Positive Behavior Support

June 1, 2011
Hands clasped together

This page explores a variety of key themes, premises, and strategies related to Positive Behavior Support from various expert sources and how they relate to or are addressed in the Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® training program. Internationally, the term Positive Behavior Support (PBIS) is sometimes referred to as Positive Behavioral Support(s).

What Is PBIS?
There are many ways to define or explain the concept of PBIS. Some of the most common ways include:

  • The application of behavior analysis and systems change perspectives within the context of person-centered values to the intensely social problems created by behaviors such as self-injury, aggression, property destruction, pica, defiance, and disruption (1).
  • A dynamic, problem-solving process involving goal identification, information gathering, hypothesis development, support plan design, implementation, and monitoring (2).
  • An approach that blends values about the rights of people with disabilities with a practical science about how learning and behavior change occur (1).

A comprehensive Positive Behavior Support Plan includes a range of intervention strategies that are designed to prevent the problem behavior while teaching socially appropriate alternative behaviors. The goal is an enhanced quality of life for individuals involved and their support providers in a variety of settings.

The key features of PBIS, as identified by a pioneer in the field, George Sugai, include (6):

  • A prevention-focused continuum of support.
  • Proactive instructional approaches to teaching and improving social behaviors.
  • Conceptually sound and empirically validated practices.
  • Systems change to support effective practices.
  • Data-based decision making.

The June 2003 Executive Summary titled "Research Synthesis on Effective Intervention Procedures" from the University of South Florida Center for Evidence-Based Practice: Young Children with Challenging Behavior lists the categories of PBIS as (3):

  • Functional Behavioral Assessment and assessment-based interventions
  • Functional communication training
  • Self-management/monitoring
  • Choice making


  1. Retrieved from http://www.challengingbehavior.org/explore/publications_docs/research_synthesis.pdf.
  2. Executive Summary titled "Research Synthesis on Effective Intervention Procedures" from the University of South Florida's Center for Evidence-Based Practice: Young Children With Challenging Behavior (funded by the US Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs).
  3. Mesibov, Gary B., Browder, Diane M., and Kirkland, Cameron. "Using Individualized Schedules as a Component of Positive Behavioral Support for Students with Developmental Disabilities" in Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, Vol. 4 Number 2, Spring 2002, pages 73-79.
  4. Document titled "Positive Behavioral Support Benchmarks of Effective Practice" retrieved from http://www.challengingbehavior.org/explore/publications_docs/research_synthesis.pdf.
  5. Sugai, G. and Horner, Robert H. Article in Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, Fall 2002, Vol. 10 Issue 3, p. 130, 6 p.
  6. Carr, Edward G. and Horner, Robert H. Article in The Journal of Special Education, Spring 97, Vol. 31 Issue 1, p. 84, 21 p.

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