Special Education – What Are Positive Behavioral Supports, and Can They Help My Child?


Does your child with autism or ADHD have behavioral issues while at school? Does your school district continue to punish your child, rather than find a way to decrease their negative behavior? This article will discuss the use of positive behavioral supports to increase positive behavior thus decreasing negative behavior.

Punishment only works in the short term to decrease negative behavior. Positive behavioral supports are research based and best practice, to change a child’s behavior for the long term.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 2004 (IDEA 2004) requires : The IEP team in a case of a child whose behavior impedes his or her learning, or that of others to consider. . .strategies including positive behavioral intervention and systems to achieve positive change.

So while many special education personnel continue to punish a child with a disability for negative behavior, the use of positive supports are required by IDEA 2004, and they are also effective long term.

A summary of Positive Behavioral Supports:

1. Positive behavioral support is the application of positive behavioral interventions and systems to achieve positive change.

2. Positive behavioral support is an approach to discipline and intervention that is proving both effective and practical in schools.

3. The emphasis is on behavior change that is durable, comprehensive, and linked to academic and social gains.

4. The development of positive behavioral intervention and plans, are guided by functional behavioral assessment and is a foundation on which positive behavioral support is delivered.

5. Functional Behavioral Assessment is a systematic way of identifying problem behaviors and the events that predict occurrence, and maintenance of those behaviors.

6. A proactive perspective is maintained along a continuum, using prevention and interventions.

A few things to keep in mind:

In my experience, a lot of children that have a disability develop negative behavior, because of frustration with their academics. There is a huge connection between academic difficulty and behavioral difficulty. If your child has negative behavior at school, you must investigate and make sure that the academics that they are being taught are at their academic level. Make sure any change in academic curriculum, is included in your child’s individual education plan (IEP).

Also, children with negative behaviors must be taught new acceptable behaviors, to replace the negative ones. Identify other appropriate behaviors that can be taught, that will serve the same function for the child. Make sure that any new behaviors that need to be taught to your child, are listed in their IEP.

By focusing on positive behavioral supports rather than punishment you can help your child increase their positive behavior. This will in turn will benefit their education, and their life!

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