Positive Behavior Interventions


A behavior is an action in which a person conducts oneself. The person, organization, or society in charge dictates whether a behavior is desired or undesired. Response to behaviors should always reflect the action and not the individual. For example, students should always be viewed as good kids, even when engaged in undesired behaviors. It is important that the adult personnel make known that they favor the student, not the behavior. Using strategies that reinforce positive behavior will decrease the undesired behaviors.

Special Education Discipline: Suspension and Expulsion

IDEA Section 1415(k)(1)

1415(k)(1)(B) / 1415(k)(1)(D)(i): Students with disabilities may be suspended up to 10 consecutive school days (equal to their peers without disabilities), but must continue to be educated and receive services during this time if the suspension is considered a “change in placement” (removed more than 10 days in a row or removed for more than 10 school days for behaviors that are similar).

1414(k)(1)(E): During the 10 day suspension, the IEP team needs to determine if the behavior was manifested from the student having a disability.

1415(k)(1)(C): If it is determined that the behavior was not manifested from having a disability, disciplinary procedures applicable to students without disabilities will be applied in the same manner.

1415(k)(1)(F): If it is determined that the behavior is manifested from having a disability,

  • The educational team will conduct a functional behavior assessment

  • Implement the behavior intervention plan (or review and revise a necessary that plan)

  • Return the child to the placement in which the child was removed, unless parents and the local school system agree to change placement (as part of the modification to the behavior intervention plan).

3 Part Video Series

Sample Strategies for Common Undesirable Behaviors Manifested from an Identified Disability


1. Behavior is a form of communication.

2. The best strategy is to collaborate with the educational team and use consistent strategies throughout all settings.

3. If a strategy is needed, it should be indicated in the PLAAFP and in the supplemental aid, program modification, support, and service section.



Sample Proactive Strategies


Failure to follow a command

  • Use a First-Then board

  • Use a choice board

  • Establish a clear routine with structure

  • Integrate motivating themes (based on student interest), objects, or music into the lesson

  • Present the instruction using methods that the students best receive information (i.e: picture exchange communication symbols, teacher demonstration, peer models)

  • Praise small successes and success of other students

Verbal Disruptions

Vocally interfering with the communication between others

  • Show the picture communication symbol for a quiet mouth while also saying “quiet mouth”

  • Praise other students for having a quiet mouth

  • Provide students with a fidget (or an object from a sensory bag) while presenting instructions

  • Engage the student as a support to demonstrate the task (give the student a job)

  • Provide the student(s) a short movement break

Physical Disruptions

Using one’s body to interfere with the communication between others

  • Show the picture communication symbol for a calm body while also saying “calm body”

  • Praise other students for having a calm body

  • Provide the student with a heavy work movement break (jumping high, push-ups, animal walks)

  • Provide the student with an item to squeeze (from a sensory bag)

  • Engage the student as a support to demonstrate the task (give the student a job)


Falling to the floor with intent

  • Remain patient and calm, and provide some space

  • Use a First-Then Board with a motivating object

  • Use picture symbols with verbal direction

  • Praise others for listening


Fleeing or run from an assigned area without permission

  • Use motivating techniques (objects, music)

  • Develop environmental boundaries (i.e: Standing mats without creating a fire hazard)

  • Use close proximity

  • Maintain consistent engagement


Displaying a violent attitude in an area, towards self or others

  • Maintain a calm body and voice

  • Move other students to a safe location in the room or have them exit the room

  • If possible, clear the space of large or possibly dangerous objects

  • Turn body to the side of the student (do not directly face the student)

  • Give the student space and use any known calming strategies


Deliberately causing harm to oneself

  • Maintain a calm body and voice

  • Assess the level of risk (high risk: call for support)

  • Move other students to a safe location in the room or have them exit the room

  • If possible, clear the space of large or possibly dangerous objects

  • Use sensory soothing techniques (i.e: squeeze pillow, motivating object, mats)

  • Use picture communication symbols to provide the student a method of communicating

Variables that Affect Behaviors Commonly Associated with Students with Disabilities



  • Larger rooms may communicate for students to run freely. Use structures such as standing mats to section the room or make the room to appear smaller.

  • Decreasing the visual size of the room can support in reducing the visual stimuli and increase time on task.


  • Larger enclosed environments tend to bounce sounds off the wall, which can cause an uncomfortable sensory response.

  • Smaller enclosed environments may not allow sounds to escape, causing them to increase the auditory sensory input.

  • Outdoor environments offer diverse extrinsic auditory input that can cause undesirable behavior (elopement, noncompliance, or aggression) depending on how the input is received.

  • Using sound reduction headphones can support in reducing the extrinsic auditory input.

