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What is Positive Programming?

Positive programming is “the longitudinal instruction designed to teach skills and competencies to facilitate behavioural change.” – Institute for Applied Behavioural Analysis. Positive Programming means teaching new skills and abilities over time to replace behaviours of concern.

Punishments for behaviours of concern are not part of this process. Though a punishment may result in a quick decline in a behaviour of concern, it simply doesn’t work in the long run. Think of punishment as a bandage over a gunshot wound. It may staunch the bleeding for a short period of time, but it is not a permanent or lasting fix for the situation. This is because the Individual may not be able to understand why they are being punished; unable to relate action to outcome/consequence. Punishment also doesn’t teach skill or work to find an alternative, appropriate behaviour.

Once we’ve identified a behaviour of concern, we look at its function. The “why” behind the behaviour. If someone is hitting because they find a task too difficult, but don’t have a means to express this, we need to look at offering alternatives to hitting. What can we teach that satisfies that function? Well, that all depends on the person. Perhaps we teach them how to exchange a “Break” card with their Support Worker when they feel overwhelmed by a task. Maybe we teach them the sign for the word “No” or “Break” so they can express themselves in a more functional and less harmful way. Once we teach an Individual an alternative behaviour, we encourage and reward them every time they use it. That, in a nutshell is positive behaviour support.

For more information about positive practices and the use of positive supports, Support Workers are encouraged to enroll (coming soon) in Positive Practices and Proactive Supports: Understanding Complex Needs. You can also check out this short video for a brief overview.

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