There may be occasions when someone in your care demonstrates behaviours that can be difficult to manage. Sometimes you can determine the cause of the behaviours and can then work to change conditions so that the behaviours cease or at least reduce! However, there may be times when you feel that you need some professional assistance to understand what is contributing to or causing the behaviours and what you can do to reduce their impact!
The following is list of things to consider putting in place or try with the person in your care while you wait for professional support:
- Firstly, look after yourself – ensure you have time for you, to rest, recuperate and participate in things that make you feel happy and balanced, seek help when you need it. If you are burnt out, tired and stressed, it is really hard to support others effectively.
- Say “YES” when help is offered and it works for you and the person in your care.
- Be compassionate with yourself and others – we all make mistakes and we can all improve. Be kind to yourself if you have not been your ‘best self’ during the day; reflect, recuperate and start fresh the next day.
- Set up and implement a consistent timetable events and routines for activities / tasks for the person in your care
A timetable displays all the activities that will be occurring within a day, week or month etc. For example below is a timetable for a young person’s day, presented as coloured images. This could just as easily be presented as photos, words or line drawings depending upon the person’s ability to understand.
A routine provides information about all the small steps contained within an activity or task on a timetable. It teaches the steps of the task in order, and enables people to learn from consistent repetition of the routine. Again, this could be presented in photos, words, line drawings and could target particular activities of importance or where the person demonstrates an interest or motivation already. For example, the routine of ‘washing hands’ is displayed below:
Providing this information in verbal and visual forms together can often help people to understand what to expect in their day; much as many of us use a calendar to plan events and activities and prepare for each activity.
Using real photos including the person in them doing the activity and real objects can also help to provide additional information when needed. For example, using a real object could be picking up and showing car keys every time you need to leave the house to travel in a car, holding up a cup when offering a drink.
- Enable the person to make choices in their day, both big and small, to the best of their ability. This is important to support people to feel that they have control over parts of their lives and are able to do things they want to do, not just those they need to do. This is as important for young children as it is for adults. Once people get used to using photos, pictures, words or line drawings, they can start to use these items to choose or alter activities.
- Implement consistent boundaries / rules / expectations – this helps to make an environment more predictable to people, which in turn assists them (and you) to cope.
Some steps to help you do this are below:
- Identify the behaviours you find challenging to manage
- Think about steps you can implement to respond to the behaviour – Examples include
- Give a verbal warning
- removing an item of concern
- distracting the person with a different activity
- moving others from the environment
- doing something silly (eg jumping up and down, squawking like a chicken) for the element of surprise
- offer the person a break / drink or food / to use the bathroom
- Removing the person from the situation
Endeavour to put these into an ordered list of responses, from the least difficult / intrusive to the most. For example, giving a verbal warning is less intrusive than removing the person from the situation.
- Write down these strategies and discuss and share them with others will be implementing them in your environment – noting that they may or may not work brilliantly all the time or straight away, but if implemented consistently, the person will learn what to expect / what will happen when they display challenging behaviour
- Record information – about the behaviours you see, the frequency and how the person responds to your strategies or the consequences that occur. This will provide a solid basis the behaviour support professional to review when they commence. This is often called an ABC data sheet – Antecedent-Behaviour-Consequence – see example
- Finally, endeavour to foster a sense of humour and joy –noticing things that make yourself and the person in your care laugh and smile, make sure you make time for fun and laughter – it will help you cope better during stressful times if you can learn to laugh when you can!
Hopefully, some of these strategies will help you while you wait for professional support – they will also provide you with a great baseline of detail to provide to the behaviour support practitioner.