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Positive Behaviour Support: An Overview

What is PBS?

Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) is a system that uses methods and strategies to reduce an individual’s levels of challenging behaviour whilst simultaneously improving their quality of life and achieving greater happiness, success and personal satisfaction.

Fundamental to PBS is understanding what causes the challenging behaviour (the function of the behaviour) and what ‘maintains’ the behaviour. These ‘antecedents’ and ‘reinforcers’ can be identified by undertaking a Functional Behaviour Assessment (FBA). Only once this has been determined can intervention strategies be developed and implemented to support the individual.

PBS Objectives/Benefits

  • Enhanced positive social interactions at school, work, recreational and community settings
  • enhanced physical and mental wellbeing
  • meaningful and valued participation and inclusion in the community
  • increased respect
  • helping individuals to experience more choice and control
  • increasing access to favoured and purposeful activities
  • developing meaningful and positive relationships with others
  • teaching life skills and communication skills
  • helping the individual to reduce and even eliminate occurrences of challenging behavior
  • creating a positive happy environment for the individual family friends staff and carers

Why Choose PBS For Your Approach to Behaviour Support?

PBS is centered around improving an individual’s quality of life as opposed to restrictive, aversive methods which attempt to eliminate challenging behaviour without considering the individual’s needs and welfare. PBS requires an organisation to be driven by strong ethics, beliefs, values and objectives (such as alignment with the PBS Objectives listed above).

Challenging behaviour is a learnt behaviour whereby an individual is attempting to exert influence and control over their life. The behaviour is displayed to serve a function (reason) for the individual. This allows us to reduce or remove the need for a person to exhibit challenging behaviour through implementing methods such as giving the individual choice and control, equipping them with life skills, opening the channels of communication and offering a fulfilling, engaging environment though participation and activities. In doing so, we will be greatly improving their quality of life and reducing, if not eliminating, the reason for them to exhibit challenging behaviour.

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Challenging behaviour is inextricably linked with an individual’s abilities, their needs, circumstances, social environment and their physical environment. Behaviour affects the environment and the environment affects behaviour, so we know that the reason (function) for behaviour may be thought of as the result of interaction between the behaviour and environment. When we talk about environment, we mean both the physical and social environment. It is important to address social relationships and interactions as these are likely to be triggers or ‘antecedents’ for the behaviour. This is why it is essential to involve the individual’s family, friends, advocates, peers and carers in the development and implementation of PBS strategies.

The PBS approach is very much data-driven. Each stage of the process from assessment, intervention and planning, to implementation and review involves decision-making that is based on research and data that has been systematically collected on the individual and their environment. This process avoids decision making that is subjective and drawn from practice that is not evidence-based and circumstantial, which enables a more ethical and effective process.

Determining the cause (function) of challenging behaviour is achieved by performing a specific Functional Behaviour Assessment (FBA). All interventions must be based on the findings of an FBA and a carefully developed Individual Behaviour Support Plan (IBSP). Many organisations undertake these assessments and develop plans but we have found (through decades of working with organisations) that they are not specific or detailed enough to gather the required data to inform considered decisions and to validate the implementation of interventions. The IBSP must then be used to measure, monitor, and review an individual’s behaviour and will inform improved, efficient practice.

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