Anyone who works in a care or support role, whether with children or adults, and whether caused by learning disabilities, dementia, or something else, will at some point encounter challenging behaviour. That means you will need to be prepared to respond appropriately in a way that keeps everyone safe and allows service users to have their needs met.
1. See the individual
It can be easy to label a person displaying challenging behaviour by their diagnosis and forget to see them as a person. Challenging behaviour is often a highly individualised response to specific situations, and you need to understand how it is unique to each person.
The causes of challenging behaviour may seem irrational to you, but they are very real to them. Never simply dismiss their feelings. Listen carefully to what they are trying to tell you, however they communicate, and take time to validate how they feel. Always avoid being patronising.
3. Recognise early warning signs
One of the most effective ways to limit challenging behaviour is to identify it early. This allows you to remove any stressors and offer sources of comfort. Most people will probably show milder signs of discomfort before resorting to extreme challenging behaviour.
4. Create a supportive environment
This refers to both physical space and the attitudes of the people present. Choose colours, lighting and furniture that are comforting and do not contribute to sensory overload. Have quiet spaces available. Make the layout of the space clear and reliable.
5. Use positive reinforcement
Rather than focusing on negative behaviour, reward positive actions. Encourage individuals to participate in activities they enjoy and engage with their surroundings. Redirect and reassure instead of punishing or trying to control.
6. Improve communication
Challenging behaviour often results from communication difficulties. Keep your words simple, voice calm and ensure you have someone’s attention before speaking. Help find alternative communication methods, such as signing or through a computer, when necessary.
A challenging behaviour training course such as tidaltraining.co.uk/learning-disability-training/challenging-behaviour-training-breakaway-techniques can help teach you further techniques and offer more support for dealing with challenging behaviour in different situations, but these tips are a starting point.
Following this advice may help you improve your relationship with someone who displays challenging behaviour, allowing better communication between you, in addition to improving safety for everyone nearby, leading to a happier and healthier overall environment.