Pyramid Model Overview


Activity Matrix

A chart that lists the classroom schedule of activities down the left column and the child’s current objectives or target behaviors across the top. A matrix can also have the schedule of activities down the left column and different children’s names across the top. Within the boxes is a description of how the objective or target behavior would be embedded into each of the activities. 

Assistive Technology

Any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially, off-the-shelf, modified, customized or created that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of children with disabilities.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)

Use of strategies that supplement or replace an individual’s verbal or vocal abilities. AAC involves considering the use of gestures or graphic modes to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the child’s communication skills.

Behavior Incident Report (BIR)

A written document that outlines the events surrounding an episode of challenging behavior. This form includes critical information about the behavior itself, the circumstances that led up to the behavior, and the response and consequences for the behavior. The Behavior Incident Report is entered into an excel data spreadsheet for program-wide data collection and analysis by a team. Go to BIR page


Any pattern of response towards one individual or group that is based on characteristics or criteria that are not relevant to the situation.

Challenging Behavior

For the purpose of the Center, challenging behavior is defined as any repeated pattern of behavior, or perception of behavior, that interferes with or is at risk of interfering with optimal learning or engagement in pro-social interactions with peers and adults. Challenging behavior is thus defined based on its effects. While some children’s challenging behaviors are developmentally normative and effectively addressed by adult vigilance and the use of appropriate guidance procedures, the Center is focused on identifying evidence-based practices that prevent and/or address challenging behaviors that are persistent or unresponsive to those approaches.

For infants and toddlers, challenging behavior must be considered within the context of the relationship of the child to caregivers. Behavior that is challenging, for example, may manifest as attachment difficulties, sleeping and eating difficulties, excessive crying, and difficulty in soothing. Challenging behaviors may be defined as behaviors that interfere with the development and maintenance of reciprocal, positive, and nurturing relationships with the parent or caregiver. Challenging behavior, as a pattern of behavior, is noted by considering the relationship of the child and adult and the difficulties that are manifested in the dyadic exchange.

Community Leadership Team

Serves the same function as a Program Leadership Team in implementation initiatives in cross-sector organizations in communities that collaborate on early childhood initiatives. See also: Implementation Site and Program Leadership Team.

Criterion Level

How well the child should perform a skill. The criterion level can be determined based on time, latency, duration, or frequency, as well as qualitative indicators.

Culturally Responsive Practices

Cultural responsiveness is an awareness of the various cultures represented by a program’s population and effort to align practices with the values and beliefs of these cultures. Practices and products that are culturally responsive are communicated in a way that is both understandable and relevant to constituent groups.

Data-Based Decision Making

An ongoing process in which data are collected and analyzed in an effort to improve individual supports and/or program functioning. Go to Data page

Data and Evaluation Systems

The statewide implementation, scale-up, and sustainability process uses data-based decision making in almost all activities to ensure that implementation fidelity and outcomes are achieved. Data and evaluation systems refers to the use of tools for data-based decision making and evaluation of progress and outcomes. Go to Data page

DEC Recommended Practices in Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education

These practices were developed by the Division for Early Childhood (DEC) of the Council for Exceptional Children to provide practitioners and families with guidance on the most effective ways to promote the learning of young children with and at-risk of developmental delays or disabilities. Also available in an online format.

Demonstration Site

Demonstration sites are selected local high-fidelity implementation sites or programs that agree to serve as showplaces for fidelity implementation of the targeted practices. A site might be one agency, one program, or one location.

Early Adopters

Refers to the first programs or sites to implement the selected practices.

Embedded Instruction

Inserting planned, individualized teaching into children’s ongoing activities, routines, and transitions in a way that relates to the context of what the child is doing. It involves distributing opportunities to use teaching strategies for the child’s objectives throughout the regular routines of the day.

Emotional Literacy

The ability to give word meaning (e.g., angry, frustrated, happy, proud) to one’s emotions. Children who have larger “emotional” vocabularies tend to have less problem behavior.


Children actively manipulating materials, participating in an activity, or interacting with others in appropriate ways.

Evidence-Based Practice

Early childhood interventions or supports that have published research documenting their effectiveness. Practices that are considered evidence-based are ones that have been demonstrated as effective within multiple research studies that document similar positive outcomes. In this guide, the term “evidence-based practices” is used interchangeably with “Recommended Practices” and in some cases “targeted practices” when describing statewide initiatives to improve child outcomes.


