Developing a Positive Behaviour Support Plan

Child in supermarketWhat is a Positive Behaviour Support Plan (PBSP)?

A PBSP is a comprehensive management plan that is developed to support interventions and strategies that are tailored to a child’s specific needs and circumstances.  The plan is developed using a collaborative team approach that includes the parents/carer, teachers, and any therapists working with the child.  It can also include the child, depending on age and developmental stage.

The goal of the plan is to increase the child’s adaptive skills, opportunities and enhance their quality of life.

When should a PBSP be implemented?

A PBSP should be considered when the problem behaviour is:

  • Chronic/frequent,
  • Dangerous to self or others,
  • Highly disruptive,
  • Impeding learning,
  • Resulting in social or educational exclusion, or
  • When other interventions have been found to be ineffective. 

What to include in the PBSP

To decide what strategies to implement or what to include in the PBSP, a detailed assessment of the child’s current functional behaviours needs to be carried out.  This will highlight the variables that predict or trigger the behaviours, these are referred to as antecedents. 

The assessment should include direct observations of how the child interacts within the environment and with peers and attempts to identify when, where and why problems occur.  It includes an assessment of the child’s strengths and interests and detailed interviews with the parents and other professionals working with the child.  The information gathered is summarised and factors influencing the behaviour of concern are highlighted.

The PBSP is then designed based upon the information gathered.   The interventions should directly match the issues highlighted in the functional behaviour assessment.

 The focus should be on reducing one negative behaviour and increasing one positive behaviour.


Children with autism can be very resistant to change.  A PBSP should therefore consider the extra time and consistency that is required to implement the change. 

Five steps to implementing a PBSP

Step 1 – Identify the goals of intervention 

  • What are problematic behaviours, describe using the telephone test. (Very detail description of exactly what the child does, like you are telling someone over the phone who has never seen these behaviours)
  • What are the positive behaviours, describe using the telephone test.
  • Describe to what extent (eg frequency, duration, and intensity) the behaviour is occurring.
  • What are the broad goals the intervention should achieve?

Step 2 – Gather relevant information

  • Review any reports.
  • Interview support providers eg therapists.
  • Engage parents.
  • Directly observe and record behaviours. (antecedents, context, consequences)
  • Strengths, likes and special interests.

Step 3 – Develop relationship between behaviour & environment

  • When, where, and with whom is the behaviour more likely or less likely to occur?
  • Are there any other conditions affecting or related to the behaviour?
  • What happens after the behaviour?
  • What additional skills may assist the child to make alternative behavioural choices?
  • How do the behaviours relate to the core features of Autism?
  • What are the communication needs of the child?
  • What are the sensory needs of the child?
  • What things, places, people calm the child?
  • What strategies have worked previously?  Are they still effective? If not why not?
  • What strategies are effective at home?

 Step 4 -  Develop the BPSP


  • Changes or adjustments to the environment to reduce the likely hood of the trigger/antecedent.
  • Direct teaching of additional skills.
  • Building self-esteem.
  • Enhancing the relationship between the teacher and child.
  • Consistent, timely, logical consequences to promote positive behaviour.
  • Crisis response (if needed). 

Step 5 – Implement, communicate and monitor outcomes


  • Training and resources needed.
  • Who is responsible for monitoring implementation.
  • Who is responsible for communicating the plan with all team members.
  • Evaluating the outcome based on new observations.
  • Review the plan, make any necessary modifications.
  • Regular follow-up meetings.

Crisis Intervention

Interventions take time and consistency to be effective.  It is likely that the behaviour of concern will continue to occur and may even become more frequent and intense initially.  Children with Autism are often resistant to change.  When extreme outbursts of the target behaviour occur it is vital to provide a consistent and rapid response to ensure everyone’s safety and well-being, and to produce a de-escalation of behaviour.  Consequences can be implemented once the child is calm.

Crisis intervention strategies need to be clearly documented and communicated to all involved parties, particularly the parents.  Everyone involved needs to be fully aware of their role. 


Please contact Absolutely Autism  for specialised assistance or advice in developing Positive Behaviour Support Plans.

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