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Based on the “Alex” and “Paulo” scenarios complete the following tasks:Draft three appropriate and measurable transition goals each for Alex and Paulo in each of the following areas:Education/TrainingEmploymentIndependent LivingNOTE: These goals will form the basis of assignments in Topics 4, 5, and 6. Students are encouraged to review these assignments prior to drafting the goals.For each transition goal, construct two strategies that are challenging, authentic, and culturally and socially appropriate for each student to reach their goals.Identify applicable transition-related services or activities that will improve Alex and Paulo’s academic and functional achievements in their current classes.Submit a 500-750-word rationale for your choices that references a minimum of three scholarly resources.Prepare this assignment according to the APA guidelines found in the APA Style Guide, located in the Student Success Center. An abstract is not required.This assignment uses a rubric. Please review the rubric prior to beginning the assignment to become familiar with the expectations for successful completion.
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Preventing School Failure, 54(4), 247–255, 2010
Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LCC
ISSN: 1045-988X print
DOI: 10.1080/10459881003745229
Positive Behavior Supports for Children
and Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders
Jennifer Neitzel
ABSTRACT: Positive behavior support has gained attention in
limiting their ability to acquire key social, communication, and academic skills.
Knowing how to address interfering behaviors that
have become problematic is one of the major challenges
for parents, teachers, and other practitioners who work
and live with children and youth with ASD. The purpose
of this paper is to (a) discuss interfering behaviors in
children and youth with ASD, (b) present a model for
preventing and reducing interfering behaviors, and (c)
present a variety of evidence-based practices that can
be used to address interfering behaviors in children and
youth with ASD.
recent years as an effective practice for reducing challenging
behaviors in children and youth with a variety of disabilities
including autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The goal of positive
behavioral interventions for students with ASD is to prevent and
reduce the occurrence of interfering behaviors, such as repetitive
or disruptive behaviors, through the use of evidence-based practices. To implement specific behavioral methods and strategies,
a tiered approach gradually increases the nature and intensity of
support for students with ASD as interfering behaviors become
more problematic. In this approach, functional behavioral assessment identifies possible causes of interfering behaviors as well
as the strategies that are implemented within the context of a
comprehensive behavioral intervention plan. This article aims
to (a) discuss interfering behaviors in children and youth with
ASD, (b) present a model for preventing and reducing these
behaviors, and (c) provide a variety of evidence-based practices
that can be used to address interfering behaviors in children and
youth with ASD.
Interfering Behaviors and ASD
Throughout this article, we use the term interfering behavior to refer to both repetitive behavior and disruptive behavior.
There are three reasons that these terms have been grouped
together under the more overarching term interfering behaviors. First, both types of behaviors are likely to interfere with
teachers’ or parents’ attempts to promote learning and optimal
child development, although only the existence of repetitive
behaviors is required for a diagnosis of ASD (Hetzroni &
Roth, 2003). Second, for some children and youth with ASD,
disruptive behaviors can be triggered or caused by inadvertently or intentionally interrupting, delaying, or preventing the
child’s ability to engage in or complete a repetitive behavior.
For example, children who insist on always sitting in the same
spot for morning “circle time” may get upset, tantrum, or even
become aggressive with themselves or others when a peer
KEYWORDS: autism spectrum disorders, challenging behaviors,
interfering behaviors, positive behavior support, repetitive and
stereotypical behaviors
ENGAGING IN DISRUPTIVE and other challenging
behaviors is not required for a diagnosis of autism; however, children and youth with autism spectrum disorders
(ASD) are particularly at risk for developing at least one
challenging behavior that interferes with their learning
and development (Buschbacher & Fox, 2003; Matson &
Nebel-Schwalm, 2007). The term interfering behavior
is often used to refer to two types of behavior that children and youth with ASD may exhibit: (a) repetitive and
stereotypical behaviors (e.g., repetitively rocking one’s
body back and forth) and (b) disruptive behaviors (e.g.,
aggression, tantrums). Both of these behaviors can inhibit
students with ASD from meaningfully engaging in learning activities and social interactions with others; thus,
Address correspondence to Jennifer Neitzel, Frank Porter Graham
Child Development Institute, CB#8040, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA; jen.neitzel@
unc.edu (e-mail).
