Supporting behaviour

Young people on the autism spectrum often exhibit a range of behaviours that can be challenging, confronting and confusing for their parents, teachers and others working with them. Traditional behaviour management focuses on what to do after the behaviour has occurred but this does not teach a young person how to behave appropriately. 

Research has identified that the most effective way to manage behaviour is to determine the reason (or function) of the behaviour and to prevent the occurrence of the behaviour by modifying the environment and teaching the young person a more appropriate way to get his/her message across. This process is often referred to as positive behaviour support (PBS). 

There are many elements that are important in the positive behaviour support process. Some of these include:

  • Identifying which behaviours are dangerous, damaging and disruptive (and which are just annoying or irritating)
  • Investigating what sets off the behaviour – People? Places? Activities? When and where is the behaviour least likely to occur?
  • Looking at what happens after the behaviour
  • Using all this information to identify the function of the behaviour
  • Identifying and teaching appropriate alternative behaviours

When the PBS process is followed effectively, important information about the message a particular behaviour is communicating can be discovered. Effective behaviour support involves teaching a more appropriate way to communicate the message. At times this means teaching and practicing what to say in a difficult situation (e.g. “Go away” or “I need a break”) while for other individuals, it may involve teaching them how to communicate their message non-verbally (e.g. signing they want a turn or giving a card to ask for help).

For more information about alternative forms of communication, visit the communication section.

Hear how a Positive Partnership’s team leader used the PBS template in a school setting to plan for positive behaviour change.

Positive Behaviour Support Template



This video explains the elements of the Positive Behaviour Support template, with information about identifying behaviours, understanding the function of the behaviour and developing an intervention plan.

Positive behaviour support template in action



Most Likely, Least Likely Chart (184kb)

This worksheet is useful for identifying the possible triggers of the behaviour of concern. Documenting what is happening when the behaviour is most likely to occur (place, people, time and activity) and comparing it to the times when the behaviour is least likely to occur, can provide useful clues in identifying the function or purpose of the behaviour. The least likely information also tells you about the ideal teaching environment for a young person.

Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) Recording Sheet (125kb)

This worksheet is useful for documenting the information about a young person’s  behaviour, the reason it is occurring and the plan of action on the one document. This is particularly useful to ensure consistency in behaviour support across all the people working and living with a young person on the autism spectrum.