Positive Behavior Support and Functional Assessment
The ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education (ERIC EC)
ERIC/OSEP Digest #E580
Author: Cynthia Warger
Fighting, biting, hitting, scratching, kicking, screaming well as extreme withdrawal 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 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 [Section 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 [Section 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 needs.
Research of it supported by the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) demonstrated that PBS and FA are effective in assisting students with challenging behaviors. The following sections describe some of this research.
What Do We Know About Positive Behavioral Support?
A synthesis of more than 100 research articles that involved individuals with various cognitive disabilities found that
Many teachers already take the following actions, which have been identified by research as supporting positive behaviors:
School-wide Positive Behavioral Support
Research studies 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:
Strategies for the school-wide, specific setting, and classroom levels include having:
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 efficiently.
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:
Using Functional Assessment with Young Children
Research on 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:
Kamps recommends that practitioners consider incorporating the following positive supports when addressing challenging behaviors:
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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.
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ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education