Emergence of Behavioural Support in the USA

  • Wendi BeamishEmail author
  • Fiona Bryer
Part of the Advancing Inclusive and Special Education in the Asia-Pacific book series (AISEAP)


Over three decades, the positive behaviour support approach, together with its practice base, has been methodically developed, applied, and researched within elementary and secondary schools in the USA. The approach was initiated to better address the severe and challenging behaviours presented by students and adults with developmental disabilities, and the framework has been expanded to meet pressing needs to keep schools safe and free from antisocial behaviour and bullying. The 1997 IDEA legislation in the USA mandated this approach for all students whose problem behaviour inhibits productive learning. Historically, the 1960s theory of applied behaviour analysis and the 1980s philosophy of nonaversive behavioural intervention gave rise to a new value-based technology providing behavioural support for individuals. Positive behavioural support (PBS) technology advanced as key dedicated groups of people strengthened the reach and relevance of behavioural support to individuals within and across systems. Tracing the work of LaVigna and Willis through their Institute for Applied Behavior Analysis and that of Horner and Sugai as codirectors of the federally funded Office of Special Education Programs Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports illustrates the breadth and ongoing development of PBS. The shift into a school-wide approach fostered three tiers of behavioural assessment and intervention planning for behaviour and academics, with Tier 2 supports and Tier 3 intensive interventions providing positive and at times prevailing outcomes for many students with SEN.


Applied behaviour analysis ABC Environment Positive behaviour support Multi-tier continuum USA 


  1. Anderson, J. (2003). School-wide supports for inclusive education: Restructuring for effectiveness [online]. In B. Bartlett, F. Bryer, & D. Roebuck (Eds.), Reimagining practice: Researching change (Vol. 1, pp. 1–15). Nathan, Australia: Griffith University, School of Cognition, Language and Special Education.Google Scholar
  2. Anderson, C. M., & Borgmeier, C. (2010). Tier II intervention within the framework of school-wide positive behavior support: Essential features for design, implementation, and maintenance. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 3(1), 33–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Anderson, J., Brown, F., & Scheuermann, B. (2007). APBS standards of practice: Individual level-iteration 2. Retrieved from
  4. Ayres, B. J., & Hedeen, D. L. (2003). Creating positive behavior support plans for students with significant behavioral challenges. In M. S. Fishbaugh, T. R. Berkeley, & G. Schroth (Eds.), Ensuring safe school environments (pp. 89–105). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  5. BCSD Administrative Leadership Institute. (2014-2015). Tier 2 guidebook. Retrieved from
  6. Beamish, W., & Saggers, B. (2017). Positive behaviour support: An overview of the three-tiered approach. In B. Saggers (Ed.), Developing positive classroom environments: Strategies for nurturing adolescent learning (pp. 3–9). Crows Nest, Australia: Allen & Unwin.Google Scholar
  7. Brown, F., Anderson, J. L., & De Pry, R. L. (Eds.). (2015). Individual positive behavior supports: A standards-based guide to practices in school and community settings. Baltimore, MA: Paul H Brookes.Google Scholar
  8. Bruhn, A. L., Lane, K. L., & Hirsch, S. E. (2014). Review of Tier 2 interventions conducted within multitiered models of behavioral prevention. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 22(3), 171–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Carr, E., Horner, R., Turnbull, A., McLaughlin, D., McAtee, M., Smith, C., … Doolabh, A. (1999). Positive behavior support for people with developmental disabilities: A research synthesis. Washington, DC: American Association on Mental Retardation.Google Scholar
  10. Carr, E., Dunlap, G., Horner, R. H., Koegel, R. L., Turnbull, A. P., Sailor, W., … Fox, L. (2002). Positive behavior support: Evolution of an applied science. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 4, 4–16, 20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Chandler, L. K., & Dahlquist, C. M. (2002). Functional assessment: Strategies to prevent and remediate challenging behaviors in school settings. Columbus, OH: Merrill.Google Scholar
