Maryland Positive Behavior Support Training

Positive Behavior Support Across Three Tiers

A triangle containing the words All People, Some, and Few to represent  a continuum of supports needed in an organization.

The triangle on this page represents an entire organization that provides support to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. All of the people who support someone with a disability are involved in the changes that are made in positive behavior support: people receiving services, family members, guardians, and friends, staff, supervisors and managers, administrators and leaders. These changes are important since everyone engages in behavior that is sometimes positive and at other times challenging to themselves or others. 

The three-tiered positive behavior support model also assumes that everyone can improve on how they use social and emotional skills every day. Each person is unique and the levels of support that are needed to solve social problems are on a continuum starting with tier 1 strategies that are easier for everyone to implement. The goal is to work together as a community while creating a positive climate that is person-centered, safe, predictable, and welcoming. At tier 1, all people in a setting are working together to improve their social and emotional skills, building positive relationships, recognizing and celebrating success, and encouraging people to improve the quality of their lives. 

People receiving services, staff, and others may still need additional support at times to improve social interactions and quality of life. tier 2 strategies are used to monitor, and problem solve when minor challenges occur that have an impact on social interactions and quality of life. Simple strategies are used at tier 2 to help increase social and emotional skills using group instruction and targeted interventions. A few people will need more intensive and individualized support at tier 3.  The plans at tier 3 provide a more structured plan to address complex challenges. At tier 3, a team forms around a person to help in problem solving. Different types of practices are used at tier 3 based on each person’s strengths and needs. A person-centered plan is often a good place to start before beginning positive behavior support planning.

Definitions of Each Tier

  • Create a person-centered and culturally responsive setting
  • Identify and teach important social values
  • Create a plan to teach, model, and practice social and emotional skills
  • Recognize and reinforce positive social behaviors
  • Respond to challenges consistently using conflict resolution
  • Use data to guide decisions
  • Use minor problem solving to understand why challenging behaviors occur (function)
  • Collect additional information if it is needed to understand why challenges are occurring
  • Add quality of life strategies
  • Simple PBS interventions
  • Create Group Interventions to teach skills
  • Use data to intervene as early as possible before problems become more challenging
  • Form a team around a person needing more support
  • Provide more structured and individualized plan of support
  • Start with a person-centered plan to guide the process
  • Include other practices