Structural Design:

  • An open room with equipment laid out communicates to many children ‘come play’. Use routine, physical barriers, and picture communication symbols to teach and reinforce expectations including the structure of the class.

  • Each learning environment will require its own unique structural design based on the unique attributes of the students.

  • Creating pathways and dividing the room in sections works well for many students who display a limited attention span. Sections are areas specifically designed for different lesson segments. For Example: A corner for the attending to a presentation and another part of the learning environment for higher intensity levels of engagement.

Instructional Flow


  • Without structure, students tend to display noncompliant behaviors.

  • Practice and review the expectations

  • Design the sequence of the lesson (instant activity, warm-up, instructional overview, practice, refinement, closure)

  • Use picture communication symbols with a schedule board


  • Change or tasks or environments can be difficult.

  • Provide visual (pictures and schedule boards), verbal (countdown or description of what is to come), and auditory (timer signal, bell, or vocal cue) prompts to prepare for the completion and start of tasks.

  • Use motivating objects to support transition (choose a toy to bring during the transition)

Instructional Intake:

  • Students have a tendency to elope, display verbal disruption, or noncompliance if they are required to sit for an extended period of time, stay engaged in a single task for an extended period of time, or if information is presented too much all at once.

  • Offer movement opportunities every 3 - 5 minutes (i.e: help demonstrate, show equipment, hand out equipment, whole class quick break).

  • Provide students an object to hold when expected to attend for a long period of time (beyond 2 minutes).

  • Present instructional information into parts to avoid overload.


Background Experiences and Exposure:

  • Students come to the physical education class with a multitude of diverse experiences with adults, peers, movement, structure, expectations, etc.

  • Displayed behaviors will be based off of those prior experiences which can be best supported through reflection and collaboration.

Unique Attributes:

  • Cognitive, psychomotor, and social-emotional ability levels

  • Age, family configuration, socioeconomic status, religious background, sexual orientation, ethnic heritage, body image, primary language.

  • Knowing students as individuals increases the ability to reflect upon their displayed behaviors which can be supported through a collaborative approach.

External Factors (outside of physical education and the school setting):

  • Events that occurred in the morning prior to or on the way to school.

  • The last time the student ate a meal.

  • A recent change in routine or the structure of the family (i.e: change of residence, parent/guardian is no longer around, addition to the family).

Adult Personnel

(i.e: teachers, support staff, therapist, etc.)

Facial and body language

  • Smile

  • Open body (don’t cross arms) and show palms

  • Make eye contact (don’t require it back in return)

  • Ensure personal space (ask “may I help you?” if you need to provide physical guidance)

Pitch of the voice

  • Vary levels of enthusiasm

  • Use an evenly paced calm voice

Maintain a flexible mindset to adjust based on unforeseeable situations
Praise students and provide clear specific feedback
All staff should refrain from speaking about students or starting side conversations during class.
All staff should hold disagreements on a situation until after class
Staff should know their roles and responsibilities while in the class

Proximity to student

  • Some students become anxious, overwhelmed, or overly excited when adult personnel is too close

  • Use progressive strategies to decrease the distance and increase performance


Background Experiences and Exposure:

  • The peers of students with disabilities come to the physical education setting with a multitude of diverse background experience.

  • Prior experiences will lead to a positive or destructive environment

  • Teach (through games, discussion, reflection) and model the expected behaviors in class.

  • Developing a cohesive and collaborative learning environment should be taught or reviewed starting the first day of each school year.

Tools to Enhance Communication and Decrease Undesirable Behaviors

Using a picture exchange communication system (PECS) consists of six phases that uses picture communication symbols to teach individuals how to request a desired item or action and become a communicative partner.

*Providing students a voice in making choices gives them a sense of ownership over their learning.

Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
Getting Started Video
Phases 1 - 6 Video

Develop your own picture communication symbols and boards

Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA)

An educational team process to identify the function (the reason behind engagement in a behavior) of specific undesirable behaviors displayed by a student. The information collected during the assessment process is used to discuss and identify effective positive behavior supports.

Three Parts of an FBA
How to Collect ABC Data Analysis
Blank ABC Analysis Form

Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP)

A detailed plan that is developed based off of the FBA data and includes specific information regarding the target behavior and behavior goals. It consists of 4 areas: Function, Frequency, Severity, and Consequence.

  • Steps are designed to decrease the occurrence of undesirable behaviors and increase occurrences of desired or replacement behaviors.

  • Sample BIP from PBISWorld.com

Click Below and Download Sample BIP in Word Document

Increasing Desired Behaviors




  • Reinforcing the desired behavior, you can replace the undesired behavior.

  • Provide the same function, but in a more appropriate method.

  • The more time the student engages in the desired behavior, the less time the student has to engage in the undesired behavior.

Target Behavior

  • Fran screams and cries when provided direction to sit and listen to instruction with the whole class.