  12. Crone, D. A., & Horner, R. H. (2003). Building positive behavior support systems in schools: Functional behavioral assessment. New York, NY: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  13. Crone, D. A., Horner, R. H., & Hawken, L. S. (2004). Responding to problem behavior in schools: The behavior education program. New York, NY: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  14. Crone, D. A., Hawken, L. S., & Horner, R. H. (2010). Responding to problem behavior in schools: The behavior education program (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  15. Donnellan, A., LaVigna, G., Negri-Shoultz, N., & Fassbender, L. (1988). Progress without punishment: Effective approaches for learners with behavior problems. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  16. Drasgow, E., Yell, M. L., Bradley, R., & Shriner, J. G. (1999). The IDEA Amendments of 1997: A school-wide model for conducting functional behavioral assessments and developing behavior intervention plans. Education and Treatment of Children, 22(3), 244–266.Google Scholar
  17. Dunlap, G., Iovannone, R., Wilson, K. J., Kincaid, D. K., & Strain, P. (2009). Prevent-Teach-Reinforce: A standardized model of school-based behavioral intervention. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 12(1), 9–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dunlap, G., Strain, P., Lee, J. K., Joseph, J., & Leech, N. (2018). A randomized controlled evaluation of Prevent-Teach-Reinforce for young children. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 37(4), 195–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Evans, I. M., & Meyer, L. H. (1985). An educative approach to behavior problems: A practical decision model for interventions with severely handicapped learners. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes.Google Scholar
  20. Foxx, R. M. (1982). Decreasing behaviors of severely retarded and autistic persons. Champaign, IL: Research Press.Google Scholar
  21. Freeman, R., Enyart, M., Schmitz, K., Kimbrough, P., Matthews, K., & Newcomer, L. (2015). Integrating and building on best practices in person-centered, wraparound, and positive behavior support to enhance quality of life. In F. Brown, J. L. Anderson, & R. L. De Pry (Eds.), Individual positive behavior supports: A standards-based guide to practices in school and community settings (pp. 241–257). Baltimore, MA: Paul H Brookes.Google Scholar
  22. Freeman, J., Simonsen, B., McCoach, D. B., Sugai, G., Lombardi, A., & Horner, R. (2016). Relationship between school-wide positive behavior interventions and supports and academic, attendance, and behavior outcomes in high schools. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 18(1), 41–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. George, H. P., & Kincaid, D. (2003, March). School-wide positive behavior support: Building skills for effective trainings. Workshop presented at the meeting of the First International Conference on Positive Behavior Support, Orlando, FL.Google Scholar
  24. Hawken, L. S., Vincent, C. G., & Schumann, J. (2008). Response to intervention for social behavior. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 16, 213–225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hawken, L. S., Adolphson, S. L., Macleod, K. S., & Schumann, J. (2009). Secondary-tier interventions and supports. In W. Sailor, G. Dunlap, G. Sugai, & R. Horner (Eds.), Handbook of positive behavior support (pp. 395–420). New York, NY: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hieneman, M., Nolan, M., Presley, J., De Turo, L., Gayler, W., & Dunlap, G. (1999). Facilitator’s guide positive behavioral support. Tampa, FL: University of South Florida, Positive Behavioral Support Project. Retrieved from Google Scholar
  27. Hieneman, M., Moore, T., & Christians, N. (2017). Positive behavior support at home and in the community. APBS Newsletter, 15(1), 2–3.Google Scholar
  28. Horner, R. H., Dunlap, G., Koegel, R. L., Carr, E. G., Sailor, W., Anderson, J., … O’Neill, R. E. (1990). Towards a technology of “nonaversive” behavioral support. The Journal of the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps, 15, 125–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, P.L. 108-446. (2004).Google Scholar
  30. Janney, R., & Snell, M. (2000). Behavioral support. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes.Google Scholar
