The behaviour will have a function. This should be explored using functional analysis. This involves assessing the whole person, their abilities, their skills, their deficits, their likes and dislikes, their family background, their health, their ability to cope with demands and many other things.

From this, the professional involved should be able to work out what the behaviour is achieving – what function it serves. From this, you can develop a support plan.

Strategies for assessing challenging behaviour

1. Establish the nature of the behaviour

  • Is it really a problem?
  • Is it an established behaviour?
  • Is it a new behaviour?

2. Determine the facts

  • Is the information received about the behaviour reliable?
  • Are there differences in carer perceptions of the problem behaviour?
  • Does the behaviour only occur with certain carers?

3. Describe the behaviour

  • Nature, frequency, extent of the behaviour
  • Is there a pattern? Does it occur at certain times of the day?
  • Under what circumstances does the behaviour occur?

4. Determine the outcomes of the behaviour

  • Escape from or avoidance of a threatening event?
  • Rewards, such as attention, food or drink?
  • Interaction with others?
  • Self-stimulation?

5. Examine the individual's history

  • Is there a history of the same behaviour?
  • What were the previous interventions?
  • Were the previous interventions successful?
  • Were there unknown trigger factors?
  • Under what circumstances did the behaviour occur?

6. Examine the medical history

  • Has there been a new diagnosis or illness?
  • Has the medication been reduced or increased?
  • Has the frequency of epilepsy increased?
  • Is the medication used inappropriately?
  • Has new medication been prescribed?

7. Determine changes to the environment

  • Has there been a change of carer or key worker?
  • Has there been a change in daily routine?
  • Has there been a change in activities?
  • Has there been a change in the peer group?
  • Has there been a change in frequency of family visits?
  • Is a close family member ill or in hospital?
  • Is there a lack of stimulation?
  • Is there over-stimulation?
  • Is fatigue present?
  • Has there been any loss or bereavement?
  • Is there pain or discomfort?
  • What is the carer’s attitude towards the individual?
  • Has there been a change in noise level?
  • Are there too many people around for the client to cope with?

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Tips on managing behaviour

Tips from parents and professionals who have experience of challenging behaviour