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Preventing School Failure
Vol. 54, No. 4
TABLE 1. Interfering Behaviors Displayed by Children and Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Class of interfering behavior
Types of behaviors observed
Repetitive and stereotypical or
restrictive (also referred to as stereotypies, self-stimulatory behaviors, mannerisms, obsessions)
• Stereotyped movements with body or objects (e.g., hand flapping, body
rocking, spinning objects)
• Idiosyncratic rituals, personal routines, or compulsions (e.g., arranging
toys in a particular manner, having to close doors or turn off lights)
• Echolalia (e.g., repeating the same noise, word, or phrase)
• Insistence on sameness (e.g., traveling the same route home from school
everyday, doing a routine in the same way everyday)
• Narrow, circumscribe, or unusual interests, preoccupations, or attachments
(e.g., carrying a specific toy, preoccupation with weather)
• Difficulties with change and transition
Disruptive behaviors (also referred
to as problem/challenging/maladaptive behaviors)
• Self-injury (e.g., biting/hitting self)
• Aggression (e.g., hitting, kicking, scratching, biting)
• Running from the classroom unattended
• Tantrums (e.g., crying, screaming, yelling)
tries to sit in their spot. Third, from a practical perspective, the
types of interventions used to treat both types of interfering
behaviors are largely the same. Therefore, parents, teachers,
and other practitioners can think about and address these types
of behaviors using similar strategies. Table 1 outlines the two
classes of interfering behaviors that are commonly displayed
by children and youth with ASD.
It is important to note that all forms of repetitive
behavior or disruptive behavior are not necessarily interfering behaviors. In other words, not all types of repetitive or disruptive behaviors exhibited by children with
ASD necessarily warrant intervention. Some children
with ASD exhibit only mild, noninterfering repetitive
behaviors. For example, a child may hand flap or stare at
his or her hand discreetly, which may not interfere with
learning or development in any significant way. Alternatively, a child may line up toys when he or she plays by
herself but not when he or she plays with others. For this
reason, it is imperative that parents and teachers assess
each child’s behaviors individually to determine whether
or not a given behavior is causing a significant problem.
Often, children and youth with ASD engage in interfering behaviors because they are unable to use appropriate communication or social skills to get their wants or
needs met (Buschbacher & Fox, 2003). If the behavior
escalates or continues to be problematic, intervention is
necessary. The evidence-based practices (EBPs) outlined
in this paper may help to reduce interfering behaviors.
However, if a given behavior is not interfering with
learning, development, and interactions with others then
parents and teachers do not have to devise a formal intervention plan to address it.
Using Positive Behavior Supports to Address
Interfering Behaviors
Recently, there has been an increased emphasis on using
positive behavioral interventions to modify the classroom
or home environment to prevent the occurrence of interfering behaviors and teach the child or youth to engage
in more appropriate, alternative behaviors. Research suggests that for educational interventions to be successful
for children and youth with ASD, positive and proactive
behaviors must be considered and developed. Positive
behavior support (PBS) is a common prevention and
intervention approach that has been used with children
and youth who exhibit challenging behaviors. The primary
goal of PBS is to improve the quality of life for children
by increasing their appropriate behaviors and adjusting
the learning environment to prevent interfering behaviors
from first occurring or re-occurring. Research on PBS has
shown that it is effective in reducing interfering behaviors
for children and youth with at-risk behavior and children
with a variety of disabilities including those with ASD
(Bushbacher & Fox, 2003; Carr et al., 1999; Dunlap
& Fox, 1999; Iovanne et al., 2003; National Research
Council, 2001; Turnbull et al., 2002). In PBS, a tiered
intervention model is used to increase positive behavior
in children by gradually applying more focused support
and intervention at each level of the hierarchy (Scott &
Caron, 2005). Figure 1 illustrates the tiered nature of the
intervention hierarchy used with PBS. Many elements of
the traditional PBS model are relevant to children and
youth with ASD (e.g., small-group instruction, individualized interventions); however, several aspects need to be
adapted to address the core characteristics of ASD.
Vol. 54, No. 4
Neitzel
249
individualized intervention immediately for some students,
particularly when safety is a concern. The tiered intervention approach for children and youth with ASD includes
prevention strategies, functional behavioral assessments,
and comprehensive behavioral interventions designed to
both decrease interfering behaviors and increase positive
behaviors and adaptive skills (National Research Council,
2001).
