What is Positive Behaviour Support (PBS)?

Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) is a comprehensive and evidence-based approach designed to improve quality of life and reduce challenging behaviours. It is particularly helpful for people living with developmental and neurological differences. PBS combines principles from applied behaviour analysis, person-centred planning, and social validity to create tailored interventions that address the specific needs and preferences of each person.

By focusing on understanding the underlying causes of behaviour that challenges, PBS seeks to promote positive behaviours through proactive strategies, skill development, and environmental modifications.

A crucial aspect of Positive Behaviour Support is its emphasis on collaboration with the person, their family, and other support networks. This collaborative approach ensures that interventions are person-centred and effective, making everyone involved feel included and valued in the process.

Understanding PBS is crucial for effective crisis management because it provides a structured framework for preventing and responding to crises. By proactively addressing the root causes of challenging behaviours and promoting positive alternatives, PBS helps reduce the frequency and intensity of crises.

What Are Proactive Strategies?

Proactive strategies within Positive Behaviour Support are designed to prevent challenging behaviours before they occur by addressing the underlying causes and creating supportive environments. These strategies focus on enhancing the person’s quality of life, teaching new skills, and modifying the environment to reduce the likelihood of triggers that may lead to crises. By anticipating potential issues and implementing preventative measures, proactive strategies aim to minimise the need for reactive interventions – fostering a more stable and positive atmosphere.

Examples of proactive measures include developing individualised support plans that incorporate the person’s strengths and preferences, teaching communication and coping skills, and making environmental adjustments such as reducing sensory overload or providing structured routines. For instance, if a person becomes agitated in noisy environments, a proactive strategy might involve creating a quiet space where they can retreat when needed. Similarly, if transitions between activities are a trigger, providing clear visual schedules can help ease anxiety and prevent escalation. When care providers implement Positive Behaviour Support, these proactive approaches not only mitigate the risk of crises but also empower people to navigate their environments more effectively and independently.

The Escalation Cycle

The escalation cycle is a conceptual framework used to understand and manage the progression of behaviour that challenges. This cycle outlines the typical stages that behaviours go through, from the initial trigger to the eventual stabilisation after a crisis. By recognising and addressing each stage, caregivers and support workers can intervene more effectively to prevent behaviours from escalating and provide the right support.


The trigger phase is the initial stage of the escalation cycle, where an event or stimulus sets off a chain reaction leading to challenging behaviour. Triggers can vary widely among people but often include environmental factors, physical discomfort, or emotional stressors. Common examples of triggers include sudden changes in routine, sensory overload, communication challenges, or unmet needs. Identifying and understanding these triggers is crucial for implementing proactive strategies to prevent escalation.


During the escalation phase, a person’s behaviour begins to intensify as they react to the trigger. This phase is marked by increasing signs of distress and agitation, which may include verbal outbursts, physical restlessness, or withdrawal. Indicators of escalating behaviour can include raised voice, pacing, clenched fists, or heightened anxiety. The importance of early recognition of these signs cannot be overstated, as it allows for timely intervention to de-escalate the situation and prevent it from reaching a crisis point, fostering a sense of vigilance and proactive response.


The crisis phase is characterised by the peak of challenging behaviour, where the person may become highly agitated, aggressive, or self-injurious. This is the most intense and potentially dangerous stage of the escalation cycle. Managing this phase effectively is critical to ensure the safety of the person and those around them. Interventions during a crisis should focus on maintaining a calm and controlled environment, using de-escalation techniques, and providing immediate support to the person to help them regain control. Effective crisis management can significantly reduce the duration and severity of the episode and pave the way for a smoother transition to the de-escalation and stabilisation phases.


The de-escalation phase follows the peak of the crisis and involves calming the person down and reducing the intensity of their behaviour. During this stage, the focus is on using strategies that promote relaxation and help the person regain a sense of control. Techniques such as speaking in a calm and reassuring tone, providing physical space, and using relaxation tools like deep breathing exercises or sensory items can be effective.

The goal of de-escalation is to create a safe and supportive environment that allows the person to gradually transition from a state of high arousal to a calmer and more manageable state. Effective de-escalation requires patience, empathy, and a deep understanding of the person’s needs and triggers.


The stabilisation phase is the final stage of the escalation cycle, where the person returns to their baseline state of behaviour and emotional regulation. This phase is crucial for ensuring the person feels secure and understood, preventing a rapid recurrence of challenging behaviour. During stabilisation, it is important to continue providing support and reassurance, helping the person process the event and understand what happened.

