Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports: Looking for Yes

Authors: Emily Coleman, Superintendent, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI)

Keywords: Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports, communication, trigger words, relationships, quality instruction, independence, “look for the yes”

Abstract: In this article, TSBVI Superintendent Emily Coleman explains Positive Behavior Interventions and Support (PBIS) and its importance at TSBVI. She also offers two tips for addressing behavior: remember that behavior is communication and “look for the YES.” She encourages readers to use positive behavior interventions in all their relationships in order to give everyone “a win!”

As we began the 2022-2023 school year, we decided to re-focus our attention on Positive Behavior Interventions and Support (PBIS) on our campus. TSBVI has always prioritized PBIS and the profound impact it has on a child’s education. Periodically with all things, we need to remind ourselves of that priority. 

PBIS doesn’t just apply to working with students. It applies to working with each other, to our parenting at home, and if we’re lucky, we can figure out how to use it within all of our relationships. While sitting in on an “Intro to PBIS” training this summer, I was reminded of two great tips. First, always remember that behavior is communication, and second, “look for the yes.”

When we see concerning behavior from students, it’s happening for a reason. For example, every teacher of students with visual impairment (TSVI) has had students that became upset, argumentative, or even angry during braille lessons. The reasons for their behavior were probably not due to their inability to learn braille, or because the student thought it was not important. It may be because they found it unmeaningful, they may not know anybody else who uses braille, or as teachers we jumped in too fast without ensuring prerequisite skills were in place, and then the student felt unsuccessful. We must remember to think about what the students are trying to tell us at all times and adjust as needed. Behavior is indeed communication.

The second tip that stuck with me was, “look for the yes.” We do that a lot with our son Eddie, who is blind with multiple disabilities. Trigger words for Eddie are no, stop, don’t, calm down, etc. When he asks a question, any of those answers will result in him becoming agitated. So, we look for the “yes.”  Eddie says, “Ice cream please, OK!” We say, “Yes, you can have ice cream on Saturday when we go after lunch.” Eddie says, “I want root beer please.” We say, “Yes, you can have root beer.” And then we give him about 2 ounces over ice instead of a whole can because he’s going to ask us 15 more times throughout the day. Saying “yes” is really just giving our students, and ourselves, a win. Let’s be honest, we all need wins. 

Positive interactions with our students also build stronger relationships and lay the groundwork for quality instruction, which result in greater independence for our students. Anytime we can phrase our language and our approach with a positive spin, we are implementing PBIS. I recommend that you try to spend today looking for all those yeses and just see for yourself the impact it has on you, your students, and each other. I look forward to finding ways to positively support our community this year, and hope that all of you will do the same.

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