TIES TIPS Foundations of Inclusion
TIP #27: Including ALL Students in Schoolwide Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports
Schoolwide positive behavior interventions and supports (PBIS) is a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) framework designed to systematically teach, model, and reinforce appropriate social behaviors (Boden et al., 2018). Currently, over 27,000 schools (www.pbis.org) have adopted the PBIS framework. Given the strong evidence-base supporting its effectiveness, schools should be systematic and intentional in their design and implementation to ensure the inclusion of all students (Walker & Loman, 2022). This TIP will provide examples of ways teachers and PBIS teams can plan for accessible PBIS instruction that includes students with significant cognitive disabilities.
PBIS is a prevention model in which data is used to determine the level of support each student needs to meet social, emotional, and behavioral goals and expectations. Schools implementing PBIS have experienced a number of benefits for both teachers and students. Benefits for teachers include (a) improved school climate, (b) increases in perceptions associated with teacher efficacy, and (c) reductions in staff turnover (Noltemeyer et al., 2019). Positive outcomes for students include (a) improvements in school climate, (b) students’ demonstration of positive behavior, decreases in office discipline referrals, and exclusionary discipline practices (e.g., suspension, expulsion), (c) increases in academic achievement, and (d) increases in student attendance (Noltemeyer et al., 2019). The PBIS framework is inherently inclusive - assuming that all students, including students with significant cognitive disabilities, have access to grade-level content and same-age peers (Kurth & Enyart, 2016).
PBIS provides a systematic framework for delivering behavioral support to all students (Tier 1: Universal) across school settings, while also offering organized targeted (Tier 2: Targeted) and intensive (Tier 3: Intensive) supports for students whose data indicate they are in need of additional support. Below are brief descriptions and practices in each tier along with examples of how to make each layer of support more accessible to students with significant cognitive disabilities.
Tier I (universal) PBIS encourages positive behavior while preventing challenging behavior for all students. Teachers can do this by…
- teaching school-wide behavioral expectations (e.g., hallway procedures, cafeteria rules, recess expectations)
- including all students in school-wide acknowledgement systems (e.g., PRIDE points, SOAR bucks, FISH, Bear Paws)
- collecting data to identify students who need additional support
Here are some ideas for including students with significant cognitive disabilities in Tier I supports using the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework)
Universal (Tier 1) Practice
Example of How UDL Can be Applied Within a PBIS Framework
Posting behavioral expectations
Written text is not accessible to pre-readers
To build a better understanding of what universal expectations are, schools may include visuals (e.g., photographs, illustrations) of schoolwide expectations to accompany written text.
Teaching behavioral expectations
Requiring students to demonstrate expectations verbally
To internalize schoolwide expectation through explicit instruction, provide students with a range of alternative communication methods (e.g., augmentative or alternative communication) to demonstrate their understanding.
Not all acknowledgement strategies are positive for all students
To create access, when positively acknowledging appropriate behavior, respond to students in a variety of ways (e.g., high five, verbal approval, preferred tangible reward).
(Adapted from Walker & Loman, 2022)
It is important to collect data to determine which students may require additional supports beyond those provided in Tier 1. Some data sources include attendance, behaviors, and course performance. Approximately 10-15% of students will require Tier 2 (or targeted) supports. One commonly used Tier 2 support is Check-in/Check-out (CICO). Students participating in CICO get a daily progress report that is used to monitor their display of school-wide expectations throughout the school day. At the beginning of the day, students check-in with an assigned mentor or coach for goal setting. Then, throughout the day, students receive feedback on their behavior using a numerical rating scale (e.g., 0 = met few or no expectations. 1= met some expectations, 2= met expectations) from teachers at predetermined times (usually at the end of each class period). Finally, at the end of the day, students check-out again with the same mentor or coach to review progress toward their individual goals.
Designing accessible Tier 2 supports using UDL
While all Tier 2 supports can be designed using UDL to meet students’ unique needs (e.g., see Kern et al., 2020), the examples provided below will focus on one of the most common Tier 2 supports, CICO (Bruhn et al., 2014).