  • Fran will choose an object of interest and may key that item of interest while she sits quietly with her peers. She may exchange the items and may choose a mat/cushion to sit on.

  • The function of the behavior is to seek attention.

  • An intervention that makes behavior occur less frequent or not at all.

  • Stop allowing the undesirable behavior from obtaining the reinforcement that it previously had gotten.

  • Make the undesirable behavior ineffective.

  • Extinction should never be used as the only procedure in place to replace the occurrence of a behavior, unless it is a minor desirable behavior such as disruption, tantrums, or excessive noise).

Target Behavior

  • Throughout class, Brian will walk over to Ms. James (paraeducator) and begin a conversation about trains. She has been engaging in the conversation which keeps Brian away from the task/instruction.

  • Ms. James unknowingly has been reinforcing James’ attention seeking behavior.


  • Ms. James was given a picture symbol for physical education’. Prior to class, Brian was taught that the picture card indicated that Ms. James was only available to talk about the physical education class.

  • If Brian start to discuss any other topic than the lesson focus, Ms. James would show and point to the picture card without engaging verbally with Brian.

  • Without the reinforcement from Ms. James, Brian stopped walking over to talk about trains.

  • This process reduces the use of punishment and guides a child’s behavior to be more desirable.

  • Use verbal redirection that is specific to telling the student how to behave.

  • It is important to model the desirable behavior.

  • Provide the student with options.

  • Guide the student to a new location.

  • Redirection should occur before the behavior elevates.

Target Behavior

  • Shawntelle throws objects without direction whether she picks them up off the floor or the object is handed to her. Nearby students can be hit by the objects.


  • Provide Shawntelle a corner in the room with 5 soft objects and a target.

  • Use verbal direction for example, Shawntelle we are using our feet to kick over here. Let’s go over and throw 5 objects and then continue kicking the ball with our feet.

  • This is an immediate response using an object of interest to promote a desirable behavior.

  • Cause and effect (Do this, get that); or the use of a First-Then Board

  • Immediately present the object when the student engages in the desired behavior.

  • Offer the student a choice from a selection of objects.

Target Behavior

  • Rasheed has difficulty staying with his group during station rotations.


  • Knowing Rasheed likes the red ball, he is allowed to hold onto that red ball while he is with the group. If Rasheed moves away from the group, the ball is taken away while the teacher says, “Stay with group, then red ball”

  • Overtime, the ball is the reinforcement to stay with the group.

Target Behavior

  • During physical education, Hope doesn’t want to participate. When the teacher attempts to encourage her engagement, Hope yells and swings her arms and legs around.


  • Knowing Hope loves to dance to “Can’t Stop This Feeling” by Justin Timberlake; the teacher develops a token board.

  • The expectation is that Hope successfully engages in one activity and she then gets to dance to the song.

  • Once successful, the expectation becomes 2,3,4, and 5 activities followed by dancing to the song.

  • Eventually, as Hope engages in the entire lesson, she gets to listen to the song before she leaves.

  • Finally, the song is removed after Hope no longer needs the song to participate in physical education. (Note: This may take a few months).

  • Catch the student demonstrating a desirable behavior and praise the behavior.

  • The praise could also be directed to peers demonstrating desired behaviors in the area of the student displaying undesirable behaviors.

  • Reinforcement can be a smile, high five, verbal statement, or grouping students with favorable peers.

Target Behavior

  • Andrew walks into the physical education class, walks around the room with his peers and sits in his designated area.


  • The teacher gives Andrew a smile, high five, and says “Andrew, great job finding your seat after your walk and waiting quietly. High Five!”

  • The teacher may prompt Andrew to perform the desired behavior of sitting after the walk by praising other students such as saying, “I like how Suzanna, Toby, and Jasmine sat down after their walk. Great job!”

Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS)

Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS)

PBIS World - A website that directs step by step from the identified behavior through the Tiers and offers data tracking sheets.

  • PBIS improves social, emotional and academic outcomes for all students, including students with disabilities and students from underrepresented groups.

  • It is a Three-Tiered Approach: Tier 1 (All) - Tier 2 (Some) - Tier 3 (Few)

  • A school-wide behavior intervention system with set expectations.

  • Students receive a reinforcement (often in the form of a ticket) from the teacher when an expectation is met and the students are responsible for keeping their tickets. (Token Economy System)

  • The school sets a range of rewards worth various amounts of tickets. Students save their tickets to earn a desired reward (reinforcement).

  • The most important aspect of the PBIS program is the Teacher-Student conversations focused on changing or reinforcing behavior. During the conversation. The ticket is used to provide the opportunity for the conversations.