  31. Janney, R., & Snell, M. (2008). Behavioral support (2nd ed.). Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes.Google Scholar
  32. Knoster, T., & Drogan, R. (2016). Positive behavior support: Targeted classroom solutions. Sydney, Australia: Paul H. Brookes.Google Scholar
  33. LaVigna, G. W. (1980). Reducing behavior problems in the classroom. In B. Wilcox & A. Thompson (Eds.), Critical issues in educating autistic children and youth (pp. 135–153). Washington, DC: US Department of Education, OSEP.Google Scholar
  34. LaVigna, G. W., & Donnellan, A. M. (1986). Alternatives to punishment: Solving behavior problems with non-aversive strategies. New York, NY: Irvington.Google Scholar
  35. LaVigna, G. W., & Willis, T. J. (1992). A model for multielement treatment planning and outcome measurement. In D. E. Berkell (Ed.), Autism: Identification, education, and treatment (pp. 135–149). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  36. LaVigna, G. W., & Willis, T. J. (2005). Episodic severity: An overlooked dependent variable in the application of behavior analysis to challenging behavior. Journal of Positive Behavior Intervention, 7, 47–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. LaVigna, G. W., & Willis, T. J. (2012). The efficacy of positive behavioral support with the most challenging behavior: The evidence and its implications. Journal of Intellectual & Developmental Disability, 37(3), 185–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. LaVigna, G. W., Willis, T. J., & Donnellan, A. M. (1989). The role of positive programming in behavioral treatment. In E. Cipani (Ed.), The treatment of severe behavior disorders: Behavior analysis approaches (vol. 12, pp. 59–83). Washington, DC: Monograph of the American Association on Mental Retardation.Google Scholar
  39. LaVigna, G. W., Willis, T. J., Shaull, J. F., Abedi, M., & Sweitzer, M. (1994a). Effective consultation for classroom and community settings. In E. Cipani & F. Spooner (Eds.), Curricular and instructional approaches for persons with severe disabilities (pp. 387–403). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.Google Scholar
  40. LaVigna, G. W., Willis, T. J., Shaull, J. F., Abedi, M., & Sweitzer, M. (1994b). The periodic service review: A total quality assurance system for human services and education. Baltimore, MD: Brookes.Google Scholar
  41. LaVigna, G. W., Christian, L., & Willis, T. J. (2005). Developing behavioral services to meet defined standards within a national system of specialist education services. Pediatric Rehabilitation, 8, 144–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Liberman, R. P., & LaVigna, G. W. (Eds.). (2016). New directions in the treatment of aggressive behavior for persons with mental and developmental disabilities. New York, NY: Nova Science Publishers.Google Scholar
  43. Lucyshyn, M., Dunlap, G., & Freeman, R. (2015). A historical perspective on the evolution of positive behavior support as a science-based discipline. In F. Brown, J. L. Anderson, & R. L. De Pry (Eds.), Individual positive behavior supports: A standards-based guide to practices in school and community settings (pp. 3–25). Baltimore, MA: Paul H Brookes.Google Scholar
  44. Lynass, L., Tsai, S. F., Richman, T. D., & Cheney, D. (2012). Social expectations and behavioral indicators in schoolwide positive behavior supports: A national study of behavior matrices. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 14(3), 153–161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. McIntosh, K., & Goodman, S. (2016). Integrated multi-tiered systems of support: Blending RTI and PBIS. New York, NY: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  46. Michaels, C. A., Brown, F., & Mirabella, N. (2005). Personal paradigm shifts in PBS experts: Perceptions of treatment acceptability of decelerative consequence-based behavioral procedures. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 7(2), 93–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. National Education Association. (2014). Positive behavioral interventions and supports: A multi-tiered framework that works for every student (Policy Brief). Retrieved from
  48. No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, P.L. 107–110. (2002).Google Scholar
  49. O’Neill, R., Horner, R., Albin, R., Storey, K., & Newton, J. (1997). Functional assessment and program development for problem behavior: A practical handbook (2nd ed.). Sycamore, IL: Sycamore.Google Scholar