Interventions in the stabilisation phase might include debriefing sessions, where the person and their support team can reflect on the incident, identify successful strategies, and plan for future prevention. It is also an opportunity to reinforce positive behaviours and skills that were effective during the de-escalation process.

Implementing Positive Reinforcement

Implementing positive reinforcement is a key component of Positive Behaviour Support and involves encouraging desirable behaviours through positive reinforcement.

Positive reinforcement can take many forms, such as verbal praise, tangible rewards, or preferred activities. The aim is to increase the likelihood of the desired behaviour by associating it with positive outcomes. For effective implementation, it is crucial to understand what motivates the person and to deliver reinforcement consistently and immediately following the desired behaviour.

Positive reinforcement should be personalised and meaningful to the person to be effective. For instance, a child might respond well to praise and stickers, while an adult might prefer recognition or extra leisure time. By focusing on reinforcing positive behaviours rather than punishing negative ones, PBS promotes a supportive and encouraging environment that fosters learning and growth.

Positive Outcomes with PBS

Positive Behaviour Support has been shown to lead to significant positive outcomes for people with challenging behaviour. One of the primary benefits is the reduction in the frequency and severity of challenging behaviour, which can lead to a safer and more harmonious environment for both the person and those around them.

Furthermore, PBS improves the quality of life for people by focusing on their strengths and preferences. This person-centred approach ensures that interventions are tailored to the person’s unique needs, promoting autonomy and self-determination.

Additionally, PBS has positive implications for caregivers and support networks. By providing a structured and evidence-based framework for intervention, PBS reduces the stress and burnout often associated with managing challenging behaviour. Caregivers and support workers can feel more confident and competent in their roles, knowing they have effective tools and strategies at their disposal.

What is a PBS Plan?

A Positive Behaviour Support plan is a detailed and individualised strategy designed to address and support a person’s specific behavioural needs. The plan is developed collaboratively, involving the person, their family, and other key stakeholders to ensure it is person-centred and holistic. Positive Behaviour Support plans include a thorough assessment of the person’s strengths, preferences, and triggers, along with specific, proactive strategies to address these triggers.

The plan outlines the positive reinforcement techniques that will be used to encourage desirable behaviours, as well as detailed interventions for each stage of the escalation cycle. It also includes crisis management protocols to ensure safety and stability during challenging episodes. Regular monitoring and review of the PBS plan are essential to assess its effectiveness and make necessary adjustments based on the individual’s progress and changing needs.

Where Can it Be Used, and Who Should Use it?

Implementing a PBS plan ensures that all interventions are consistent, evidence-based, and tailored to the person’s unique circumstances. It provides a clear roadmap for caregivers and healthcare professionals, promoting coordinated and effective support. By focusing on proactive strategies and positive reinforcement, a PBS plan aims to enhance the person’s life, reduce challenging behaviours, and foster a more supportive and empowering environment.

A Positive Behavioural Support plan can support a range of people with different needs, including people experiencing behaviour that challenges. It is often used to support autistic people and people with learning disabilities. PBS plans can also help people of all ages, from young children to older adults. Its principles are adaptable to various contexts, making it a versatile approach for addressing behavioural challenges in diverse environments.

PBS Support with Nurseline Community Services

Nurseline Community Services is dedicated to providing comprehensive support and humanised care through Positive Behaviour Support.

Our approach is rooted in evidence-based practices that emphasise dignity, respect, and person-centred care. What’s more, we tailor our PBS strategies to meet each person’s unique needs, ensuring they receive the best possible support. By identifying triggers, implementing proactive strategies, and reinforcing positive behaviours, we help people lead more fulfilling lives while reducing the frequency and intensity of crisis situations. This approach fosters a sense of hope and optimism, as people are empowered to take control of their behaviours and lead more independent lives.

In dealing with crisis situations, we employ a highly trained rapid response team available 24/7 to provide immediate and effective intervention. Our team is skilled in de-escalation techniques and crisis management, ensuring the safety and well-being of everyone involved. We work collaboratively with people, their families, and other support networks to develop comprehensive PBS plans that address both immediate and long-term needs.

Our commitment to excellence and personalised care makes us a trusted partner in managing challenging behaviours. To learn more about how we can support you or your loved one with PBS, contact us today.

Let us help you create a positive and supportive environment that fosters growth and well-being.