PBIS Rewards - A digital form allowing a school to go paperless

Restorative Practices

A specific process that responds to wrongdoing and harm placed on someone with a focus on repairing relationships rather than applying punishment. It brings together those who have caused harm with those they have directly or indirectly harmed. It focuses on supporting needs, honoring inherent value, strengthening relationships between individuals, as well as social connections within communities.

There are 3 conditions that must occur:

  1. The harm or injustice must be acknowledged

  2. Equity must be restored or developed

  3. Future intentions must be addressed

Foundations to Successful Restorative Practice:

  • Trust

  • Positive conflict engagement

  • Equity

    • The core principle of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act’s Procedural Safeguards is parental and student engagement. All efforts need to be made to dissolve barriers that would keep all parties from participating in the restorative practice process. This includes, but is not limited to:

      • Limited English proficiency, transportation, work schedules, cultural and socioeconomic differences

Based on individualized need, a student with a disability may require accommodations, modifications, or pre-teaching to participate meaningfully in the process.

Restorative Dialogue using “I” Affective Statements:

This allows an individual to make an emotional connection with others without judgement or blame. It is a process of communicating a need while building, trust, empathy, and mutual concern.

Sample Affective Statement Starters:

  • When I see/hear…

  • I feel…

  • Because I need…

Using a ‘Social Story’ can support students with disabilities in recognizing their behavior. A ‘Social Story’ is specific information regarding what to expect and/or the expected behavior while engaged in a particular situation, event, or activity. Using picture communication symbols combined with words, the student will either read or have the story read to them. Example

Restorative Dialogue using Questions:

This provides an opportunity to reflect on harmful behavior and the impact it has had on others.

Sample Restorative Questions: Video 1 / Video 2

  • What happened?

  • What were you thinking when it happened?

  • What have you thought since?

  • What has been the worst part?

  • What did you want to happen?

  • What needs to happen to make things right?

Students with disabilities may have a difficult time understanding the questions or how to answer if they are the individuals who conducted the harm.

  • Possible strategies to support comprehension:

    • Picture communication symbols

    • Relating the wrongdoing or harmful act to a personal experience

    • Visual reenactment

    • Use a social story to support the understanding and answering of the questions.

Restorative Circles and Conferences:

A formal dispute resolution option facilitated by a trained restorative practice facilitator. It supports everyone involved to recognize their role in the dispute, and determine the best way to repair the harm.

  • Occurs after the IEP team uses a dispute resolution option outlined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. It offers participants an opportunity to repair the strained relationship so the team can continue to function together while engaging in the ongoing process of planning for the needs of the student.

Sensory Implications and Integrations

This section addresses sensory implications for individuals who are challenged to discriminate, control, and organize sensory input, causing hypersensitive (over-sensitive or easily impacted) or hyposensitive (under-sensitive or needs more input to react) reactions that impact performance of desirable behaviors.

Recommendation: Collaborate with an occupational therapist (OT) to discuss interventions and strategies that can be applied to individual needs. The OT may request to observe the child in your class. You can fill out the Sensory Processing Assessment of Responses Form (SPAR) to guide your discussion with our OT.

Five Senses That Typically Impact Students in Physical Education



Short List of Common Attributes
(Every Student is Unique)

Sample Strategies


*In physical education, tactile and proprioceptive strategies typically are the same.

Processing input through touch

  • Avoids group activities

  • Avoids holding objects

  • Seeks out or specifically avoids physical interaction with others.

  • Avoids or seeks out interacting with objects of specific textures.

  • Poor balance

Provide students with options of what objects they are comfortable using.

Processing input through sight

  • Poor balance

  • Poor attention span

  • Difficulty with body coordination

  • May become distracted by light sources (fluorescent)

  • Difficulty tracking moving objects

  • Difficulty entering an unfamiliar room with change of lighting

Processing input through sound

  • Poor attention span

  • Poor balance

  • Difficulty with changing activities

  • Overly sensitive to loud or sudden noises

  • Difficulty entering unfamiliar environments

  • Difficulty following directions

  • Noise Cancelling Headphones

  • Warn students using pictures and words

  • When possible decrease the visual stimulation

  • Give the student an object that is comforting

  • When possible decrease environmental sounds

  • Show the student what is making the sound

  • Allow the student to work in an area that is most comfortable

Processing input through the joints and muscles, providing awareness for the body in space.

  • Difficulty judging force production

  • Poor static and dynamic balance

  • Difficulty planning movements

  • Difficulty with body awareness

  • Poor posture and muscle tone


*Has the most important influence on other sensory systems.

Processing input through movement to maintain balance. This system is impacted by speed, direction, and position of the body.

There can be two extremes (Hyper/Hypo)

  • Seeks out or avoids movement

  • Poor balance, posture, and muscle tone

  • Poor static muscle control

  • May get dizzy very easily or not at all