In each intervention tier, there is a focus on ensuring
positive relationships through team building and family
involvement. The well-being of individual family members is considered an influential factor in the development
of children and youth with ASD. Particularly in Tier 3, it is
essential that teachers and other professionals collaborate
with family members to develop interventions that support family functioning and well-being and are consistent
across home, school, and community settings (Dunlap &
Fox, 1996). For the remainder of this article, we focus on
providing an overview of what a PBS model for children
and youth with ASD may look like and the EBPs that can
be used to prevent and reduce interfering behaviors in this
population of children.
FIGURE 1. Traditional positive behaviour supports model.
Source: OSEP Technical Assistance Center on Positive
Behavioral Interventions and Support (2009).
First, social and communication deficits are prevalent
in this population of children; thus, the development of
these skills is a key focus across all three tiers of the
intervention hierarchy. It can be difficult to determine
whether children or youth are engaging in interfering
behaviors because they have no other way to communicate their wants and needs. Therefore, teachers and other
practitioners must seek to identify the factors in the environment that may be causing the interfering behaviors by
conducting a functional behavioral assessment (FBA). In
the traditional PBS model, FBA is generally initiated in
Tier 3; however, FBA is initiated in Tier 2 of this model
for children and youth with ASD so teachers and other
practitioners can accurately identify the environmental,
sensory, and social-communication variables potentially
causing the interfering behaviors. This problem-solving
process helps teachers and families identify the possible
triggers and functions of interfering behaviors (i.e., what
in the environment is causing and reinforcing the behavior) as well as the subsequent EBPs that can be used to
ultimately reduce their occurrence. Figure 2 illustrates
how the traditional PBS model has been adapted for children and youth with ASD.
Although both models use a tiered approach designed to
provide behavioral interventions that proceed from least to
most intensive, it may be necessary to provide intensive and
Tier 1: Preventive Practices
The primary goal of Tier 1 is to prevent interfering behaviors from occurring. This goal is accomplished through the
use of specific preventive practices designed to address the
core characteristics of ASD by changing the environment,
activities, and other interactions that may cause interfering
behaviors to escalate (Buschbacher & Fox, 2003; Sharma,
Singh, & Geromette, 2008). They include (a) organizing
a high-quality learning environment, (b) arranging the
environment to support positive student behavior, and (c)
developing communication and social skills as part of the
core curriculum.
Organizing High-Quality Learning Environments
High-quality learning environments are safe, predictable, and focused on building positive relationships with
adults and other students (Benedict, Horner, & Squires,
2007). In classrooms and programs that serve students
with ASD, teachers and other practitioners should provide
materials and activities that provide (a) a high level of
student engagement, (b) positive classroom climate and
interactions, (c) access to preferred activities and rewards,
(d) a consistent and predictable system of scheduling (particularly visual schedules), (e) continual access to typically
developing peers, and (f) immediate and effective systems
of communication (Horner et al., 2002).
The classroom also has clearly defined rules and expectations for students as well as adults. For example, staff members are aware of their roles regarding the implementation
of regular classroom activities (e.g., supervising areas of
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Preventing School Failure
Vol. 54, No. 4
teachers and other practitioners should consider the following factors when designing and modifying environments
for students with ASD:
FIGURE 2. Positive behavior supports model for children
and youth with autism spectrum disorders.
the classroom, setting up materials for the next activity in
advance) and the application of specific intervention strategies and procedures to support students with ASD (e.g.,
what strategies to use, who is responsible, when learning
opportunities will occur).
Arranging the Environment to Support Positive Student
Behavior
Environmental modifications often are used in highquality learning environments to provide students with
ASD the structure, visual supports, and predictability they
need to learn new skills and develop positive relationships with others (Henry & Myles, 2007; Horner et al.,
2002). These types of modifications help students with
ASD understand what is expected of them during daily
routines and activities. Certain modifications such as visual
supports and the use of individual work systems provide
students with ASD the information needed to complete the
task or activity independently. For example, organizational
support (e.g., color-coded materials that highlight relevant
parts of a task, visual schedules) and having materials
located in the space where they are routinely used provides
critical information to students with ASD to help them find
and put away materials without additional support from
others. Teachers also may redesign social groupings so that
interfering behaviors are less likely to arise. For example, a
teacher might move a student with ASD to a different seat
during small-group activities if he becomes agitated sitting
next to a particular peer. To prevent interfering behaviors,
• Is there enough space for all students to participate in the
activity?
