Behaviour is not triggered

A while ago I posted a blog on the use of the terms slow triggers/fast triggers and why these are inappropriate. This has been playing on my mind so I want to try to explain it further.

Behaviours are not triggered they are selected. We need to try to move away from the notion of being triggered to understanding that behaviours are tools that we use to achieve things. We select which tools we use based upon the repertoire of tools we have in our toolkit, and which ones we think will be most effective in that setting. If we don’t have the tools we can’t select them. If we know this tool doesn’t work in this place we wont select it.

In the Slow Triggers/Fast Triggers blog I described this by looking at behaviours I might use to get Rolo’s. If I see a pack of Rolo’s it signals to me that they are available. It doesn’t trigger anything, but it signals to me that they are available. There are many behaviours I have in my repertoire to enable me to get these:

  • I can ask for them.
  • I can stare at them longingly and rub my tummy.
  • I can gesture putting them in my mouth with my hand.
  • I can reach out for them.
  • I can say suggestive statements like “they look nice”.
  • And probably many many more.

Any of these behaviours might work. I will pick the one that is firstly the easiest and secondly the one that has been most successful in the past.

But what if I am not at home, and I am in a shop. I now know that asking to be given them or rubbing my tummy will not work in this place.  Here, I have learnt that it is the exchange of coins that works. Equally, I have learnt at home that giving coins does not work.

It is also worth considering, what if I hadn’t learnt to ask for them, gestures that work to get them. What might I do to get the Rolo’s then? I would probably do something others would consider challenging.

The whole notion of behaviours being triggered keeps the focus on the behaviour and not on the function that the behaviour is trying to achieve. This leads to developing plans to reduce the behaviour instead of plans to teach skills, to give people more tools in their repertoire, and to help people to achieve the functions they are aiming for.

Lets stop talking about triggers. It isn’t helpful. Why not have a look at a behaviour support plan. Think is this trying to address the function or the behaviour? Is it helping people have more tools in their toolbox or is it just reductive? If you are faced with a new challenging behaviour instead of trying to figure out how do you stop the behaviour (a natural response) let’s be a bit counter-intuitive and think about what is it they want to get/avoid and how can we give them more tools to achieve this? Positive Behaviour Support is about being constructive, Supporting Positive Behaviours. It is not about reducing behaviours. This reduction just happens as a naturally occurring side effect of giving people more tools – much better than the side effects of reductive plans!