Refers to a systematic effort to increase the number of practitioner, classrooms and/or home-visiting sites using the targeted practices with fidelity within a program so that more children and their families have ready access to effective interventions and supports. The Program Leadership Team plans for and provides an expanded infrastructure to support additional practitioners, classrooms and/or home visiting sites to achieve full implementation.


The first stage of implementation that involves stakeholders in assessing needs, identifying the innovation or practices that will address the needs, creating support for implementing the practices, and deciding to move forward with the effort.


Permanent dismissal of the child from the program in response to problem behavior. Does not include transition to another program, service or classroom (e.g., special education, transitional classroom, or therapeutic preschool program) deemed more appropriate for the child if done in collaboration with the family and the receiving classroom, program or service. Go to Suspension and Expulsion page

Family Engagement

A collaborative and strengths-based approach to building relationships with families. Overt actions and efforts that are culturally and linguistically responsive and designed to establish responsive relationships with family members by providing information, engaging in partnerships for the design of interventions, offering family supports, and seeking family input and guidance about services and supports. Go to Family Engagement page

Feedback Loops

Refers to communication processes used to gain input, analyze data, and problem solve during the implementation process. Feedback loops are used among the State Leadership Team, implementation sites, and the Professional Development Network.


Fidelity refers to the degree to which an intervention or practice is delivered as intended by the developers and achieves expected results. Fidelity implies strict and continuing faithfulness to the original innovation or practice. Fidelity can be measured and compared to previous or future efforts to deliver the intervention or practice.


In young children, friendship is the reciprocal sharing of toys and materials, helping each other, organizing play episodes and sharing affection.

Full Implementation

The stage in the implementation process where most practitioners are implementing the set of practices with fidelity and are achieving the expected outcomes.

Function of Behavior

Purpose the behavior serves for the child. Children’s behavior usually serves one of two primary functions: to obtain something or to avoid something.

Functional Communication

Involves being able to communicate in a way that is readily understood by the listener and that achieves the communicative intent of the communicator.

Functional Communication Training

A procedure in which a desirable, communicative behavior is taught as a replacement for a challenging behavior, with the critical feature being that the replacement behavior serves the same function as the challenging behavior. 

Functional Goal

A specific behavior that is needed by the child to participate more independently in a particular activity or routine.


A phase of learning that involves the use of a skill outside the context in which it was initially acquired. This is often thought of as performing a behavior in another setting, with other people, and/or with materials different from those used in the instructional setting.

Graduated Guidance

A response prompting procedure used with chained behaviors (a series of behaviors sequenced together to form a more complex skill). It involves prompting the child with the amount and intensity of prompts needed to ensure that the behaviors occur and immediately removing those prompts (but reapplying them as needed) to ensure that the series of behaviors are done correctly. As the child becomes more proficient, the adult “shadows” (follows) the child, and applies and removes prompts as necessary.

Implementation Fidelity

Implementation fidelity refers to the degree in which an intervention or practice is delivered as intended. In delivering evidence-based practices it is crucial that intervention agents deliver practices in a fashion that does not vary from how the practices were originally performed in research studies.

Implementation Site

Implementation sites are local sites or programs that participate in training and enroll in an effort to implement the targeted practices and have a leadership team to guide the process of implementation. A site might be one agency, one program, or one location. Go to Program-wide Implementation page

Incidental Teaching

Teaching that takes place in response to a child’s initiation and based on a child’s interest. When the child initiates, the adult requests more elaborate behavior. If more elaborate behavior is forthcoming from the child, the adult praises the child and responds to the content of the child’s initiation. If more elaborate behavior is not forthcoming, the adult prompts the child, allows the child to respond, and then responds to the content of the child’s initiation.

Initial Implementation

The practitioner coach provides practice-based coaching to practitioners in implementing the targeted practices. The practitioner coach is typically employed by the program or site or has an ongoing relationship with the program.


The stage of implementation that involves building system capacity and resources to adopt the new practices with fidelity. This stage involves selecting sites, program coaches, determining evaluation methods and providing training and TA.

Intentional Communication

Behaviors have a deliberate effect on a communication partner. Intentional communication may be expressed nonverbally or verbally.

Language Expansion

Listening to what a child says, then after the child speaks, responding to the child by repeating what the child has said and adding new words to the child’s statement.