  50. OSEP Center on PBIS, with Sugai, G., Horner, R., Dunlap, G., Hieneman, M., Lewis, T., Nelson, C., …, Ruef, M. (2000). Applying positive behavior support and functional behavioral assessment in schools. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 2, 131–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. OSEP Technical Assistance Center on PBIS. (2015). Implementation blueprint: Part 1 Foundations and supporting information. Retrieved from
  52. Repp, A. C., & Horner, R. H. (1999). Functional analysis of problem behavior: From effective assessment to effective support. Boston, MA: Wadsworth.Google Scholar
  53. Riffel, L. A. (2011). Positive behavior support at the tertiary level: Red zone strategies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.Google Scholar
  54. Ruef, M., Poston, D., & Humphrey, K. (1997). Putting the “positive” into behavioral support: An introductory training packet. Lawrence, KS: Beach Centre on Families and Disability, University of Kansas.Google Scholar
  55. Scott, T. M., Anderson, C. M., & Alter, P. (2012). Managing classroom behavior using positive behavior supports. Sydney, Australia: Pearson Education.Google Scholar
  56. Simonsen, B., & Myers, D. (2015). Classwide positive behavior interventions and supports. New York, NY: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  57. Simonsen, B., Fairbanks, S., Briesch, A., Myers, D., & Sugai, G. (2008). Evidence-based practices in classroom management: Considerations for research to practice. Education & Treatment of Children, 31(3), 351–380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Simonsen, B., Shaw, S. F., Faggella-Luby, M., Sugai, G., Coyne, M. D., Rhein, B., … Alfano, M. (2010). A schoolwide model for service delivery: Redefining special educators as interventionists. Remedial and Special Education, 31(1), 17–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Slider, N. J., Noell, G. H., & Williams, K. L. (2006). Providing practicing teachers classroom management professional development in a brief self-study format. Journal of Behavioral Education, 15(4), 215–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Stormont, M., Reinke, W. M., Herman, K. C., & Lembke, E. S. (2012). Academic and behavior supports for at-risk students: Tier 2 interventions. New York, NY: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  61. Sugai, G., & Horner, R. H. (2002). The evolution of discipline practices: School-wide positive behavior supports. Child and Family Behavior Therapy, 24(1–2), 23–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Sugai, G., & Horner, R. H. (2006). A promising approach for expanding and sustaining school-wide positive behavior support. School Psychology Review, 35(2), 245–259.Google Scholar
  63. Sugai, G., & Horner, R. H. (2009). Responsiveness-to-intervention and school-wide positive behavior supports: Integration of multi-tiered system approaches. Exceptionality, 17(4), 223–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Sugai, G., La Salle, T., Freeman, J., Simonsen, B., & Chafouleas, S. (2016). School climate: Academic achievement and social behavior competence (Technical Brief). Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. Retrieved from
  65. Umbreit, J., Ferro, J. B., Liaupsin, C. J., & Lane, K. L. (2007). Functional behavioral assessment and function-based intervention: An effective, practical approach. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.Google Scholar
  66. Vandercook, T., York, J., & Forest, M. (1989). The McGill action planning system (MAPS): A strategy for building a vision. Journal of the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps, 14, 205–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Walker, H., Horner, R. H., Sugai, G., Bullis, M., Sprague, J. R., Bricker, D., & Kaufman, M. J. (1996). Integrated approaches to preventing antisocial behavior patterns among school-aged children and youth. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 4, 193–256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Watson, T. S., & Steege, M. W. (2003). Conducting school-based functional behavioral assessments: A practitioner’s guide. London, UK: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  69. Willis, T. J., LaVigna, G. W., & Donnellan, A. M. (1993). Behavior assessment guide. Los Angeles, CA: Institute for Applied Behavior Analysis.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Griffith Institute for Educational ResearchGriffith UniversityMt GravattAustralia

Personalised recommendations