What is positive behaviour support? 

Positive behaviour support is an approach to handling challenging behaviour. It involves understanding the reason for the behaviour, developing prevention strategies, and acquiring new skills. It is used with children and persons with disabilities.

Positive behaviour support uses evidence-based techniques from empirical research, which are also aligned with values that aim to help the child and their family achieve a better quality of life. 

Positive behaviour support is more of a framework than a specific intervention since each approach has to be tailored to the needs of the individual and their environment. The specific steps taken are created with the help of a professional but executed by the family and caregivers of the person, in their everyday setting. 

Positive behaviour support is unique because it considers the whole individual. The person’s environment and their relationships with people that interact with them regularly are integral to the success of the intervention. 

The idea behind positive behaviour support is that behaviour fulfils a certain need or performs a specific function. Behaviour that is “challenging” or creating difficulty for the person and the people around them is no different in this respect. By understanding the meaning behind challenging behaviour, they can be prevented and replaced with healthier behaviour through positive behaviour support. 

What is the main aim of positive behaviour support? 

The goal of positive behaviour support is to improve the quality of life of a child or person by correcting challenging behaviour. The elimination of challenging behaviours should also improve the lives of the people around the one receiving support, most especially their caregivers. 

Difficult or unhealthy or maladaptive behaviour is called “challenging” when understood within the framework of positive behaviour support. Correcting these behaviours in a more natural, healthy, and supportive way is one of the primary goals of positive behaviour support. 

Although it was very different when it started in the 1980s, today’s practice of positive behaviour support considers personal satisfaction and the different aspects of the person’s life as success indicators. Being a person-centered framework means that it views the person receiving support holistically. The measures taken using positive behaviour support should improve as many aspects of the person’s life as possible without any negative impacts on them or the people they interact with on a daily basis. 

What are the key principles of positive behaviour support? 

Positive behaviour support operates with a set of values that promote the holistic support of a person. Taking these into consideration, the approach always employs the following:

  • Person-Centered. Positive behaviour support is a holistic approach that takes the whole life of the person into account, taking care to avoid viewing challenging behaviour in a vacuum.
  • Partnership-Oriented & Positive. Positive behaviour support counts on cooperation between the people around the child or person receiving care. They are relied upon to help prevent negative behaviour and promote positive behaviour. 
  • Purpose-Driven & Process-Focused. The approach is actually quite technical in its assessment of the challenging behaviour and crafting of support strategies. Techniques that have been empirically verified to be effective are used by the involved professional. 

What is the process of positive behaviour support? 

Positive behaviour support is not implemented only by a psychologist. The important people in the life of the one receiving support should all be the primary actors of the action plan. In fact, the first step of positive behaviour support is to gather the people who are most involved with the child or person and get them to be a part of the initiative. 

Family, primary caregivers, and educators are usually the essential members of the team. However, friends and other important figures in the person’s life are welcome to join as well. Together, they commit to working together and engage in goal-setting for the recipient of support. A facilitator can guide the team through a session to get the team on the same page and discuss how each person can help in their own way.

Working off the key assumption that challenging behaviours fulfill a need or perform a function, the next step of positive behaviour support is understanding what that need or function is. This step is conducted with the help of a professional who uses empirical techniques to understand the patterns of the child or person’s behaviour and figure out the reasons that they act out. It involves noting triggers for the behaviour, its characteristics, and its effects or consequences. 

The professional or psychologist may observe the child or person, conduct interviews with them or the people that interact with them, or study records from schools or relevant healthcare institutions. All the information that is generated by this process contributes to a growing theory of the reason for the behaviour. 

Using the hypothesis of the reason for the behaviour, an appropriate behaviour support plan can be crafted. This includes prevention strategies, replacement behaviours, productive consequences, and long-term milestones. All of these will be put into practice as well as monitored by the person and the people supporting them.

Positive behaviour support in schools 

The strategies of positive behaviour support can also be used by teachers in the classroom setting. Children that exhibit challenging behaviour can be distracting to the class, but educators can take the positive behaviour support approach to proactively prevent disruptive behaviour. 

Some examples of how positive behaviour support can be easily implemented in the school setting include:

  • Setting explicit expectations
  • Establishing routines
  • Taking regular breaks
  • Staying in the proximity
  • Avoiding indulgence of disruptive attention-seeking behaviour
  • Recognizing good behaviour publicly
  • Using positive reinforcement instead of threatening speech
  • Creating just reward systems

By using some of these simple measures, negative behaviour can be replaced with positive behaviour. Creating a more comfortable learning environment is possible through the use of positive behaviour support as a means of encouraging a classroom culture that is more conducive to learning. 

Positive behaviour support education 

For those interested in becoming a positive behaviour support practitioner, there are graduate courses in specific applications of the framework. However, the Department of Health and Human Services requires a successful application with the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission to recognize a behaviour support practitioner. 

The process involves a certification of skills and experience. Further studies may be pursued for more specialised applications of positive behaviour support. People wishing to pursue behaviour support may get more information from the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission website

Positive behaviour support in Perth 

For those looking for positive behaviour support in Perth, the practitioners we have are available, whether in the home or classroom setting. 

Positive behaviour support is a framework for handling difficult behaviour in children or persons with special needs that can benefit practically everyone. Don’t be afraid to seek help or learn more if you are interested in adopting the practices of this proactive approach.