TIES TIPS Foundations of Inclusion

TIP #26: Making Universal Supports (Tier 1) within a Schoolwide Positive Interventions and Supports More Accessible for All Students

TIES Center, TIES Inclusive Practice Series (TIPS).

Introduction

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is an evidence-based, tiered framework designed to support the academic, behavioral, and social emotional needs of all students, including students with significant cognitive disabilities. In spite of the compelling support for the implementation of PBIS, students with significant cognitive disabilities often have limited access to foundational practices (Tier 1) within the PBIS framework (Loman et al., 2018). This TIPS provides recommendations regarding actions that schools can take to make participation in universal supports accessible and meaningful for all students, including students with significant cognitive disabilities.

Evidence

PBIS establishes learning environments within general education settings that promote success for all students by teaching desired skills and expectations and acknowledging appropriate student behavior. Traditionally, PBIS instruction and materials consist of written text and include specialized vocabulary (Kurth & Zagona, 2018). This presents a barrier for some students with significant cognitive disabilities, who may perceive information much more easily through visuals and simplified text. Also, students with significant cognitive disabilities who have complex communication needs may require additional communicative supports in order to demonstrate the expectations, rules, and routines their school has selected as a part of their PBIS framework (Kurth & Zagona, 2018). Teachers may assume that students with significant cognitive disabilities cannot benefit from PBIS based on perceived skill deficits. However, the least dangerous assumption (Donnellan, 1984) reminds us to assume an individual’s competence with high expectations for all aspects of an individual’s life. Supports, including those for behavior, should be designed to be no more different than necessary. Therefore, educators must intentionally consider how to implement PBIS with all students, using accommodations, modifications, and universal supports to ensure inclusivity and accessibility for all students.

Implementation

Students with significant cognitive disabilities can and should be included in all universal supports (Tier 1) within PBIS. Below are recommendations for potential ways school teams and educators can increase access and inclusion to the seven key Tier 1 practices.

PBIS Universal Supports: Foundational Systems & Key Practices

Action

Suggestions for Making Systems & Practices More Accessible for all Students

Leadership Team

  • Establishes systems and practices for universal supports (Tier 1)
  • Responsible for monitoring schoolwide data, ensuring equitable access to supports, and evaluating overall effectiveness of program
  • Engage in interdisciplinary collaborative teaming (e.g., administrators, general educators, special educators, related service providers) to gain input from professionals with diverse areas of expertise to guide planning for implementation in inclusive settings

Example: When planning school-based committees for the year, Kendra Richardson, middle school principal, works with the school’s leadership team and staff members to ensure the PBIS Team (and others) include interdisciplinary representation. This includes having professionals with diverse areas of expertise to guide planning for implementation of universal supports in inclusive settings. To help advocate for the inclusion of her students in universal supports across inclusive settings, Donna Salcido, special education teacher, volunteers to join the PBIS Team. Donna is comfortable representing a wide range of learners, including students with significant cognitive disabilities, as she plans for designing and implementing the schoolwide system.

PBIS Universal Supports: Foundational Systems & Key Practices

Action

Suggestions for Making Systems & Practices More Accessible for all Students

Establishing a Positive Inclusive Schoolwide Culture

  • Identify implementation of PBIS as a critical priority
  • Confirm school personnel agree PBIS implementation is critical to addressing social, emotional, and behavioral growth of all students
  • Administer an annual schoolwide belief survey that is designed to measure educator beliefs about student learning, problem-solving, and expectations for instructional effectiveness
  • Use data from survey to guide professional development and coaching supports specific to PBIS and effective ways to make universal supports accessible to all students

Example: As a part of the school’s comprehensive assessment system, at the beginning of the year, the PBIS Team supports the administration of a schoolwide belief survey. This survey is designed to measure educator beliefs about student learning, problem-solving, and expectations for instructional effectiveness, including students with significant cognitive disabilities. Once data has been gathered, the PBIS Team will use the information that was collected to guide professional development and coaching supports specific to PBIS and effective ways to make universal supports accessible to all students.

PBIS Universal Supports: Foundational Systems & Key Practices

Action

Suggestions for Making Systems & Practices More Accessible for all Students

Ongoing Data-Based Monitoring, Evaluation, & Dissemination

  • Review academic and behavioral outcome data monthly to help guide decisions and share with school personnel
  • Review fidelity data to measure implementation of critical components of PBIS universal supports (Tier 1) and share with school personnel
  • Annually, evaluate overall effectiveness of universal supports and share data with all stakeholders
  • Evaluate universal supports within the PBIS framework and ensure data collection tools are modified to assess the extent to which students with significant cognitive disabilities are included and are positively responding to preventative supports.
  • Include behavioral data gathered from students’ behavior intervention plans when evaluating overall student response to universal prevention efforts

Example: Prior to the start of the year, the PBIS Team evaluates the extent to which data collection tools (e.g., Tiered Fidelity Inventory; Algozzine et al., 2019) are inclusive of all student populations, including students with significant cognitive disabilities. Donna helps facilitate conversations regarding modifications to data collection tools that may be needed to ensure tools accurately monitor and assess school-wide response to preventative universal supports.

