We are primarily a service for people with learning disabilities who also have difficulties with their behaviour. Our approach to challenging behaviour consists of “developing” people in a “proactive” rather than reactive manner - something that hopefully explains why we are called Proactive Development!
Our approach is based upon a couple of fundamental beliefs we hold about the reasons people exhibit difficult behaviour:
1) people’s behaviour often represents the best way they currently have of communicating something that is important to them or of dealing with something that they find stressful. Listening to people’s behaviour is therefore essential if we are to understand its function.
2) the way that we, as carers, family members etc. support people sometimes causes or contributes to their challenging behaviour. Doing what works, in a way that valuing and respectful is a vital part of promoting positive behaviour.
Understanding the function of people’s behaviour and developing an effective approach are products of the comprehensive assessment that underpins our behaviour support plans. However, a key element of our “proactive” approach consists of providing people with an environment that is conducive to positive behaviour in the first place.
It is fairly obvious that illness, pain and discomfort, especially when chronic, have the potential to trigger episodes of challenging behaviour in people with learning disabilities. Ensuring people are as well as they can be, therefore, must be a priority. Our efforts in this regard focus on promoting healthy living, supporting ongoing proactive contact with GPs and other health professionals while providing them with useful health-related data and ensuring fair access to treatment.
Having a learning disability means the world can sometimes be hard to make sense of and engage with. Having someone to help is often essential if people are to feel secure and remain in control. Where access to support is limited, care receivers are often forced to exhibit behaviour designed to compete for that attention. This seems unnecessary and unhelpful and while our service acts to promote independence and reduce over-reliance on others, it also recognises that people with complex needs often require individual support to live their lives.
Many people with learning disabilities and especially those with autism, struggle to live successfully in environments that are too busy, very noisy and therefore over stimulating. Some elements of their behaviour can be directly related to these “avoidable” factors.
By only offering small services, anything from a single-person service to a 3-person service, we are able to limit this type of behaviour while at the same time being in a far better position, because of the lack of “white noise” data or potential “red herrings” present in larger services, to accurately identify the function of any behaviour. At the same time, we are convinced that the care and support people receive/experience in a small service is likely to be more personal and unique to the individual as well as being delivered by a more familiar and knowledgeable support team.
Small services tend to be located in ordinary housing. These normative, everyday environments provide far more opportunities for people to experience and develop independence while also removing the stigma associated with living in a large care home.
While shared living arrangements can be problematic for all of us, for people with learning disabilities they can be additionally so. Problems with communication, missing or poorly developed social skills, low self-esteem and a lack of confidence can all contribute misunderstandings and make getting along with people difficult. Developing these skills, traits and qualities is an important part of the service we deliver but it takes time. Giving some thought to people’s suitability and potential compatibility as housemates is a simple way in which we can minimise interpersonal difficulties and support meaningful relationships and is something that happens at assessment.