How does a Behaviour Support Plan improve quality of life?

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A Behaviour Support Plan aims to provide the tools and strategies necessary to support a person with disability to improve their quality of life.

Key points

  • A Behaviour Support Plan sets out the best way for a person with disability to be supported to develop positive behaviours
  • It should be used in every setting so that the person feels comfortable and happy in that environment
  • There are strict rules around restrictive practices in Behaviour Support Plans and must only be used as a last resort

These plans are about understanding the reasons behind why a person is acting in a certain way and helping them in positive ways to change their behaviour.

Plans can involve building skills, minimising stress and triggers in an environment, and strategies for support people to use if the person with the plan becomes overwhelmed.

Behaviour Support Plans are person-centred and completely different for each person.

Challenging behaviour and positive support

Behaviour Support Plans are created to address challenging behaviours, which may also be called ‘behaviours of concern’.

These behaviours may have the potential to cause harm to the person behaving in that way, for example scratching their own skin or hitting their head, or have the potential to cause harm to others, such as a tendency to be physical when stressed.

When a challenging behaviour arises, it can be difficult for others to know why a person is behaving in that way.

However, they do not have to be violent behaviours to be considered in a Behaviour Support Plan.

Non-violent examples include yelling or screaming, being withdrawn, not sleeping well, or repeated refusal to do things.

Behaviour Support Plans should encourage the use of positive behaviour support and acknowledge that challenging behaviour happens because of a combination of a person’s current and past experiences, the influence of other people in their lives, and the environments, communities and cultures they are part of.

Positive behaviour support focuses on the reasons which have caused the behaviour rather than punishing the person and works to limit the causes of the behaviour in order to improve the person’s quality of life.

Examples of positive behaviour support include:

  • Avoiding what distresses the person, such as large crowds
  • Teaching the person other ways of communicating what their needs are, such as using pictures to ask for something rather than hurting themselves

Plans also include guidance on what support people – everyone from family members to teachers in classrooms or paid support workers – should do if things become unsafe to bring the situation back under control.

Assessment for a plan

An official Behaviour Support Plan can only be developed by a qualified professional who is registered with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

The professional will get to know the person who the plan is for, their situation, their behaviours and the reasons behind those behaviours – including if they have any health issues which are causing them pain or discomfort and can be treated or managed.

They will also find the person’s strengths and any skills they already have that can be used in the plan.

Family members, parents, guardians and anyone else the person with the plan lives with should be consulted as well because it is important the professional understands the home environment so that the plan can be as successful as possible.

Examples of behaviour support

There are lots of different strategies that might be used in a Behaviour Support Plan for lots of different aspects of a person’s life.

For example, a plan could include a strategy that the person travels with two others while in a car – one support person to focus on driving and the other to be company for the person with disability so that they don’t feel stressed about the situation and can travel safely without taking their seatbelt off.

Making connections in the community through sport, recreation or even social media can be used to build positive relationships and encourage positive behaviours around other people.

The person might also benefit from a plan which includes learning skills like waiting, turn-taking or anger management strategies.

If the person has an NDIS plan, they may have services funded to help them develop these skills or to purchase supports like social stories – these are guides for certain social situations showing positive behaviour reactions and scripts for how to respond to a situation.

To control the person’s environment it might help them to have organised schedules and structure to any activities they do, making them feel more comfortable with a routine and encouraging positive behaviour.

A Behaviour Support Plan can also involve services such as occupational therapy for advice on how to make a person’s environment comfortable, speech therapy to build communication skills, and other therapists to support positive behaviour.

Funding for behaviour supports is classified under the Capacity Building category of an NDIS plan in the Improved relationships or Improved Daily Living section.

You can search for behaviour support providers on the Disability Support Guide.

Sharing the plan

Besides providing the Behaviour Support Plan to the NDIS service that provides supports to you or your person with disability, it should also be shared with:

  • The mainstream school attended by the child with disability
  • Family members or friends that provide informal support at home or in the community
  • Respite services

For Behaviour Support Plans which involve restrictive practices, which are only to be used as a last resort, they must also be submitted to the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission so that the practices can be reviewed.

This is because all people with disability deserve to have their rights upheld and restrictive practices infringe on those rights.

For example, if a person is locked in their room it takes away their right to freedom of movement and does not follow the aim of Behaviour Support Plans to improve a person’s quality of life.

Every time a regulated restrictive practice is used it has to be reported by the person’s NDIS service providers to the Commission.

Plans should be reviewed every year if they involve restrictive practices, but should also be reviewed each time the person with disability’s circumstances change.

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Related content:

Restrictive practices and the NDIS
The complaints process for the NDIS
Disability advocates