PBIS Universal Supports: Foundational Systems & Key Practices

Action

Suggestions for Making Systems & Practices More Accessible for all Students

Schoolwide Positive Expectations & Behaviors are Defined & Taught

  • Identify 3-5 positively stated schoolwide expectations
  • Develop behavior lesson plans to teach schoolwide expectations
  • Establish a calendar for teaching behavior lesson plans along with planned reviews and boosters to facilitate retention and generalization of skills
  • Ensure behavioral lesson plans include evidence-based practices (EBPs; e.g., systematic instruction)
  • Use principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to improve how school teams plan, design, implement, and assess the use of visual supports (e.g., schoolwide matrix), and teaching strategies
  • Include schoolwide expectations and rules as a part of students’ augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems when teaching skills to provide them a means to communicate knowledge of behavioral expectations
  • Include social skill instruction in students’ IEP that are aligned with school-wide expectations

Example: During summer planning, the PBIS Team develops a schedule for explicitly teaching school-wide expectations at the beginning of the year and following extended breaks. Through a collaborative process, the PBIS Team develops behavioral lesson plans that will be used by all teachers to teach schoolwide expectations across all school settings. These behavioral lesson plans use principles of UDL and include evidence-based practices to ensure content is accessible to all students. Additionally, Donna works together with Lily Cardoso, speech language pathologist, to include schoolwide expectations and rules as a part of students’ AAC systems when teaching skills to students. Lily also advises the team to include supplemental video models in behavioral lesson plans as another form of representation. These can also be useful when teachers are providing booster sessions for students based on the data.

PBIS Universal Supports: Foundational Systems & Key Practices

Action

Suggestions for Making Systems & Practices More Accessible for all Students

Establishing Classroom Expectations & Routines Aligned to Schoolwide Expectations

  • Explain how schoolwide expectations are applied to specific classroom routines

  • Establishes a safe, predictable, and positive learning environment

Example: Donna and Lily provide guidance to Mr. Carter, a second grade general education teacher, on how to increase opportunities for students with significant cognitive disabilities to demonstrate their understanding of schoolwide expectations and classroom routines using their AAC devices.

PBIS Universal Supports: Foundational Systems & Key Practices

Action

Suggestions for Making Systems & Practices More Accessible for all Students

Continuum of Procedures for Encouraging Expected Behavior

  • Use an acknowledgement system in addition to behavior specific praise to acknowledge students positively for demonstrating appropriate behaviors
  • Provide additional individualized reinforcement for students when available rewards are not reinforcing or when tokens may be too abstract
  • Adjust frequency and immediacy of reinforcement
  • Collaborative teaming should be used to ensure acknowledgement events are fully inclusive and accessible to all students

Example: The PBIS Team uses collaborative teaming when planning, implementing, and assessing their school’s positive acknowledgement system. Stakeholders with knowledge of students with significant cognitive disabilities (e.g., special education teacher, speech language pathologists, family/community member) help to guide the team in developing a system that is both physically and cognitively accessible in general education settings and aligned to students’ unique support needs.

PBIS Universal Supports: Foundational Systems & Key Practices

Action

Suggestions for Making Systems & Practices More Accessible for all Students

Procedures for Encouraging School-Family Partnerships

  • Include input from families and school community members on universal supports (Tier 1) to ensure program is culturally responsive and reflects the values of the local community
  • Ensure the representation of stakeholders who are familiar with the unique needs of students with significant cognitive disabilities

Example: In the development of the school’s universal prevention system (Tier 1), the PBIS Team sought membership and active participation from diverse families and school community members to ensure systems and practices are fully accessible, culturally responsive, and reflect the values of the local community.

(Adapted from Loman et al., 2018 & www.pbis.org )

Summary

Universal supports (Tier 1) should be available to all students. Through the use of integrated systems (e.g., collaborative teaming) and efficient and effective practices (e.g., universally designed positive behavior lesson plans, systematic instruction, communication supports), teachers can improve the accessibility of universal supports (Tier 1) within a PBIS framework in inclusive school-wide settings for students with significant cognitive disabilities.

Resources

  • Algozzine, B., Barrett, S., Eber, L., George, H., Horner, R., Lewis, T., Putnam, B., Swain-Bradway, J., McIntosh, K., & Sugai, G. (2019). School-wide PBIS Tiered Fidelity Inventory. OSEP Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. www.pbis.org
  • OSEP Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. (2021a). What is classroom PBIS? https://www.pbis.org/topics/classroom-pbis
  • OSEP Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. (2021b). 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. (2021c). What is Tier 1 support? https://www.pbis.org/pbis/tier-1
  • OSEP Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. (2021d). Why use PBIS to support students with disabilities? https://www.pbis.org/topics/disability
  • Simonsen, B., & Myers, D. (2015). Classwide positive behavior interventions and supports: A guide to proactive classroom management. The Guilford Press.
  • Taub, D., Wakeman, S., Saunders, A., Thurlow, M. L., & Lazarus, S. S. (2019). Using the least dangerous assumption in educational decisions (TIPS Series: Tip #6). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, TIES Center.

References

TIPS Series: TIP #23, 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). Making universal supports (Tier 1) within a PBIS more accessible for all students (TIPS Series: TIP #26). 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

TIES Center

University of Minnesota

Institute on Community Integration

2025 East River Parkway

Minneapolis, MN 55414

Phone: 612-626-1530

www.tiescenter.org

This document is available in alternate formats upon request.

The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity employer and educator.