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A psychologist working with a child in clinic on supporting positive behaviour

Challenging behaviours – a positive approach to behaviour support

Every parent deals with challenging behaviours, but when behavioural problems are severe or frequent, they can cause problems for the child and their family. If managing challenging behaviours has become a significant issue at home or school, it could be time to seek behaviour support.

What is behaviour support?

Behaviour support is a term describing a range of strategies used to facilitate positive behaviour and manage behaviours of concern (usually in children). A behaviour support approach tries to understand why someone might display challenging, unsafe or inappropriate behaviours. It involves working with that person, and those participating in their care and education, to develop a solution.

The NDIS Commission explains that behaviour support takes an individualised approach that is responsive to the person’s needs to address the underlying causes of concerning or challenging behaviours. It also involves safeguarding the dignity and quality of life of people with disability who require specialist behaviour support.

Positive behaviour support for children

All behaviour happens for a reason, including challenging behaviours. For children with social or communication difficulties, concerning behaviours may be an expression of frustration, fear, discomfort or other feelings they find hard to express.

Behaviour support can be helpful for children who have autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disorders that affect behaviour.

The approach is usually two-fold. First, it involves making difficult behaviours unnecessary by removing triggers and rewards for inappropriate behaviour. Second, it teaches children appropriate behaviours to replace the challenging ones.

Depending on your child’s needs and behaviours of concern, the goals of behaviour support may include:

  • Helping you to identify causes of challenging behaviour
  • Empowering children to communicate their needs in appropriate ways
  • Providing children with strategies to express or regulate their emotions
  • Implementing environmental adaptations to support your child
  • Reducing tantrums, aggression and other disruptive behaviours
  • Teaching appropriate replacement behaviours
  • Increasing compliance and following instructions
  • Improving school performance and attention

Behaviour support involves conducting an assessment to help understand what a child is trying to communicate through their behaviours. This will usually include talking to the child and their parents, carers, teachers or other professionals involved in their care. The therapist will usually spend time with the child in their home and/or educational and care settings. This gives them useful information about how the environment may be triggering concerning behaviours and what strategies would be most effective in those circumstances.

Two children wrestling in a park with behavioural concerns
Positive behaviour support strategies can help overcome behavioural problems

Types of behaviour support

There are several evidence-based approaches for managing challenging behaviours.  A therapist will decide which one to take based on the needs of the child, the assessment findings, and their experience and training.

Some examples include:

  • Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) – this approach to understanding and changing behaviour can be used to teach people with ASD and other developmental disabilities skills to reduce their difficult behaviour. It is also used to improve social, communication and self-care skills. It is based on learning theory, which explains that human behaviour is influenced by the environment and that positive consequences make a behaviour more likely to happen again.
  • Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) – PBS evolved out of ABA and is also based on learning theory. PBS takes a more family-centred approach.
  • Early Start Denver Model – this play-based approach focuses on helping toddlers and pre-schoolers with ASD (or other developmental/behavioural disorders) develop language, relationships and play skills.

Behaviour support practitioners and plans 

Behaviour support programs may be provided by psychologists or behaviour support practitioners. Other therapists, such as occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists, may also be involved in behaviour support programs.

A behaviour support plan is a written document which clearly states behavioural expectations and the support planned for achieving them.

Growing Early Minds have experienced psychologists and behaviour support practitioners who provide behaviour support for children. They are skilled in working with children with ASD, disability and complex needs.

Our qualified professionals work with the child, family, educators and other health professionals to ensure everyone is equipped with the right strategies and tools to prevent and respond to behavioural situations.

We’re a registered NDIS and Medicare provider and some families may be eligible for financial support or funding packages to help offset the cost of therapy. Learn more about the different funding packages here.

Families can visit our clinic in Blacktown (Western Sydney, NSW), or we can see children at home, their child care centre, school or playgroup. Find out more on our behaviour support page, or get in touch with us 1800 436 436

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