• Are work areas located in the least distracting locations
of the classroom?
• Is there anything in the classroom that might be distracting to students with ASD?
• Are activity and work materials clearly marked and easily accessible to all students in the classroom?
• Do the work and activity areas have visual cues associated with them? That is, do students with ASD know
what is expected of them in all areas of the classroom
(e.g., blocks, computer, individual work area, circle time,
quiet or leisure area)?
• Do students with ASD know where to put their work
when they are finished with a task or activity?
• Does the classroom have a daily schedule posted where
all students can see it?
• Do students with ASD have individual schedules that tell
them what they are supposed to be doing throughout the
day (e.g., picture schedule posted, portable picture schedule, portable checklist)?
• Are transitions included as part of the daily schedule
(Sharma, Singh, & Geromette, 2008)?
Developing Communication and Social Skills
A final strategy used to prevent interfering behaviors is to
teach key communication and social skills to children and
youth with ASD. The reason for this is that communication
and social skills are two of the more pervasive areas of
developmental delay in children with ASD. Being able to
communicate effectively is critical for all aspects of social
and cognitive development. Furthermore, communication
difficulties often are related to the occurrence of interfering behaviors in students with ASD (Dunlap & Fox, 1996).
For example, a young child with ASD may bite peers when
they take his or her toy during free play because he or she
is not able to communicate effectively. Including activities
that focus on developing social and communication skills
may help prevent interfering behaviors from occurring in
the first place.
A variety of EBPs can help children and youth with
ASD increase communication and language skills such as
pivotal response teaching (PRT), video modeling, and peermediated instruction and intervention. Table 2 provides a
complete list of EBPs that can be used to teach communication, social, and academic skills.
In Tier 1, skill development is part of the routine curriculum and takes place daily through a balance of teacherdirected and student-initiated activities. That is, teachers
Vol. 54, No. 4
Neitzel
251
TABLE 2. Tier 1 Evidence-Based Practices to Teach Social and Communication Skills
Evidence-based practice
Description
Computer-assisted instruction
• Uses computer to teach key skills
• Can be used to teach language, communication, reading (including spelling and
vocabulary), and math
Discrete trial teaching
• One-to-one instructional approach that teaches skills in a planned, controlled,
and systematic manner
• Used when a learner needs to acquire a skill with the skill being taught using
prompting and reinforcement
• Each trial or teaching opportunity has definite beginning and end
• Positive praise, sometimes with tangible rewards, is used to reinforce desired
skills or behaviors
Independent work systems
• Used to promote independence by organizing tasks and activities in ways that
are visually comprehensible to individuals with ASD
• Provide opportunities to practice previously taught skills, concepts, or activities
Naturalistic interventions
• Occur in naturally occurring settings, routines, and activities
• Usually involve following the student’s lead
• Learner plays an active role in determining multiple aspects of the instructional
interaction (e.g., choice of location, materials, persons involved)
Peer-mediated instruction and
intervention
• Designed to increase the social engagement of children with ASD
• Teaches peers to initiate and maintain interactions with children with ASD
Picture exchange
communication system
• Used to help children and youth with ASD effectively communicate with teachers, parents, and peers
• Developed at the Delaware Autistic Program by A. Bondy and L. Frost (1994)
Pivotal response training
• Teaches the student to respond to naturally occurring learning opportunities and
to seek out such opportunities
• Developed to enhance four pivotal learning variables: motivation, responsiveness
to multiple cues, social initiations, and self-regulation
Social-skills groups
• Teach and apply social skills in a support group format
• Students may interact and practice skills with typically developing peers
Social narratives
• Interventions that describe social situations
• Aimed at helping students adjust to changes in routine, adapt their behavior
based on social and physical cues
Video modeling
• Assistive technology (e.g., computers, digital cameras) is core component of
instruction
• Used to teach social, adaptive, ac …
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