Introduction to Positive Behavior Supports (PBS)

by Justine McDonald, Positive Behavior Supports Coordinator


By now, you may or may not have heard about PBS.  Either way, let’s talk about it by addressing some frequently asked questions.

Q: What is PBS?

A:  According to DDS, Positive Behavior Support (PBS) is “a systematic, person centered approach to understanding the reasons for behavior and applying evidence based practices for prevention, proactive intervention, teaching and responding to behavior, with the goal of achieving meaningful social outcomes, increasing learning and enhancing the quality of life across the lifespan.”  It’s primary focus is on prevention rather than reaction.  It emphasizes proactive strategies such as offering choices and empowering people where they live and work by creating more supportive environments that are sensitive to individuals’ preferences and interests.  Building rapport, communicating and listening, providing structure and consistency, and creating a positive and reinforcing atmosphere through social praise and re-direction are other universal concepts to PBS.

Q: What are the three Tiers of PBS?

A: The three Tiers of support ensure that every individual gets the level of support they need.  Universal Supports is a level of support that everyone receives all the time that consists of proactive intervention.  If slightly more support is needed (such as a formal reinforcement program with contingencies) a “targeted” support would be indicated.   If even more support is required (i.e. use of restrictive  interventions), then an intensive support plan would be needed.  This visual of a pyramid below may help you conceptualize these levels of support.

Q: Why is Life-Skills, Inc. implementing PBS?

A: Life-Skills, Inc. is implementing PBS (specifically Universal Supports) for two reasons.  First, Universal Supports and its focus on prevention are best practice and we have evidence within our agency that it benefits the individuals we serve.  We have seen general positive outcomes such as a more proactive culture and specific positive outcomes such as decreased staff turnover rates associated with Universal interventions.  Second, PBS is a DDS  (Department of Developmental Services) initiative in which DDS is recommending PBS implementation to improve the quality of behavioral practices and quality of life for individuals served by provider agencies.

Q: What research is out there about PBS to show that it is effective as best clinical practice?

A: Positive Behavior Supports has mainly been implemented in school systems with a fair amount of research to indicate its effectiveness in that setting.  It has just recently migrated into adult services for people with developmental disabilities so there is less research demonstrating its effectiveness in this setting. Massachusetts is one of only a few states nationwide to support the PBS initiative in adult services.


Webster Five Donates $3,000 To Life-Skills, Inc.

Webster, MA – The Webster Five Foundation has announced that as part of its Web of Caring to Make a Difference program, it will donate $3,000 to Life-Skills, Inc. in Webster, MA. Life-Skills, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) organization that provides day habilitation program, residential, and vocational services to adults with developmental, emotional and intellectual disabilities. The funds will contribute to purchasing new technological equipment for the individuals that the agency currently serves.

websterfivefoundationWebster Five’s Web of Caring to Make a Difference program reinforces the bank’s long-standing initiative to give back to the community by supporting local organizations that are making a difference. Life-Skills, Inc. aligns with this goal through its efforts to assist individuals in Central Massachusetts in expanding their career and life opportunities. The organization operates several small businesses that provide meaningful employment and vocational and social skills training for these individuals.

The technology purchased will fill a current need for individuals in their Day Habilitation 1 and Fundamental Responding Skills Day Habilitation programs. Access to iPads offers a variety of uses to the individuals involved in these programs, including staff. The latest technology will allow for web-based learning and access to specialty literacy applications, communication apps for those with verbal difficulties, built-in accessibility features to aid individuals with hearing loss and low vision, and with the connection of a switch, individuals with physical and motor difficulties can use the iPad. Additionally, access to iPads promotes community integration, due to its portable nature. Someone with verbal difficulties can use it to communicate with others in public settings; boosting confidence and self-esteem. Access to social media and video chatting removes geographic boundaries and allows these individuals to remain virtually connected to their families and friends, easily exchanging information and sharing life events. Life-Skills, Inc. hopes to make learning stimulating and fun with the addition of this new technology.

Richard T. Leahy, President and Chief Executive Officer of Webster Five, stated, “We appreciate what Life-Skills, Inc. does for the disabled adults in our community. Providing access to vocational training and employment through small businesses, along with other educational and learning opportunities is extremely meaningful to the individuals they serve and the community as a whole. Webster Five is pleased to play a role in providing technology to further enhance the services offered.”

Life-Skills, Inc.’s CEO, J. Thomas Amick, said “We are very grateful to Webster Five for their donation, as it generously contributes to our new technology purchases, which will ultimately improve the teaching methods, learning experiences and opportunities for everyone involved.”

About Web of Caring to Make a Difference
Web of Caring to Make a Difference is a bank-wide community program created by Webster Five as a tangible means for the bank as an organization, and its employees as individuals to make a positive impact by supporting local organizations that also are making a difference. Through the Webster Five Foundation, the program has donated more than $1.5 million to various local non-profit organizations for programs that support expanding and improving access to education, culture and the arts, social services, charitable activities and community development. Requests for funding are reviewed by the board of directors and are awarded to established 501(c)(3) organizations in the above sectors that qualify for funding.

About Webster Five
Webster Five is a full-service, $729 million community bank with a long-standing tradition of fiscal strength, personal service and community support. The main office is in Webster, Massachusetts, with branch offices in Webster, Dudley, Oxford, Auburn, Worcester and Shrewsbury.