Flexible options for student engagement in CICO
Reduce barriers to ensure all students, including students with significant cognitive disabilities, can engage in CICO
- Allow flexibility in the intensity (e.g., the frequency) or dosage (e.g., how often) of the intervention. This may include offering flexible options depending on student need(s) including opportunities for students to check in:
- Often - throughout class activities
- Regularly - between shorter time periods throughout the day (e.g., after each major content block or before recess and lunch)
- Daily - at the beginning and end of each day
- Provide choice in assigned mentors or coaches
- Offer choice of rewards when students meet their goal - this may align with the function of students’ challenging behavior (Commisso et al., 2019).
- For example, if a student engages in challenging behavior to escape an undesirable or difficult task, then the teacher could offer the student a chance to take a break or momentarily engage in a preferred activity after meeting their goal.
Flexible options for student understanding of CICO
Reduce barriers to ensure all students gain access and understanding during CICO meetings
- Use simple and clear language during check-in and check-out meetings
- Use visuals, including icons, photos, or video during check-in and check-out meetings
Flexible options for student action during CICO
Reduce barriers to ensure all students can take action during CICO meetings
- Work collaboratively with students to identify preferred communication modalities
- Offer options for students to self-monitor their own progress using various modalities, including writing, stamping, or physical manipulation
- Use a task analysis to guide students through the main components of CICO meetings
To learn more about ways to adapt Tier 2 supports, consider referring to Walker and Loman (2022) and the CEEDAR Center .
An example of an adapted daily progress report card. There are blanks for the child's name, daily goal, date, points received, period, and daily goal reached (yes or no). Below the blanks is a table detailed below.
Fill in total here.
Fill in total here.
Fill in total here.
Fill in total here.
Sample CICO worksheet, adapted from Walker & Loman (2022)
For the few students requiring further behavioral support in addition to what is provided at Tier 1 and Tier 2, there are intensive, individualized supports (Tier 3). These supports are often delivered individually or within small group settings (e.g., 1-3 students) and provide students with explicit, daily instruction focused on an identified area of need. To identify specific areas of need, a functional behavior assessment (FBA) is conducted and, if necessary, a behavior intervention plan (BIP) is created. Recognizing the importance of student involvement in the FBA and BIP process, adaptations can be provided to increase communicative, cognitive, physical, visual, and auditory accessibility for students with significant cognitive disabilities. For example, teams should ensure student interviews include text and questions that have been adapted to meet the student’s current comprehension level. This may include rephrasing, simplifying, providing visual supports, and/or giving students additional response time (Kurth et al., 2019). Additionally, when identifying preferred items or activities that might serve as reinforcers for appropriate behavior, teams can increase physical accessibility by carefully considering the environment in which the preference assessment will be conducted. For example, teachers should ensure the proper equipment is available to provide students with physical support needs to be positioned in a manner that allows them to attend to the person delivering the assessment and access to their preferred communication modality. For additional information on how students with significant cognitive disabilities can be included in the FBA and BIP process, see Johnson et al. (2022).
While developing an FBA and BIP for students with significant cognitive disabilities, it is imperative the team consider the student’s communication support needs. Students often engage in challenging behaviors because they do not have a more socially appropriate way to communicate their wants, needs, and feelings. Speech-language pathologists should always be included when developing behavioral supports, particularly for students in this population. The FBA can help determine the goal, or function, of the student’s behavior and SLPs can help to plan for a replacement communicative behavior. For more information on supporting students with complex communication needs, see the TIES TIP series on communication.
While PBIS offers an intensifying continuum of support, it is important to remember that all students, including students with significant cognitive disabilities should always receive access to Tier 1 instruction and may or may not require additional Tier 2 or 3 support. For additional information as to how students with significant cognitive disabilities can specifically be included in all tiers of PBIS, see the resources listed at the end of this TIPS.
PBIS is a multi-tiered system of support framework that is intentionally designed to meet the behavioral and social needs of all students regardless of disability status. Research has shown that students with significant cognitive disabilities are often not included in PBIS implementation efforts (Walker & Loman, 2022) and miss out on the positive outcomes of the system. By including all students in PBIS, teachers can more efficiently and effectively support students with significant cognitive disabilities in inclusive environments.
