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Challenging Behaviour

Managing Incidents of Challenging Behaviour and working towards having fewer of them

Basic usual course:

1 day. 2 day courses recommended for more in-depth study, follow-up courses and on-site consultancy available.

Course Programme includes:

Course Details:

This course will be of interest to staff of all disciplines who work with adults and children with learning disabilities, including social services staff, teachers and assistants, nurses, staff from voluntary organisations, therapists and indeed parents and other careers. The emphasis of the course is on the practical - what staff can do to work effectively during incidents of challenging behaviour and then to help the person to progress so that incidents are less likely. Course members will be shown principles for making judgements about how to intervene effectively without relying on dominant and controlling measures, but rather by using techniques such as calming and defusing to work towards effective outcomes to difficult situations, as well as staying calm and reducing the stress on workers.

The course will include small and large group work and use of video examples. Comprehensive handouts will be given. Course members should expect to work in an informal, humorous and supportive atmosphere.

I am flexible about group sizes. A staff group of fifty to sixty is common, though the course naturally becomes all the more interactive the smaller the number of participants. The course is best delivered to a staff team with shared concerns, although open-access courses can also be arranged. It has not been designed to be a lecture theatre presentation. If you are interested in using a lecture theatre with a large group, please telephone for discussion.

Course Background:

When I first started working with children with severe learning difficulties, I didn’t know how to manage the frequent incidents of very difficult behaviour that could occur. I did realise that I enjoyed working with people who had feelings that were difficult to manage and would therefore employ extravagant and often very imaginative ways of behaving in order to communicate their feelings. I enjoyed this aspect of the work very much, so much that as I moved on to subsequent jobs, I worked in educational establishments that tended to specialise in working with young people who were likely to be challenging and difficult to reach.

However, it took a few years for my practice and technique to move on. In the late seventies, it seemed to me that staff practice was about dominance and confrontation, often with casual use of physical intervention. My practice was like this. We also used quite technical behaviour modification approaches in an attempt to ‘adjust’ a person’s behaviour style. I was not happy using such approaches, but I didn’t know what else to do.

The influences of this course are drawn from many sources, but a primary one is the work of the staff of my school, Harperbury Hospital School, during the nineteen-eighties. Our staff team was characterised by some very sensitive and understanding personalities who saw difficult behaviour as communication, who attempted to understand and empathise and who also attempted to give the very difficult to reach people more positive ways of relating. I learnt to be less dominating in my incident management techniques by observing and learning from colleagues who were gifted at ‘defusing’ – when a young person was in a highly charged state, threatening violence perhaps, they would do thoughtful, calm things to take the heat out of the situation and reach a desirable outcome. They would also write perceptive action plans which could be carried out in classrooms and were aimed at helping the young person to move forward with feelings and behaviour.

We are now in an age where employers in our field are increasingly writing policy and guidelines documents for their staff where this style of practice is outlined as the one they expect staff to use. These documents need to be reinforced by training and this course is designed to meet that need. There is an emphasis on developing calm, thoughtful practice, on attempting to understand and be realistic with expectations about what a person may realistically achieve in terms of their behaviour and on learning the ‘nuts and bolts’ of incident management techniques and teamwork. There is also and emphasis on reminding all of us involved in our filed, that working with people who are difficult to be with is hugely interesting and enjoyable.

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