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Tuesday 21 Nov 2017

Positive Behavior Supports in the Workplace

It has been determined in a variety of studies that adults with autism continue to be either unemployed or underemployed. Many times this is attributed to limited funding for adults once they’ve aged out of the school system (over 21 years old) and presentation of maladaptive behaviors which impact their ability to participate successfully in the community. Recently, two articles (case studies) were published about the successful use of positive behavior supports (PBS) to increase the ability of individuals with autism and other severe disabilities to work in the community. In the studies, the adults were either not currently employed due to concerns about maladaptive behaviors or currently employed but engaging in maladaptive behaviors which would likely impact their continued employment.

The first step of the PBS process is to conduct a functional behavior assessment to determine the environmental variables which increase the likelihood of problem behavior and the consequences which likely are maintaining the problem behavior. In other words, the behavioral support personnel need to conducted an assessment to determine when and why problem behaviors are occurring and how frequently they are occurring. The next step is to develop a positive behavior support plan based on the individual characteristics of the individual and the environment the supports will be used. It is important to collaborate with the individual and the support personnel who will be in charge of implementing the program to ensure “buy-in” and increase the likelihood the plan will be followed. Effective behavior support plans consist of 3 core components: antecedent procedures and environmental changes to prevent disruptive behaviors, replacement behaviors and new skills to be taught, and consequence procedures to reinforce new skills and extinguish maladaptive behaviors.

The case study published by Schall used PBS strategies to teach an adult who was already employed how to appropriately cope with being corrected. His job coach was able to implement these strategies in the workplace and effectively decrease the presentation of maladaptive behaviors (i.e. yelling and pushing) which would eventually lead to termination and increase the presentation of pro-social behaviors (i.e. requesting a break when needed). The other study by West and Patton showed the impact of PBS strategies on the employment of 4 individuals with severe disabilities. These individuals were previously restricted from going into the community due to the presentation of disruptive behaviors. The authors were able to successfully develop and PBS plan, train the job coaches to implement the plan, and teach the individuals skills necessary to find success in the workplace.

More research needs to be conducted in this area to define procedures which can be utilized across contexts, but these case studies are extremely promising. Individuals with autism and other severe disabilities should not be excluded from community involvement and work due to the presentation of disruptive behaviors. When support personnel take an active role in determining the functions of disruptive behaviors, developing a thoughtful plan and implementing the plan with fidelity the individuals with disabilities have a high likelihood of success.

Schall, C. M. (2010). Positive Behavior Support: Supporting Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders in the Workplace. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 32, 109-115.

West, E. A., and Patton, H. A. (2010). Positive Behaviour Support and Supported Employment for Adults with Severe Disabilities. Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 35(2), 104-111.

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