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The Process of Positive Behavior Support (PBS)

Step Five: Behavior Support Plan Development

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Replacement Skills

In the PBS process, challenging behavior is recognized as serving a purpose for the child. The identification of the purpose is the goal of the functional assessment process. Once the purpose of the behavior is determined (e.g., to escape or to obtain), an alternative means for achieving the same purpose of the behavior should be identified and taught to the child. On very few occasions, the purpose of the behavior cannot be honored (e.g., child screams and kicks to each car seat). When the purpose of the behavior cannot be honored, the behavior support plan may include different replacement skills that are not alternative skills to achieve the same function. For example, the support plan for a child who screams and kicks to escape the car seat could include strategies for teaching the child to select a toy and play while in his car seat. A replacement skill must be chosen that will be easy for the child to learn. Thus the team should look at the other means the child uses to communicate that are socially conventional and appropriate. For example, a child who has some natural gestures might be taught a gesture for "finished!" to escape an activity. What the team should not do is pick a replacement skills (e.g., raise hand and ask for a break), if it unlikely that the child can learn the skill quickly and easily.

When selecting replacement skills, it is important to realize that the more efficient and effective the replacement skill, the more likely it will be used in favor of challenging behavior. The new skill should produce a positive effect as close to or as the same function as the challenging behavior, thus making the child’s challenging behavior less effective or useful. For example, if the child currently has tantrums in order to be picked up and cuddled by the parent, the child must have a way to gain the same results from the person he/she desires. One should realize that the challenging behavior may serve multiple functions for the child. For example, a child may head bang to end play demands and to request a drink. In that case, the child must be taught skills intentionally using planned procedures that will serve as replacement skills for each function—to communicate "finished," as well as ways to mediate the demands and a request for a drink.

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