• If you are finding that your child’s challenging behaviour is becoming difficult to manage, there are support services available, such as behaviour intervention.

There are many reasons why a child with a disability may act in a challenging and difficult way..It is often the means of communicating a need and they may require support to learn other ways to express the need.

When the behaviour becomes a barrier to your child participating in family or school activities and/or poses a risk to their health and safety or those of other people, it is referred to as a behaviour of concern. 

There is an association between lack of communication skills and behaviours of concerns.

Environmental design can also be a factor in a child displaying behaviours of concern, for example, a child with autism may find a large shopping centre too noisy and stressful, and express this by running away.

It is important to determine the function of your child’s behaviour (or the reason why it occurs) to make sure you get help from the appropriate therapist or therapists. For example, if the underlying cause of the behaviour is a breakdown in communication, then a speech pathologist might be needed. If the behaviour is due to difficulties with sensory processing, an occupational therapist might be the best person to work with your child. It could also be that a number of therapists might work together on different areas to address your child's behaviours of concern and develop a behaviour support plan or intervention.

Positive Behaviour Support

Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) is an evidence-based intervention approach whose primary goal is to increase the quality of life of the individual exhibiting behaviours of concern by reducing both the behaviours of concern and the use of restrictive interventions, which restrict the rights or freedom of movement of a person with a disability. Restrictive interventions can include including chemical restraint, mechanical restraint and seclusion. For example, restrictive clothing that is used to prevent the child from smearing faeces.

These goals are accomplished by changing the environment to support appropriate behaviours and supporting the child to gain new skills and coping strategies.

The Positive Behaviour Support practice model is applicable to all children and adults with behaviours of concern, regardless of their cognitive functioning or disability and must be used by behaviour support providers funded by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Getting support

There are a number of services that assist parents by teaching them about positive behaviour support:

  • Stepping Stones Triple P (SSTP) has been tailored for parents of children with a disability aged 2–12. It doesn't tell you how to be a parent. It's more like a toolbox of ideas. It's all about making it work for you. Families with children with a disability or developmental delay have free access to selected levels of Triple P's Stepping Stones parenting program.
  • Aspect Victoria (VIC) Positive Behaviour Support Program is free to parents/carers of children and young adults diagnosed with autism aged 6 – 25 years of age and living at home. The three tiered program offers:
    1. Positive Behaviour Support Workshops -Group training and information
    2. Post Workshop Consultation Short term additional assistance for families needing support with their individual behaviour support plan following attendance at a workshop
    3. Individual Behaviour Support Coordination ‘Wrap around’ team approach to provide support to a small number of families with a child or young person with complex needs or enduring challenges. Individuals requiring this level of support may be of significant risk of family breakdown.  

It is important that the positive behaviour plan or intervention developed for your child is used consistently across all settings including the home, school and respite. This will assist your child to practice their new skills and coping strategies and for the adults around them to respond to their behaviour in the same way. Your behaviour support provider can help you liaise with your child’s school or other service providers to implement a single behaviour support plan.

A range of other services and supports are available to help a person with a disability, their parents, teachers and support staff to get the information and strategies they need to reduce behaviours of concern and develop alternative more positive behaviours.

  • Contact the Department of Health and Human Services Disability Intake and Response Service for further information on eligibility criteria and referral pathways for accessing behaviour support services. For direct connection to the Disability Intake and Response Service call 1800 783 783 or TTY 1800 008 149.
  • A number of private practitioners and organisations also offer behaviour intervention support on a fee-for-service basis.
  • For more information on the behaviour support services or how to find a therapist with experience working with people who have autism visit the Amaze website or the raising children website.

Early Intervention support Services

If your child attends an early childhood intervention service, the staff might also be able to help with strategies to work on your child’s behaviour.

Student support services

If your child is at school, a range of student support services officers (such as guidance officers, psychologists, social workers, occupational therapists, speech pathologists, visiting teachers and curriculum consultants) can work with your child to address their behaviours of concern. They do this to provide a safe environment for staff and students.

Speak to your school directly about what supports can be arranged for your child.

Changes to who will provide supports to children and adults with disabilities

In Victoria the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is available in the Barwon Area and will commence providing individualised support and services for children and adults aged under 65 years in other parts of the state from 1 July 2016. Information on the roll out and how to apply for support from the NDIS is available on the NDIS website

The NDIS will fund a range of therapeutic supports that help the person with a disability address psychological, emotional, behavioural and communication disorders.

If you are not currently receiving support, you can continue to apply for support from existing State and Commonwealth programs until the NDIS becomes available in your area. See information above on available services and supports.

Where to get help

  • Your paediatrician
  • Your child’s school
  • Disability Intake and Response Service, call 1800 783 783
  • Disability organisations 

More information

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