Least to Most

Another name for the system of least prompts, which involves developing a hierarchy of prompts that are ordered from the least to the most assistance needed for the child to perform a behavior. For each trial, the adult initially gives the child an opportunity to perform the behavior without prompts; if the child does not respond correctly, the adult delivers the least controlling prompt and gives the child another opportunity to respond. Again, if the child does not respond or starts to respond incorrectly, the adult delivers the next more controlling prompt. This continues on each trial until the child responds correctly or the most controlling level of prompt is provided.

Mand-Model Procedure

A systematic teaching strategy in which the teacher observes where the child is focusing his attention, gives a mand (i.e. asks a question or gives the child a direction to respond) and waits for the child to respond. If the child does not produce the target behavior by himself, the teacher models the target behavior for him.

Most to Least Prompts

A series of two or more prompts that provide progressively decreasing amounts of assistance. This strategy always begins with the most help a child needs in order to be able to do something with few or no errors. Over time, as the child learns the skill, the amount of support the adult provides decreases until the child is able to do the skill independently.

Naturally Occurring Antecedents and Consequences

Words, events, and activities that typically occur, elicit target behaviors and serve as a consequence to target behaviors.

Peer-Mediated Intervention

A systematic teaching strategy in which typically-developing children are taught to deliver specific social and communicative behavior to children with social skill deficits.

Positive Behavior Support (PBS)

An individualized process for understanding and resolving the problem behavior of children that is based on values and empirical research. It offers an approach for developing an understanding of why the child engages in problem behavior and strategies for preventing the occurrence of problem behavior while teaching the child new skills. Positive behavior support offers a holistic approach that considers all factors that impact on a child and the child’s behavior. It can be used to address problem behaviors that range from aggression, tantrums, and property destruction to social withdrawal. Go to Behavior Intervention and PBS page


Practices are the teachable and doable behaviors that staff will use with children and families that can be used, replicated, and measured for fidelity.

Practice-Based Coaching

Coaching that is focused on the implementation of specified practices. Practice-based coaching occurs in the context of a collaborative partnership and uses a cyclical process of action planning, observation, reflection and feedback for supporting practitioners’ use of recommended practices. Go to Coaching page

Practitioner Coach

The (internal) practitioner coach provides practice-based coaching to practitioners in the implementation of the targeted practices. The practitioner coach is typically employed by the program or site or has an ongoing relationship with the program. Go to Coaching page

Problem Solving

An organized process in which a team analyzes a problem, develops a course of action to address the problem, implements the course of action, and then evaluates whether they have sufficiently addressed the problem. This process is cyclical in that the team can then evaluate current status and re-evaluate a course of action accordingly.

Professional Development Network

A group of carefully selected professional development experts who are responsible for delivering training and providing program coaching to Program Leadership Teams to establish high-fidelity implementation of targeted practices in implementation sites.

Program Benchmarks of Quality

A tool used by the Program Leadership Team to assess their status in the implementation of the elements needed to support implementation and scale-up of targeted practices. The Benchmarks of Quality are used to assess initial status, plan activities, and monitor progress through all stages of implementation. This tool comes in two versions: The Pyramid Model Early Intervention (Part C) Benchmarks of Quality (EI BoQ) and Early Childhood Program-Wide PBS Benchmarks of Quality v. 2.0 (EC-BoQ)

Program Coach

The (external) program coach provides guidance and support to the Program Leadership Team on the implementation of targeted practices. The program coach provides an outside perspective that is informed by experiences across programs. Program coaches also serve as state training and technical assistance providers.

Program Leadership Team

A leadership team that is charged with ongoing guidance of program-wide implementation of the targeted practices in a program. This team includes administrators in the program and key stakeholders (e.g., practitioners, family members). Other key roles on the team include the practitioner coach and data coordinator. The leadership team meets monthly to discuss program needs and program-wide implementation progress and to review data. Go to Program-Wide Implementation page

Program-Wide Implementation

Program-wide implementation refers to a systematic effort to support the implementation of targeted practices by all practitioners in the program. A Program Leadership Team guides program-wide implementation. Go to Program-Wide Implementation page

Program-Wide PBS (PW-PBS)

A proactive system of preventative behavior support designed for all of the children in a multi-classroom program of early child care and/or education (e.g., Head Start, community early childhood centers).  PW-PBS involves the program-wide adoption of the Pyramid Model for Promoting Social Emotional Competence in Infants and Young Children.

