This he keeps hitting. The team discusses

This lesson defines positive behavior support and applied behavior analysis. It then provides examples of how each is useful for a classroom teacher’s use.

Applied Behavior Analysis and Positive Behavior Support

All behaviors have a purpose. Every action that a person takes, in turn, creates a reaction. You probably see this principle at work every day in your classroom.

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Unfortunately, though, your students, especially those with certain types of disabilities, are not always able to understand which behaviors are necessary to navigate their environment.To understand why a student behaves unacceptably, you can employ strategies of applied behavior analysis. Once you understand the reasons that your student displays unacceptable behaviors, you can use positive behavior supports to increase the chances that your student will choose more acceptable behaviors.

Applied Behavior Analysis

Applied behavior analysis, often referred to as ABA, is the study of why individuals behave the way they do. It involves a great deal of individual behavioral observations, which consider what happened before and after the targeted/observed behavior to determine the function of the behavioral action.

Positive Behavior Support

Positive behavior support, often referred to as PBS, describes behavior management strategies that reinforce targeted behaviors to increase and/or decrease the likelihood of the occurrences of these behaviors.

Classroom Example of Applied Behavior Analysis and Positive Behavior Supports

In Mrs. Smith’s eighth grade class there is a student with autism, Mike, who repeatedly hits his teachers. Mrs. Smith knows that this is not a socially acceptable behavior and decides to use the science of ABA to figure out why Mike keeps hitting his teachers. Once she discovers why he is hitting them, she will use PBS to decrease his hitting.

The ABA begins with recording observations and data of the frequencies of the hitting, the events that occur before the hitting, and the consequences that follow the hitting. Later Mrs. Smith, the student’s parents, another teacher, and the principal study the data and try to ‘connect the dots’ to figure out why he keeps hitting. The team discusses all of the data they have gathered and hypothesize that Mike is hitting because he wants his teacher to pay more attention to him.

Now that the classroom support team and Mike’s parents know that Mike hits because he wants his teacher’s attention, they must decide how they will decrease the frequency of his need for attention. They create a PBS plan that simply consists of Mike’s teachers making a concerted effort to give Mike the attention that he is craving on a regular basis.Mrs. Smith will continue to record the same data that was taken in the ABA portion of the investigation. By examining the data on the frequency of the times Mike hits, the team will know if their behavior supports are working or if another course of action needs to be taken to decrease the behavior.

A plan to increase teacher attention seems like a simple solution. However, without analyzing the factors that were leading to and sustaining the behaviors through the ABA process, the team might have missed supports that everyone on the team could use consistently in their interactions at school with Mike.

Lesson Summary

Applied behavior analysis helps us figure out why students may display inappropriate behaviors. Once we know what causes them to act a certain way, then we can use positive behavior support to increase or decrease the inappropriate behavior.

Evidence of success or failure with the ABA and PBS methods will be evident based on if a student’s targeted behaviors change in the way the team had hypothesized. If not, changes can always be made through small modifications to the PBS or additional data collection and analysis using ABA principles.


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