What is Positive Behaviour Support?

Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) is an approach that is used to support behaviour change in a child or adult with a learning disability. Unlike traditional methods used, the focus is not on ‘fixing’ the person or on the challenging behaviour itself and never uses punishment as a strategy for dealing with challenging behaviour. PBS is based upon the principle that if you can teach someone a more effective and more acceptable behaviour than the challenging one, the challenging behaviour will reduce. PBS suggests challenging behaviours are learned, and so are open to being changed.

PBS teaches alternative behaviour and changes the environment to support the person well. There is nothing wrong with wanting attention, to escape from a difficult situation, wanting certain items, or displaying behaviours which just feel good. PBS helps people to get the life they need by increasing the number of ways of achieving these things: for example, by developing communication skills.

PBS helps people to learn new skills. For new skills to be used regularly, they have to be more effective than challenging behaviour. We can make this happen by understanding the reasons people display challenging behaviour, and by making sure the new behaviours we want to teach are reinforced in the same way.

What is a Behaviour Support Plan?

A behaviour support plan is a document created to help understand and manage behaviour in children and adults who have learning disabilities and display behaviour that others find challenging.

A Behaviour Support Plan provides carers with a step by step guide to making sure the person not only has a great quality of life but also enables carers to identify when they need to intervene to prevent an episode of challenging behaviour.

A good behaviour support plan is based on the results of a functional assessment and uses Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) approaches. The plan contains a range of strategies which not only focus on the challenging behaviour(s) but also include ways to ensure the person has access to things that are important to them. The strategies used are referred to as Proactive Strategies and Reactive Strategies.

Proactive strategies are intended to make sure the person has got what they need and want on a day to day basis and also includes ways to teach the person appropriate communication and life skills.

Reactive strategies are designed to keep the person and those around them safe from harm. They provide a way to react quickly in a situation where the person is distressed or anxious and more likely to display challenging behaviour.

A good behaviour support plan has more Proactive strategies than Reactive ones. This helps to ensure that the focus of the plan is not just on the challenging behaviour but provides ways to support the person to have a good life, enabling the person to learn better, more effective ways of getting what they need.

Who is it for?

To help effectively respond to challenging behaviour a good Behaviour Support Plan is vital. A Behaviour Support Plan aims to reduce the likelihood of challenging behaviour happening and if used consistently is very successful in supporting the person to find other ways to communicate their needs.
A behaviour support plan is for individuals who regularly display challenging behaviour to the extent that it severely impacts their life. For example, it may result in exclusion from places like schools, day centres, and mainstream community activities e.g. swimming pool. A behaviour support plan can be developed and used at any age. The earlier challenging behaviour can be understood and strategies put in place to help reduce the behaviours, the better it is for the person and those caring for them.


Why do you need one?

The emphasis is on preventing the need for challenging behaviour, but also helps carers to identify when an individual may display challenging behaviour, giving them a chance to intervene before the behaviour escalates. This can avoid a full-blown incident of challenging behaviour.
Everyone has different beliefs about what is right and wrong and how behaviour ‘should’ be managed, based on their own experiences and understanding. Using a Behaviour Support Plan means that everyone consistently uses the same techniques, rather than everybody ‘doing their own thing’ based on what they think is best.

Where can it be used and who should use it?

A behaviour support plan should be used in the settings a person goes to: home, school, day service, short breaks/ respite, family members/friend’s homes, out in the community or on holiday. Everyone who is supporting the person should follow the behaviour support plan.
When everyone supporting the person uses the same approaches it helps the development of more socially acceptable ways of communicating needs. It is useful for anyone caring for the child or adult to see what is and what isn’t working and enables carers to adapt or change strategies as necessary.

Sample – Positive Behaviour Support Plan

For more information, please refer: QLD Governemnet website