Can we create a new narrative for Positive Behaviour Support? The current one gives the wrong message.
Everyone hears the word “positive” and think that means it’s about either doing “good” or supporting “good behaviour”. We have absolutely no right to judge what is “good” for another person. Our well intentions may not be their cup of tea, and they might not want the “good” things we want.
We then get bogus PBS rubbish about how PBS is all about improving quality of life. Well frankly that makes it no different from any other intervention. Even old school Behaviour Modification aimed solely at reducing behaviours would say that the intervention was being done to “improve quality of life”. It’s values based twaddle at the end of the day that means absolutely nothing.
The starting point has to be that we are supporting people with a disability in learning. This disability means that the person has learnt fewer effective behaviours than we have. It doesn’t mean they can’t learn more behaviours, but due to their disability in learning, learning new behaviours takes time.
Although a person has learnt fewer behaviours, the behaviours they have are very effective. We need to respect the behaviours people have and their functionality, even if we find these behaviours challenging.
If we find behaviours challenging, with PBS we take the ethical viewpoint that our priority is going to be to look at how we can support the person to continue to meet this function, and this takes priority over reducing the behaviour.
If a behaviour is to avoid something we may help them to avoid this more often. If avoiding this limits their life then we may support someone to learn coping skills. Or we may teach them a better way of avoiding it that is more efficient and effective than the behaviour we find challenging.
The same for if the behaviour is to gain something. We may look to how we make this thing freely available, coping skills for when it is not available, or supporting a better more efficient way of getting it than the way that challenges us.
There are a wealth of pseudo PBS practices at the moment and you can’t really tell what it is people are actually doing. Some approaches fake an evidence base (evidence based practice and practice based evidence) and are beginning to create a new “service land” that people will get stuck into. It is missing the art in the application of the science and creating a culture of speaking the right lingo gets you in the club even if what you are actually doing does not represent the sound theoretical underpinnings.
We know too well in supporting people with learning disabilities how people can jump on bandwagons and completely misunderstand which bandwagon they are on (e.g. He is choosing to do nothing and I must respect his choice).
Maybe having a clearer narrative about what Positive Behaviour Support is will help better define what it is and avoid it being misrepresented. Saying it improves quality of life with a couple of buzz words thrown in should not be accepted as good enough.