- CEEDAR Center. (2015). Evidence-based practices for classroom and behavior management: Tier 2 and Tier 3 strategies. https://ceedar.education.ufl.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Behavior-Management-tier-two-and-three-strategies.pdf
- Conradi, L. A., Walker, V. L., McDaid, P., Johnson, H. N., & Strickland-Cohen, M. K. (2022). A literature review of School-Wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports for students with extensive support needs. TIES Center, University of Minnesota. www.tiescenter.org
- Johnson, H. N., Carpenter, M. E., Borosh, A. M., & Folkerts, R. (2022). Including Students With Significant Support Needs in the Development of Behavior Support Plans. Inclusive Practices, 1(3), 106–113. https://doi.org/10.1177/27324745221082953
- McDaid, P., Strickland-Cohen, M. K., Walker, V. L., & Conradi, L. A. (2022). TIES Brief: Providing access to School-wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports for students with significant cognitive disabilities. TIES Center, University of Minnesota. www.tiescenter.org
- OSEP Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. (2021a). What is School-wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. https://www.pbis.org/topics/school-wide
- OSEP Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. (2021b). Why use PBIS to support students with disabilities? https://www.pbis.org/topics/disability
- OSEP Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. (2021c). Why use PBIS to support students with disabilities? https://www.pbis.org/pbis/tier-3
- Simonsen, B., Putnam, R., Yaneck, K., Evanovich, L., Shaw, S., Shuttleton, C., Morris, K., & Mitchell, B. (n.d.). Supporting Students with Disabilities within a PBIS Framework. Center on PBIS, University of Oregon. www.pbis.org
- Boden, L. J., Jolivette, K., & Alberto, P. A. (2018). The effects of check-in, check-up, checkout for students with moderate intellectual disability during on- and off-site vocational training. Journal of Classroom Interaction, 53(1), 4–21.
- Bruhn, A. L., Lane, K. L., & Hirsch, S. E. (2013). A Review of Tier 2 Interventions Conducted Within Multitiered Models of Behavioral Prevention. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 22(3), 171–189. https://doi.org/10.1177/1063426613476092
- Kern, L., Gaier, K., Kelly, S., Nielsen, C. M., Commisso, C. E., & Wehby, J. H. (2020). An Evaluation of Adaptations Made to Tier 2 Social Skill Training Programs. Journal of Applied School Psychology, 36(2), 155–172. https://doi.org/10.1080/15377903.2020.1714858
- Kurth, J. A., Ruppar, A. L., McQueston, J. A., McCabe, K. M., Johnston, R., & Toews, S. G. (2018). Types of Supplementary Aids and Services for Students With Significant Support Needs. The Journal of Special Education, 52(4), 208–218. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022466918791156
- Noltemeyer, A., Palmer, K., James, A. G., & Wiechman, S. (2018). School-Wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (SWPBIS): A synthesis of existing research. International Journal of School &Amp; Educational Psychology, 7(4), 253–262. https://doi.org/10.1080/21683603.2018.1425169
- Walker, V. L., & Loman, S. L. (2021). Strategies for Including Students With Extensive Support Needs in SWPBIS. Inclusive Practices, 1(1), 23–32. https://doi.org/10.1177/27324745211000307
TIPS Series: TIP #27, September 2022
The information in this Brief is not an endorsement of any identified products. Products identified in this Brief are shared solely as examples to help communicate information about ways to reach the desired goals for students.
All rights reserved. Any or all portions of this document may be reproduced without prior permission, provided the source is cited as:
- Johnson, H. N., Wakeman, S. Y., & Clausen, A. M. (2022). Including ALL Students in Schoolwide Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (TIPS Series: TIP #27). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, TIES Center.
TIES Center is the national technical assistance center on inclusive practices and policies. Its purpose is to create sustainable changes in kindergarten-grade 8 school and district educational systems so that students with significant cognitive disabilities can fully engage in the same instructional and non-instructional activities as their general education peers, while being instructed in a way that meets individual learning needs. TIES Center is led by the National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO) at the Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota, and includes the following additional collaborating partners: Arizona Department of Education, CAST, University of Cincinnati, University of Kentucky, University of North Carolina – Charlotte, and University of North Carolina – Greensboro.
TIES Center is supported through a Cooperative Agreement (#H326Y170004) with the Research to Practice Division, Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Education or Offices within it. Project Officer: Susan Weigert
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