Putting the “fun” in functional

We recently had a chat on twitter about how we support direct support staff to switch their thinking from behaviour to function – Instead of trying to reduce the behaviour, try and help the person get what they need in a better way. Here is a brief summary of some of the top tips that we discussed. Thank you to all those who took part and contributed to this.

  • Try to give a narrative to what is happening. This is a tip used in mindfulness. If you describe things as they happen you are more alert. Or you can do it retrospectively in an Antecedent – Behaviour – Consequence format, like “when… X does… to get” so “when there are Rolos present Jonathan does (or tries) a puppy face to get chocolate”
  • Encourage empathy. We are all people. What might you be trying to tell us if you were doing that? This is also a good reminder that if this is their only way of getting/communicating that then what right do we have to reduce this?
  • “The million dollar question” – If I could give you a million dollars to stop that behaviour how would you do it? Alternatively the evil carer question can give you lots of information – If you could do one thing to make that behaviour happen what would you do?
  • There are some brief tools that may be used for professional assessment, but could be useful in starting conversations in teams. Tools like the Questions About Behaviour Function and the Motivational Assessment Scale ask questions that can get people thinking.
  • Allow teams/supports the time to step back and reflect. Sometimes this can be helpful if an outside person comes and looks in objectively. Sometimes it is about having dedicated time to reflect and explore. Sometimes things like video feedback can help self reflection. Maybe a snapshot of a challenging situation could be useful and giving teams the opportunity to insert a caption of what is happening. Debriefing and supervisions also support this reflection.
  • Knowing the person you are supporting is essential. Investing the time to get to know someone will help you connect and understand what they are trying to tell you. This can be a challenge when support teams change regularly but the value of investing in this should not be underestimated. This will also help understand what is “normal” for the person you support, and what might indicate somethings changed and there is a problem.
  • Support needs to be empowered to think. They often have the answers. They may feel they can’t do things different because “thats not how its done around here”. Trial and error is a great way of identifying function and can often lead to figuring out what is going on. Sometimes it might be that doing nothing and giving the person space is the answer – if you don’t try you won’t know.
  • “Active Training” can be a useful tool. Here the support is observed, given constructive feedback, and then an alternative approach is role modelled. The process is repeated until there is confidence in competence.

Thinking functionally can be a culture shift for some supports. Hopefully these tips can help create the culture where people think function more than behaviour. Instead of restricting and reducing lets help people to achieve their function better.