Learn Your Special Education Laws, Special Education Rights, and Share IEP Goal Ideas

Aug 27
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by Doug Goldberg

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) says that behavior is a special factor that must be considered when developing an Individualized Education Program (IEP).  Specifically, IDEA states that IEP’s for those children whose behavior impedes their learning or that of others, should consider the use of positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS), and other strategies, to address that behavior.  Congress’s reasons for including PBIS was due in part based on their findings which stated, “Almost 30 years of research and experience has demonstrated that the education of children with disabilities can be made more effective by providing incentives for whole-school approaches, scientifically based early reading programs, positive behavioral interventions and supports, and early intervening services to reduce the need to label children as disabled in order to address the learning and behavioral needs of such children.”

According to the OSEP Technical Assistance Center on PBIS:

PBIS is an implementation framework that is designed to enhance academic and social behavior outcomes for all students by (a) emphasizing the use of data for informing decisions about the selection, implementation, and progress monitoring of evidence-based behavioral practices; and (b) organizing resources and systems to improve durable implementation fidelity.

Although data collection is the cornerstone of PBIS and a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) normally precedes PBIS it is NOT required under IDEA that an FBA be performed first unless specific discipline issues have occurred.  However, it is my opinion that a thorough FBA is the best method to collect the data needed to properly establish PBIS.  It is also important that the Professionals implementing PBIS are trained properly.  This is why, as part of their professional development activities; state educational agencies must provide training in methods of positive behavioral interventions and supports to improve student behavior in the classroom.

According to the OSEP Technical Assistance Center on PBIS Common Misconceptions About PBIS include:

Misconception #1: “PBIS is an intervention or practice.” Although PBIS is comprised of research-based behavioral practices and interventions that have been shown to improve social behavior and academic achievement, PBIS is more accurately described as a “framework” or “approach” that provides the means of selecting, organizing and implementing these evidence-practices by giving equal attention to (a) clearly defined and meaningful student outcomes, (b) data-driven decision making and problem solving processes, and (c) systems that prepare and support implementers to use these practices with high fidelity and durability.

Misconception #2: “PBIS emphasizes the use of tangible rewards which can negatively affect the development of intrinsic motivation.” The PBIS framework includes practices that provide students with feedback on the accuracy and use of their social skills and behaviors, in the same manner that feedback is provided for successful and accurate academic performance. When new and/or difficult social skills are being acquired, more teacher and external feedback systems might be used to give students information about their social behavior. However, as students become more fluent in their use of social skills, external feedback systems are reduced and replace by more natural environmental and/or self-managed feedback (Akin-Little & Little, 2009; Akin-Little, Eckert, Lovett, & Little, 2004). Although intrinsic motivation is difficult to conceptualize and measure from a behavior analytic perspective, little evidence exists to suggest that the use of positive reinforcement, rewards, acknowledgements, and recognition has negative effects on academic and social behavior achievement (Cameron, Bank, & Pierce, 2001; Cameron & Pierce, 2002; Cameron, 2005).

Misconception #3: “PBIS is something new that was designed for students with disabilities.” The phrase “Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports” was first coined in the reauthorization of the IDEA; however, the practices, principles, and systems that characterize PBIS have been described, studied and implemented since the early 1960s and 1970s (Carr, 2007; Carr et al., 2002; Sugai & Horner, 2002). PBIS is a marriage of behavioral theory, behavior analysis, positive behavior supports, and prevention and implementation science that has been developed to improve how schools select, organize, implement, and evaluate behavioral practices in meeting the needs of all students (Sugai et al., 2000).

Misconception #4: “PBIS is for behavior, and RtI is for academics.” RtI is best conceptualized as a framework for developing and implementing multi-tiered systems of academic and behavior support, and is comprised of (a) universal screening, (b) continuous progress monitoring, (c) continuum of evidence-based practices, (d) team-driven data-based decision making, and (e) implementation fidelity evaluation (Sugai & Horner, 2009). The PBIS framework is the application of RtI principles to the improvement of social behavior outcomes for all students. PBIS is often described as the “behavior side” of the RtI multi-tiered continuum; however, this description misrepresents the actual integrated implementation of behavior and academic supports (Sugai, Horner, Fixsen, & Blase, 2010).

As misconception 3 stated above PBIS is not just for students with disabilities and OSEP’s Technical Assistance Center for PBIS has been promoting School-Wide Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports (SWPBIS).  SWPBIS consists of four elements, “(a) data for decision making, (b) measurable outcomes supported and evaluated by data, (c) practices with evidence that these outcomes are achievable, and (d) systems that efficiently and effectively support implementation of these practices.”

Just like placement in an IEP which must have a continuum of placement options, SWPBIS normally consist of a continuum of school wide positive behavior supports.  “A three-tiered prevention logic requires that all students receive supports at the universal or primary tier. If the behavior of some students is not responsive, more intensive behavioral supports are provided, in the form of a group contingency (selected or secondary tier) or a highly individualized plan (intensive or tertiary tier).”

PBIS and SWPBIS are integral parts of school wide behavior that can create a multitude of positive outcomes including a more effective learning environment, less bullying, higher student engagement and many more. OSEP’s Technical Assistance Center on PBIS is a wonderful website that can provide ALOT more information for those interested.  The best place to start is this PBIS.org Web Tour.


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