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Managing challenging behaviours – the positive approach we follow at Marriott Support Services (MSS).


By Marriott , August 3 2017

Sam, one of our Disability Educators shares insights into Marriott’s positive approach to supporting people with challenging behaviours.

What is challenging behaviour and why is it important to better manage?
Challenging behaviours can include being aggressive and disrespectful towards other people, being disruptive and may include harming others or self.
The nature of challenging behaviour works against building connections and social inclusion. Challenging behaviours can isolate the person from family, peers and their community, making it hard to fully reach their goals and build positive connections with others and their community.
At Marriott we want to build, strong vibrant communities, inclusive of all people, enabling people with disabilities to be active and contributing family and community members, so managing challenging behaviour is an important part of what we do.

Sam tells James’ story of how managing his challenging behaviour made a big difference.
When James* started at Marriott community he had some challenging behaviour, he could be aggressive and annoying to others and even at times displayed self-harm. He was sometimes disrespectful of other’s personal space and being a tall, strong figure with a loud voice he could be intimidating.

What was our positive approach?
First, we sought to understand James and identify his triggers. We observed James and in discussion with him and his family we came to the conclusion that the trigger was a lack of stimulation. The challenging behaviours was his way of coping with excess energy and frustration.

So what happened next?
Together we planned his time to include more stimulation and activity that James was interested in such as sport, getting out in the community and use of technology.

For example, James joined the Road Safety Awareness (RSA) program which included learning how to use, keep safe and behave appropriately on public transport. As part of the group of four men, James quickly learnt how to travel on public transport – to wait for people to get off the train before boarding, use a myki card and how to be respectful of others when in public. The consistency of the group, the rapport built with peers and staff and the weekly routine of learning new skills and getting out into the community really worked for James and continues to be enjoyable for him.

How did relationships with staff help?
Sam continues, “I made sure I spent some time with James, a lot of time in fact, and also made sure all the activities that we did, were to James’ benefit and of interest to him. Over time trust was built, and he became more accepting of what I asked of him. From there we were able to try new things, where he learnt to adapt to change, all this contributed to decreasing his behaviours of concern. Over time I noticed James connecting better with his peers too, for example he noticed when they were absent and he included others more in their shared activity.”

How long did it take to see change for James?
Quite quickly there was an observable change. James was calmer and more respectful of others, he was able to organise and anticipate his program each day. When he went home he was calmer too because his day had been interesting and stimulating and so his family noticed an increase in positive interaction. The decline in challenging behaviour opened up better connection for James with family, peers and staff.

In the past how was challenging behaviour commonly managed by disability services?
Sadly, it was often seen as ‘just the way they are’. The individual, their families and staff were left to struggle with the negative behaviours without trying to understand what lay beneath the behaviours. We have moved a long way from that thinking, now we understand there is a reason for behaviours. We know the person may have difficulty understanding themselves, the world around them and communicating what is going on to others leading to frustration or boredom. This is where Marriott can help with staff who are trained in the best ways to support people with challenging behaviours.
Under the NDIS the good news is that an individual’s NDIS plan can include specific supports needed to manage challenging behaviours.

Summary of the steps

  1. See people as individuals and get to know what makes them tick;
  2. Identify the triggers for challenging behaviour– observe, listen and involve key people;
  3. Identify goals and strengths;
  4. Match supports to provide stimulation and interest;
  5. Implement supports;
  6. Review frequently and make changes as needed.

At Marriott we see individuals, we let go of assumptions and work with people to support them to reach goals and develop good connections and social inclusion.

For more information contact
*real name withheld



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