Progress Monitoring

Assessments that are conducted for the purpose of evaluating children’s behavior change over time.


Part of the antecedent. Must be used before (or sometimes while) the child performs the target behavior.

Pyramid Model

Refers to the Pyramid Model for Promoting Social Emotional Competence in Infants and Young Children. The Pyramid Model is a positive behavioral intervention and support (PBIS) framework to help early educators build skills for supporting nurturing and responsive caregiving, create learning environments, provide targeted social-emotional skills, and support children with challenging behavior. Go to Pyramid Model Overview

Pyramid Model Practice

Refers to the research-informed interactional and instructional support practices for young children that are developmentally appropriate and designed to be implemented in a variety of settings (e.g., Head Start, community child care, Pre-K, early intervention) that serve young children (Fox & Hemmeter, 2009; Hemmeter, Fox, & Snyder, 2013). Practices should align with the Pyramid Model framework and are observable and measurable.

Response Efficiency

When a person has the opportunity to choose between two or more possible responses, the response that the person perceives as most efficient will be chosen.


Refers to a systematic effort to increase the number of communities and settings using the targeted practices with fidelity within the state so that more children and their families have ready access to effective interventions and supports. The State Leadership Team plans for and provides an expanded infrastructure to support additional programs to achieve full implementation. Go to State-Wide Implementation page


Brief and cost-effective assessment of large numbers of children to identify children who have developmental delays and need further evaluation. 

Social Competence

A complex set of skills that allow children to make friends, solve interpersonal conflicts and express and understand feelings in others.

State Leadership Team Benchmarks of Quality

A tool used by the State Leadership Team to assess their status in the implementation of the elements needed to support implementation and scale-up of targeted practices in the state. The Benchmarks of Quality are used to assess initial status, plan activities, and monitor progress through all stages of implementation. The State Benchmarks of Quality for the implementation of the Pyramid Model can be found here. Go to SLT BoQ page

State Coordinator

Person(s) authorized by leading state agencies that facilitates and represents the State Leadership Team, supports the Professional Development Network, and coordinates the state implementation activities. Go to State-Wide Implementation page

State Leadership Team

A team of cross-agency state leaders and agency representatives who are responsible for planning and supervising all aspects of the initiative including funding, policy initiatives, evaluation and data-based decision making, training and program coaching, site selection, publicity, dissemination, scale-up, and sustainability. Go to State-Wide Implementation page


  • In School/Program Suspension: The child is temporally removed from classroom and/or class peers. Child is sent to some other part of the school/ program (e.g., other classroom, director’s office) for part of the day or multiple days in response to problem behavior. This includes when the child is removed from the classroom to spend extended time with administrator, counselor, behavior therapist or other adult.
  • Short Term Out-of-School/Program Suspension: Child is sent home for some part of the school/program day in response to problem behavior.
  • Out-of-School/Program Suspension: Child is not allowed to return to school/program for one or more days in response to problem behavior.
  • For children with disabilities served under IDEA (with an IEP or IFSP): Out-of school/program suspension is an instance in which a child is temporarily removed from his/her regular school/program to another setting (e.g., home, behavior center) for at least half a day in response to problem behavior. Out-of school/program suspensions include both removals in which no individualized family service plan (IFSP) or individualized education program (IEP) services are provided because the removal is 10 days or less as well as removals in which the child continues to receive services according to his/her IFSP or IEP.

Go to Suspension and Expulsion page

System of Least Prompts

Two or more prompts that are arranged to provide increasing levels of support. The sequence of prompts begins with giving the child a natural cue to complete a task or demonstrate a skill. If the child is not able to respond independently, the child is given increasing levels of support until he or she is able to complete the task or perform the behavior.

Target Behavior

What the child will do or say. This is the particular behavior that the child does to indicate that he or she is learning the objective.

Time Delay

A procedure implemented during children’s ongoing interactions with the environment and at a point in which adult assistance or help has been regularly given in the past. It involves the adult waiting (delaying the help) for the child to initiate a target behavior at the point when help has regularly been given. During the delay, the adult looks expectantly at the child. If the child does not initiate the behavior during this delay, the adult provides a prompt (i.e., the regularly occurring help) and allows the child to continue the sequence.

Visual Supports

The use of visual stimuli (e.g., objects or pictures) to communicate to children what behaviors are expected or to signal changes in activities and identify the upcoming activity.

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