Information on this page about the interventions is based on the book, Prevent-Teach-Reinforce: The School-Based Model of Individualized Positive Behavior Support, Second Edition by G. Dunlap, R. Iovannone, D. Kincaid, K. Wilson, K. Christiansen, and P. S. Strain. 

What is the strategy? Why does it work?

All students encounter situations that are stressful or cause anger or anxiety. Challenging behavior can often be for the purpose of coping with a conflict or a situation that is causing worry or anger. Teaching strategies for responding to situations that provoke stress and anxiety improve general wellness and decrease the need to use reactive, unwanted behaviors to cope with unsettling events. This strategy involves teaching strategies to provide a student with skills and tools to use in stressful situations or to solve conflicts. Coping strategies can include calming strategies or problem-solving solutions, and they are most effective when the student can be taught to identify a potentially stressful situation prior to feeling stressed so that the coping strategy can be used to prevent more intense feelings. By providing students with coping strategies, they learn extremely important skills that will be useful throughout their lifespan.

Functions and antecedents the teach general coping skills intervention works for

If the challenging behavior…

  • Occurs when attempting to respond to stressful interpersonal or socially challenging situations
  • Results from being unable to effectively or efficiently communicate emotions in stressful situations

Steps for Implementation

  1. Using the PTR Assessment information, determine specific areas, events, or situations in which student is having problem behaviors due to situations in which student is having difficulty coping.
  2. Select the most appropriate coping strategy for the situation.
  3. If applicable, create materials for coping strategies
    • Using visual cues/cards that remind the student of the steps to take in following the specific coping strategy may facilitate prompting the student to use a strategy as well as becoming more independent in performing the steps.
  4. Develop task analysis of steps for using selected coping strategy and teach it to student by using the following procedures:
    • Provide instruction/explanation of skill being taught, including several real-life examples of using skill
    • Demonstrate skill by modeling
    • Provide student with guided practice opportunities
      • Provide immediate feedback during guided practice including positive comments for correct steps and corrective feedback for errors. Corrective feedback should be followed by more practice opportunities.
    • Provide multiple opportunities in following weeks for student to practice skill and continue to provide feedback.
    • As student gains skills, provide multiple exemplars with guided feedback so that student begins to generalize skills.
    • Gradually fade practice opportunities contingent upon student data showing increased mastery.
    • Continue to probe throughout school year to ensure generalization.
  5. Identify a reinforcement system that matches function of problem behavior and utilize the system

How to implement this strategy in multiple ways (examples & resources)

Relaxation Techniques

Deep Breathing

Positive Thoughts


Anger Management

Coping skills toolbox

General Strategies

Supporting Research

Kellner, M. H., Bry, B. H., & Colletti, L. A. (2002). Teaching anger management skills to students with severe emotional or behavioral disorders. Behavioral Disorders, 27(4), 400–407.

Kellner, M. H., Colletti, L. A., & Bry, B. H. (2003) Increasing anger log use during school among middle school students with emotional/behavioral disorders. Child & Family Behavior Therapy, 25(3), 7–21.

Presley, J. A., & Hughes, C. (2000). Peers as teachers of anger management to high school students with behavioral disorders. Behavioral Disorders, 25(2), 114–130.