Early Childhood PBIS
Positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) in the context of early intervention, like PBIS in other contexts, is conceptualized best in the larger framework of prevention. The tiered model of prevention offers a hierarchy of prevention and intervention strategies with the intensity of the strategies geared to the level of perceived need. Fox and her colleagues (2003) described an application of a tiered prevention framework for young children. They presented the “teaching pyramid” as a continuum of supports and services designed to build social competence and prevent challenging behaviors for young children.
Early Childhood Teaching Pyramid for A Tiered Model of Prevention and Intervention
1. Primary Level
The universal level of primary prevention consists of two major categories on the teaching pyramid. The first and, arguably, the most fundamental category concerns the quality of positive relationships developed between the child and the child’s parents, teachers, child care professionals, other caring adults and, eventually, peers. It is well understood that a child’s healthy social-emotional development is a function of the stability, security, and consistency of trusting, affectionate relationships that are developed during the child’s years as an infant and toddler. These relationships provide the context and the mold from which the child’s future relationships and interactions will emerge, and they serve as the basis for the early guidance and instruction that adults offer for the child. The stronger the positive relationship an adult has with a child, the more effective the adult will be in helping the child acquire social competencies.
Also warranting consideration as primary prevention practices are basic levels of adult-child interactions, guidance and modeling with respect to empathy for others, assistance with problem solving, and the provision of comprehensible, predictable and stimulating environments. These practices are manifested as fundamental guidelines for positive parenting, and the physical arrangements associated with safety and orderliness in home, child care, and classroom settings. It is understood that adherence to such guidelines for all children will help promote healthy social-emotional development and reduce the incidence of serious challenging behavior.
2. Secondary Level
Secondary prevention practices are geared for children who experience circumstances known to increase the risk of social-emotional disorders and the development of challenging behaviors. Such risk factors may include poverty, exposure to abusive, neglectful or violent home situations, delays or disabilities in learning or communication, maternal depression and other variables (Campbell, 1995; Huffman, Mehlinger, & Kerivan, 2000; Qi & Kaiser, 2003). A variety of parent training, social skills and social-emotional curricula, and multi-component intervention programs have been developed to provide assistance for these children. Joseph and Strain (2003) reported evaluation data for a number of social-emotional curriculum packages and found a high level of evidence for two of the programs (Walker et al., 1998; Webster-Stratton, 1990), with several others showing some promising, albeit limited, data.
3. Tertiary Level
The top level of the teaching pyramid refers to those relatively few young children who already demonstrate patterns of persistent challenging behavior and who require more concerted and individualized intervention efforts. The challenging behaviors of these children may accompany a developmental delay or disability (due to increased risk factors), though a diagnosis or identified disability is not necessarily present.
Campbell, S. B. (1995). Behavior problems in preschool children: A review of recent re-search. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 36, 113-149.
Fox, L., Dunlap, G., Hemmeter, M.L., Joseph, G.E., & Strain, P.S. (2003). The teaching pyramid: A model for supporting social competence and preventing challenging behavior in young children. Young Children, July 2003, 48-52.
Huffman, L. C., Mehlinger, S. L., & Kerivan, A. S. (2000). Risk factors for academic and behav-ioral problems at the beginning of school. Bethesda, MD: National Institute of Mental Health.
Joseph, G. E. & Strain, P. S. (2003). Comprehensive evidence-based social-emotional curricula for young children: An analysis of efficacious adoption potential. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 23, 65-76.
Qi, C. H., & Kaiser, A. P. (2003). Behavior problems of preschool children from low-income families: Review of the literature. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 23, 188-216.
Walker, H. M., Kavanagh, K., Stiller, B., Golly, A., Severson, H. H., & Feil, E. G. (1998). First Step to Success: An Early Intervention Approach for Preventing School Anti-social Behavior. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 6(2), 66-80.