k)(1)(B)(I)]. A functional behavioral assessment ensures that the
student's behavioral intervention plan is designed to meet that child's unique
Research--much of it supported by the U.S. Office of Special Education
Programs (OSEP)--as demonstrated that PBS and FA are effective in assisting
students with challenging behaviors. The following sections describe some of
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT POSITIVE BEHAVIORAL SUPPORT?
synthesis of more than 100 research articles that involved individuals with
various cognitive disabilities found that
*PBS is widely applicable to individuals with serious challenging behaviors.
*Research in PBS is rapidly contributing to our knowledge of how to use the
results of assessments and how to correct environmental deficiencies.
*PBS is effective in reducing problem behavior by 80 percent in two-thirds of
*Success rates are higher when intervention is based on prior functional
assessment (Carr, as reported by the Beach Center on Families and Disability,
Many teachers already take the following actions, which have been identified
by research as supporting positive behaviors:
*Respond to individual needs. PBS requires that services and programs are
responsive to the preferences, strengths, and needs of individuals with
challenging behavior. For example, some school systems may need to add
self-determination skills to their curriculum.
*Alter environments. If something in the individual's environment influences
the challenging behavior, it is important to organize the environment for
success. For example, clearly defined work spaces and quiet work areas may
assist a child who is noise-sensitive.
*Explicitly teach new skills to the individual with challenging behavior and
members of his or her social network. Individuals frequently need to learn
alternative, appropriate responses that serve the same purpose as the
*Genuinely appreciate positive behaviors. It is important to reinforce and
acknowledge all positive behaviors consistently.
SCHOOL-WIDE POSITIVE BEHAVIORAL SUPPORT
have demonstrated that when PBS strategies are implemented school-wide, children
with and without disabilities benefit by having an environment that is conducive
to learning. They learn more about their own behavior, learn to work together,
and support each other as a community of learners.
One PBS model, Effective Behavioral Support (Sugai, 1996), emphasizes a
school-wide system that defines, teaches, and encourages appropriate behavior in
children in elementary and middle schools. This model is based on the fact that
about 85 percent of students have the social skills to do quite well if placed
in a reasonable environment.
To address the behavioral support needs of all students within a school
context, this model considers support from four major perspectives:
*School-wide support--procedures and processes that are intended for all
students, all staff, and all settings. The most important element of support is
a building-wide team that oversees all development, implementation,
modification, and evaluation activities.
*Specific setting support--a team-based mechanism for monitoring specific
settings that exist within the school environment. In settings where problem
behaviors occur, teams should develop strategies that prevent or minimize their
*Classroom support--processes and procedures of the individual classrooms
where teachers structure learning opportunities. Classroom support should
parallel the PBS features and procedures that are used school-wide.
Individual student support--immediate, relevant, effective, and efficient
responses to those students who present the most significant behavioral
challenges. There must be processes and procedures for high-intensity, specially
designed and individualized interventions for the estimated 3-7 percent of
students who present the most challenging behavior.
Strategies for the school-wide, specific setting, and classroom levels
*A clearly stated, positive purpose.
*A set of positively stated expectations for behavior.
*Procedures for teaching school-wide expectations.
*A continuum of procedures for encouraging students to display expected
*A continuum of procedures for discouraging violations of school-wide
*A method for monitoring implementation and effectiveness.
At the student level, procedures include functional assessment strategies,
social skills instruction, self-management training, and direct instruction. For
implementation of the procedures at the individual student level to be
effective, the school-wide PBS system must be in place and functioning
Fern Ridge Middle School in Elmira, Oregon, experienced a 42 percent drop in
office referrals in one year's time after implementing Effective Behavioral
Support (see Taylor-Greene et al., 1997). Three levels of PBS were implemented:
*Level 1: This preventive level provided the necessary supports to 80-90
percent of the student population. Staff defined their expectations for student
behavior-called "High Five." At the beginning of the year, staff directly taught
the skills underlying these expectations. Students then practiced the
appropriate behaviors with reinforcement and feedback. A school-wide token
economy system was put into place to reinforce students throughout the year.
*Level 2: Some students needed more structure to help them solve problems and
set goals. These students attended daily morning check-in and afternoon
check-out sessions with counseling staff. Students carried a point card on which
teachers awarded points when the youngster demonstrated the High Five
expectations. The card is brought to the counselor at the end of each day and
sent home to families. An individualized behavioral education plan (BEP) also
was developed for these students.
*Level 3: Intensive support and additional structure were provided to
students who were not succeeding. To support these students, a more intensive
BEP was developed.
USING FUNCTIONAL ASSESSMENT WITH YOUNG CHILDREN
the use of functional assessment with young children includes case studies of
efforts to improve the social and behavioral performance of young children
identified as having behavior risks in Head Start and kindergarten classrooms
(Kamps et al., 1995). The functional assessment of environmental events allowed
researchers to prescribe appropriate interventions. The results of the case
studies were encouraging: Children's behaviors improved over time as a result of
environmental manipulations including:
*Increased teacher praise and reinforcement for appropriate behavior and peer
*Decreased teacher attention for inappropriate behavior.
*More structure in classroom routines and rule following.
Kamps recommends that practitioners consider incorporating the following
positive supports when addressing challenging behaviors:
*Direct instruction of appropriate behavior and social rules.
*Use of behaviorally appropriate role models.
*Use of concrete, visual examples of positive interaction and play.
*Consistent, frequent reinforcement of prosocial behaviors.
*Incidental teaching and reinforcement of appropriate behaviors; redirection
of antisocial behaviors.
Beach Center on Families and Disability (1998).
What research says: Understanding challenging behavior. University of
Kansas,Lawrence, KS: author.
Dadson, S., & Horner, R. (1993). Manipulating setting events to decrease
problem behaviors. TEACHING Exceptional Children, 25, 53-55.
ERIC/OSEP Special Project (Fall, 1997). School-wide behavioral management
systems. Research Connections in Special Education, Number 1, 1-8.
Fitzsimmons, M. (November 1998). Functional behavioral assessment and
behavior intervention plans. ERIC/OSEP Digest E571. Reston, VA: ERIC
Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education. http://ericec.org
Kamps, D.M., Ellis, C., Mancina, C., Wyble, J., Greene, L., & Harvey, D.
(1995). Case studies using functional analysis for young children with behavior
risks. Education and Treatment of Children, 18, 243-260.
Taylor-Greene, S., Brown, D., Nelson, L., Longton, J., Gassman, T., Cohen,
J., Swartz, J., Horner, R., Sugai, G., & Hall, S. (1997). School-wide
behavioral support: Starting the year off right. Journal of Behavioral
Education, 7, 99-112.
Sugai, G. 1996). Providing effective behavior support to all students:
Procedures and processes. SAIL, 11(1), 1-4.
Turnbull, A. P., & Ruef, M. (1997). Family perspectives on inclusive
lifestyle issues for individuals with problem behavior. Exceptional Children,
Based on Research Connections in Special Education, Number 4, Cynthia Warger