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Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports

Behavioral therapy and positive reinforcments

On October 5, 2017 I had the opportunity to attend a continuing education class by Deb Carter, PhD, BCBA-D during the 2017 Idaho Partnerships Conference on Human Services. Dr. Carter’s continuing education class was titled Understanding the Function of Young Children’s Behavior.

Dr. Carter taught us challenging behaviors are always communication. Especially for children who have limited social skills or have learned challenging behavior which resulted in meeting their needs. Human behavior occurs within environmental contexts. Behaviors can be broken down into the antecedent, the behavior, and the consequence. The antecedent is the stimulus (trigger) before the behavior that occasions the response. Behavior takes place in specific settings and can be measured.  For the purposes of Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS); the consequence is what happens after the behavior to maintain the behavior.We frequently cannot see the reinforcement; examples include attention from adults even if it is negative, avoiding math, or making peers laugh. Dr. Carter added setting events which occur long before but increase the likelihood children will have those challenging behaviors. Dr. Carter defined setting events as producing negative physiological and/or emotional states. For example, lack of sleep, hunger, or an earlier fight between or with parents.

Dr. Carter taught the research validated principles of positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement. In Positive Reinforcement, humans will generally perform the required actions to obtain something they find pleasing (reinforcing). In Negative Reinforcement, humans will generally perform the required actions to avoid something they do not like (aversive). The dimensions of communication include Form which is the behavior used to communicate and the Function which is the purpose (reinforcement) of the communicative behavior. PBIS focuses on fixing environments and not people.The first step is to observe behavior objectively, second to discover the function of the behavior, and last to assist children to utilize positive (replacement) behaviors to achieve the same function as the challenging behavior. Dr. Carter’s online resources included PBIS is a vehicle for educators to use a common language in behavioral work with children.

Dr. Carter did a wonderful job teaching these principles in under 45 minutes. She showed enthusiasm for her subject. She taught with a building block approach presenting individual concepts and combing them into more complex planning. The hand-out for the class was thorough, had the same approach, and gave plenty of good examples for each concept. I have a background in behavioral psychology. This class was a reminder of how behaviorism can be organized and used in our daily work with children and persons with developmental disabilities. I also had not heard of PBIS. PBIS gave me a language I can use with other teachers and other social service professionals. I recommend Dr. Carter and PBIS for future human service or education conferences.


The 2018 Idaho Partnerships Conference is scheduled for October 25th and 26th we hope to see you there.