Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports
School can be a challenge for some learners and navigating social situations can be uncomfortable. There are so many invisible rules, and it can be difficult to know what is expected of you. Every new place has a different set of rules, and each new person has a new set of expectations. When students struggle with school and socializing, it can be because they do not know what to do and no one has shown them the way. Remember, students do well when they can.
What is PBIS?
Positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) is a school-based approach to encourage safety among students. PBIS takes a proactive approach by teaching students the expectations and strategies that can be used, rather than a punitive and reactive approach when errors occur.
One of the important principles of PBIS, is to teach students replacement behaviors. Often students are reprimanded for their actions without being taught the replacement skills they need to succeed.
Behavioural expectations are important to teach students, otherwise it can feel like playing a game without knowing the rules. For learners who have a disability or who experience challenges navigating social interactions, the unwritten rules can be even more difficult to navigate.
Why use PBIS?
When schools implement PBIS as a school-wide approach, students will be exposed to consistent language and expectations across different settings and people with multiple opportunities to practice and improve on their skills.
It is important to keep in mind that PBIS is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Instruction, expectations, and strategies should be research-based, based on data (tracking individual and group data), and individualized.
The 3 Tiers of Support
School-wide PBIS approaches typically have 3 tiers of support:
Tier 1 (Universal)
The first tier of support is school-wide. Everyone in the school participates at this level, while students learn foundational behavioral expectations such as kindness and respect towards self and others. All staff should be involved in recognizing and providing opportunities for students to practice these expectations and provide praise for expected behavior.
Tier 2 (Targeted)
The second tier of support focuses on students who are having a more challenging time with behavioral expectations. For students who require tier 2 support, evidence-based interventions and instructions can be used (e.g., Social Thinking).
Tier 3 (Individual)
The third tier of support focuses on students who need individualized supports and services because of ongoing behavioural concerns.
Example of Traditional vs. PBIS Approach
If a student bully’s other learners, traditional approaches may lead to the bully receiving detention. The PBIS approach recognizes that the behavior is a form of communication. To address this in a positive way, the teacher might identify areas that require strengthening, such as social and communication skills to build friendships with peers. This also provides instruction and clear expectations on how students are expected to interact with others.
As always, data collection and function-based interventions must be implemented.
While providing social skills lessons is a more positive approach than detention, in order to identify if there is actual behaviour change, data will need to be collected (this will indicate if another strategy needs to be used, etc.).
Watch our YouTube video on incorporating ABA in schools!