Positive Behavioural Support (PBS)

Positive Behavioural Support (PBS)

  • Mark Lee
  • 07 July 2017
  • Posted in: Healthcare

People on the autism spectrum can display vastly different communication skills and behaviours.

Some can be overwhelmed by information from their surroundings leading them to develop repetitive actions or behaviours of concern.

While some young people can explain when they are experiencing feelings of sadness, anxiety or frustration other children may not be able to do this or find it more difficult.

The Together Trust is implementing Positive Behavioural Support (PBS) across all of our services to increase the quality of life for the individual and reduce behaviours that give cause for concern.

The scheme has been piloted by Inscape House - a school, which provides specialist education for pupils with autism.

PBS is a broad approach to supporting people that looks beyond a surface behaviour to discover the underlying reasons.

PBS begins by creating settings and supports, which meet the unique needs of the person and minimise the chance of behaviours of concern happening in the first place.

If a behaviour of concern does occur, then staff can use functional behavioural assessment to work out the purpose that behaviour serves for the person in their life.

Staff have used PBS to work with students at the school to overcome behaviours such as spitting to gain attention, which has been reduced and replaced with more appropriate initiation of social interactions.

This was achieved by helping the student to improve their communication skills after carrying out an assessment of their basic language and learning skills and then completing individual sessions with a speech and language therapist.

These sessions were supported by working with the pupil to develop pre requisite communication skills such as matching, listening, imitation, and visual discrimination skills.

Another student who used slapping as a way to interact with other people was taught to replace this behaviour with high fives.

To begin with this was introduced by staff and gradually reduced until the pupil used a high five to initiate interaction on their own, which led to more positive communication with other people.

Head of therapy and additional support at Inscape Emma Dewar said: “School wide positive behaviour support has had and continues to have a great impact on the lives of our students.

“It helps our students to learn new skills including how to appropriately ask for help or learning more appropriate ways to interact with others for example using a handshake or a high five."

“Support is provided based on student need and can change throughout the student’s time at Inscape House."

“It supports our students to develop new skills and improve their quality of life.”

Staff work together with the individual, their family, carers and class team to identify a positive alternative behaviour that meets the person’s needs.

Together they create a personalised PBS plan that includes teaching the person the new behaviour and new skills, so that in the future they are more able to cope with situations that they find difficult.

It will also include ways to support the person involved if they do become distressed and ideas to improve their everyday life.

Inscape House is currently operating a three tier system, with the pupils requiring the most support receiving sessions from a specialist psychologist, one to one support to develop life skills and regular contact between staff and their family including home visits.

The school also promotes a reward system and celebration assemblies.

PBS plans are aimed at improving the quality of the individual’s life over time and are proven to be effective in changing a wide range of needs and behaviours.

This means everyone can work together to support the individual to achieve the best possible outcomes.


  • autism
  • health
  • health care
  • health services
  • mental health
  • physical health
  • public health
  • Article Author

About Mark Lee

Mark Lee is the chief executive of the Together Trust - a charity, which provides specialist education, fostering placements, residential care and support services for more than 2,600 children, young adults with disabilities, complex needs and autism and their families each year.
He joined the Trust in 2013 and is responsible for ensuring the charit…