Positive Behavioral Support: What is your role?

  • Be a good role model. It will be difficult for people to look to you to teach them anger management if they see you yell and scream when you get angry. Be respectful of those you are supporting, and show them that there are ways to express frustration without being disrespectful.
  • Be a good observer. As a DSP, you will have the most contact with the person and will generally be the first to notice changes in behavior or behaviors that are interfering in a person’s life. Your input is extremely valuable!
  • Keep good documentation. Your observations of what’s happening before and after the challenging behavior are critical in determining why the behavior occurs. Write down accurate, factual information about patterns of behavior: times, places, surrounding events, what happens after the behavior. In our example of Bob, staff might be making notes such as: 

“At first Bob would not get on the van for a trip to McDonalds.”  

“Once on the van he began hitting his neighbor.” 

“At the intersection, Bob took off his seatbelt.” 

“Bob ate little of his dinner tonight. Ate most of his salad and pie, but only took one bite of his hamburger.”

  • Follow behavior support plans. In order to support someone effectively, the same teaching strategies must be used by all staff members and others involved in the person’s life. In addition, behavior plans must follow human rights guidelines. By carefully following behavior support plans, you help make sure that the person’s rights are protected and that the new, positive behavior is successfully taught. Be sure to tell the person who developed the plan if it seems too difficult or complicated. It’s important that the plan is designed so that you understand it and can carry it out. Make it a point to tell supervisors about what works and what does not work in the PBS plan.
  • Be a good communicator. If someone communicates with words, listen to what they tell you about their choices with words and behavior. If they do not communicate with words, pay close attention to what they tell you through behavior. By doing this, you will often be able to assist people in exercising choice and control, which will make it less likely that negative behavior will be necessary.
  • Be supportive and respectful. The people you support have the same desire you have to be accepted in the community. Socially unacceptable behaviors may have been learned for a variety of reasons based on the person’s life history and experiences. When you treat people with respect, they are more likely to trust that you are trying to help them reach their goals and, thus, you will be a better DSP.
  • Commit to problem-solving. When someone lives in the community, problems may arise due to behaviors that keep the person from fully participating in community life. Put your creativity and energy into helping find solutions that increase the person’s ability to become a valued, participating community member. The Arc of Virginia reminds us that people with intellectual disabilities deserve “A Life Like Yours” and have abbreviated that by using the acronym ALLY.
  • Assist people with improving their quality of life. Look at people’s lives to see if they have opportunities to make friends, participate in activities they like, and take on new challenges. Find ways to help each person increase those opportunities. For example, try going with someone to join a club that focuses on his or her interests.
  • Point out positive actions. The people you support might make choices you don’t agree with at times. Focus on helping people notice the positive effects of certain actions. Praise someone who has just combed his hair to a mirror and point out how good his hair looks. In time, he may go to the mirror alone and note whether the grooming was successful.