June 14, 2008

Introduction to the Behavior Department

By Cheney, Douglas

It is with great pleasure that I introduce this new section for Intervention in School and Clinic. The journal editors, Drs. Boone and Higgins, were kind to offer me this opportunity to write about one of my favorite topics-behavior. By way of introduction, I was a special education teacher for 12 years, a special education administrator for 3 years, and have been involved in teaching and research in higher education for 19 years. I'm currently an associate professor in special education at the University of Washington. I have mainly focused my time and energy toward the education of students with emotional or behavioral disorders (EBD), although this has often included students with other disabilities. When I was new to the field in 1973,1 envisioned that by the year 2007, we would have compiled all the necessary evidence to assist students with EBD and their families; but alas, much is left to be accomplished in the fields of education, mental health, and child welfare. I intend for this column to present articles that address theoretical and applied approaches, examples of evidence-based practices, and promising practices for school and clinic. Of pressing concern to all of us in the fields of mental health and special education are scientifically or evidencebased practices. Policymakers and administrators are pressing people in the field to substantiate why they have chosen the practices they are using to educate or provide therapy to children and youth. This puts pressure on practitioners to provide a rationale for the methods they use when doing intervention work with their students or clients. It also has put pressure on researchers to develop and implement experimental designs to further our knowledge base, and ultimately translate this knowledge to practice.

In this first column, an overview of positive behavior support (PBS) will be presented. As the author suggests, many features in PBS have direct application in the classroom. Although PBS has a rich history in applied settings (Koegel, Koegel, & Dunlap, 1996), its broader application in public schools was realized when the term was codified in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Acts of 1997 and 2004, and the consequent funding of the National Technical Assistance Center for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support at the University of Oregon. These events have nationally catapulted the visibility of the PBS movement.

How has this PBS approach helped us with evidence-based practices? In short, it identified essential features for schools to implement that are related to decreasing problem behaviors, increasing positive social skills, enhancing school climate, and improving student academic achievement. Oregon's Technical Assistance Center has many tools and instructional materials online (pbis.org) for schools seeking to implement PBS.

All of this leaves us much to discuss in this column. In an attempt to assist those in the field, I may cover old ground or seem like I'm displaying old wine in new bottles. That's because good science and evidence should last, not be tossed aside for new practice. The strategies that you will read about in upcoming articles will be those that have been around and have been proven to be effective over the past several decades. This grounding in evidence should make any reader feel confident to apply it in the clinic or school. From there, it will be in your hands to work with colleagues to ensure the strategy is used appropriately and effectively. I wish you well in this endeavor to improve the lives of children, youth, and their families.


Koegel, L., Koegel, R., & Dunlap, G. (1996). Positive behavioral support: Including people -with difficult behavior in the community. Baltimore: Brookes.

Douglas Cheney, Dept. Editor


Douglas Cheney, PhD, is an associate professor of special education at the University of Washington, Seattle. His research addresses positive behavior supports and transition services for students with or at risk of developing emotional or behavioral disabilities. Address: Douglas Cheney, Box 353600, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, 98195-3600; e-mail: [email protected]

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