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Tier 3: Intensive Individual Intervention for Behavioral Needs

What is it?

The PBIS framework doesn’t just work with school-wide and targeted supports. It is also an effective way to address high-intensity, disruptive, and/or dangerous behaviors that create barriers to learning and exclude students from social settings. 

At most schools, 1-5% of students require supports beyond Tier 1 and Tier 2. At Tier 3, these students receive more intensive, individualized support to improve their behavioral and academic outcomes. Tier 3 strategies work for students with developmental disabilities, autism, emotional and behavioral disorders, and students with no diagnostic label at all.

An infographic of 3 different sized triangles stacked and overlapping vertically to demonstrate the 3 tiers of a Multi-Tiered system of Support. The third triangle on the top is labeled 3: Intensive. The words Academics and behavior are written on the side edge of the triangle. Above the stacked triangles is a textbox titled Tier 3: Intensive. It reads Approximately 1%-5% of all students will need intensive intervention to make progress towards and meet academic expectations. Tier 3 interventions are more explicit, focus on remediation of skills, and provided for a longer duration of time (both in overall length of intervention and regularly scheduled minutes of instructional time).

Foundational Systems

Teir 3 practices stem from strong foundations in Tier 1 and Tier 2 supports. With both tiers in place, schools are free to organize individualized teams to support students with more intense needs. The foundational systems involved in Tier 3 supports are:

Multidisciplinary Teams


Formal Fidelity & Outcome
Data Collection

  • Personnel who work directly with students recieving individual intensive intervention
  • Personnel with core knowledge of the problem-solving process
  • Team members with expertise in:
    • Providing formal behavior support
    • Applied behavior
    • Developing multi-agency support
  • Collect and mentor student outcome data to inform resource allocation and Tuer 3 practices to:
    • Support data-based decision making and problem solving
    • Identify needed adjustments to Tier 3 practices
    • Maximize resources
    • Ensure all students are supported equitable
    • Determine student eligibility for additional resources
    • Evaluate individual education programs (IEPs)

Tier 3 Team Members

There are two types of teams associated with Tier 3 supports: the Tier 3 Leadership Team and Individual Student Support Teams. 

Tier 3 Leadership Team
Tier 3 teams won’t look the same in every school. Tier 3 leadership teams are led by someone with applied behavior expertise, administrative authority, multi-agency support experience, knowledge of students, and knowledge about how the school operates across grade levels and programs. Whether you have one team looking at Tier 3 specifically, or one team monitoring Tier 2 and 3 systems together, this leadership team meets regularly to be sure (a) Students who need additional support have access to those systems, and (b) Students who receive Tier 3 supports are successful. 

School Administrator

Behavior Expertise Representative

Tier 3 Interventionist

Tier 3 Support Team

In addition to a team committed to monitoring Tier 3 systems, there must be a problem-solving team for each student receiving Tier 3 supports. These teams meet regularly to design and refine strategies specific to one student. Tier 3 Team membership is multi-disciplinary and should include members with knowledge of problem solving and personnel who actively provide Tier 3 support in the school. This allows for critical input from multiple perspectives to make decisions about the interventions provided to students and the Tier 3 system. The team’s goal is always to transition a student to fewer intensive supports. 

School Administrator

Behavior Expertise Representative

Personnel with Problem-Solving Knowledge

Tier 3 Intervention Provider

Student & Family Member/Caregiver

Key Practices

Tier 3 practices start with strong Tier 1 and Tier 2 foundations. In addition to these practices, the key practices involved in Tier 3 supports are:

Functional Behavior Assessment: The formal process for ensuring a student’s plan centers on why a student behaves the way they do. FBA allows teams to identify which interventions are most likely to be useful for an individual student. Plans resulting from a formal FBA process will include strategies for:

  • Preventing unwanted behavior
  • Teaching appropriate behavior
  • Positively reinforcing appropriate behavior
  • Reducing rewards for unwanted behavior
  • Ensuring student safety`

Wraparound: Wraparound differs from many service delivery strategies, in that it provides a comprehensive, holistic, youth and family-driven way of responding when children or youth experience serious mental health or behavioral challenges. Wraparound puts the child or youth and family at the center of the process to develop a support plan. With support from a team of professionals and natural supports, the family’s ideas and perspectives about what they need and what will be helpful drive all of the work in Wraparound. Bruns and Walker (2008) identified ten principles of the wraparound process that included:

  1. Family voice and choice                                  6. Culturally Competent                                         
  2. Team-based                                                       7. Individualized
  3. Natural Supports                                               8. Strengths-based
  4. Collaboration                                                     9. Unconditional 
  5. Community-based                                           10. Outcome-based
All of these principles are consistent with a PBIS approach and can result in a seamless connection between PBIS practices at Tier 3 that include Functional Behavior Assessments and Behavior Intervention Plans and wraparound supports. 

Person Centered Planning (PCP): A planning process that involves long-term commitment to an action plan and a positive vision for the future of the student. This plan is not intended to replace an IEP or a Behavior Intervention Plan, but can be seen to supplement and extend those plans by addressing broader quality of life and community, personal, and life goals of the student. PCP has much in common with wraparound, with wraparound being a braoder umbrella under which PCP can be used as an effective planning process. Both approaches, as well as PBIS, share a commitment to five essential goals of PCP that include: 

  • Being present and participating in community life,
  • Gaining and maintaining satisfying relationships,
  • Expressing preferences and making choices in everyday life,
  • Having opportunities to fulfill respected roles and live with dignity, and 
  • Continuing to develop personal competencies

The PCP philosophy aims to 

  1. build support based on a capacity-based perspective of the student
  2. use natural school, family and community resources to fulfill a vision of a positive future for the student, and
  3. build a circle of support for the student that includes friends, family, school personnel, and service providers.

The PCP team coordinates supports around the life of the individual rather than around the needs of the system and existing services. The team also recognizes that abilities of ordinary citizens, neighbors, fellow students, and school personnel, can teach students skills, help them participate, model appropriate behaviors, and foster interdependent relationships.

Cultural and Contextual Fit: With every practice, the student’s and the school’s culture and context must be considered. Each of these element influences adds value to a school’s Tier 3 practices: 

  • Local environments such as neighborhoods and cities
  • Personal characteristics such as race, ethnicity, and nationality
  • Learning histories such as family, social routines, customs, and experiences
  • Language such as dialect and vocabulary