Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) – Barkuma’s Approach

7th November, 2023

Barkuma works with people from 7 years of age to deliver NDIS Specialist Services including Positive Behaviour Support (PBS), Barkuma’s highly skilled and qualified team can help people define the life they desire and develop a plan to achieve it. Through building capacity, participants can enhance their quality of life, boost their confidence, and nurture their self-esteem.

What is Positive Behaviour Support (PBS)?

Positive Behaviour Support is an approach that aims to ensure individuals with disabilities receive the support they need without compromising their autonomy.

Jessica Howe, Team Leader of PBS and Specialist Services at Barkuma, explains:

“It’s all about respecting the rights of people with disabilities. That means that we work collaboratively with our participants – understanding what their goals are and helping them to identify what’s actually going to improve their quality of life while also reducing the use of restrictive practices that might be in place.”

Understanding restrictive practices

To comprehend the significance of PBS, it’s crucial to understand what restrictive practices are. These can include prescribing medications for behaviours of concern or implementing environmental restraints like locks on doors. PBS seeks to minimise the need for such practices by addressing the root causes of the behaviours.

Working in Positive Behaviour Support (PBS)

Jessica Howe and her team work closely with individuals and their support networks, conducting thorough assessments of behaviours of concern and understanding why these behaviours occur. The approach is evidence-based, rooted in research, and involves analysis of data to understand the function of behaviour.

“We try to find out why those behaviours are happening and see what we can do to change the person’s environment or reduce the need for them to use those behaviours of concern, improving their quality of life.  We also work with the NDIS Commission and implementing providers to identify the use of restrictive practices and develop ways of reducing and eliminating them,” said Jessica.

As a team leader, Jessica’s role in behaviour support is to “ensure our behaviour support practitioners are supported throughout the development of interim and comprehensive behaviour support plans … incorporating all of the steps that have been highlighted by the research that you need to do in order to have an effective behaviour support plan.”

Training and professional development at Barkuma

Barkuma’s commitment to excellence is reflected in its comprehensive internal training and professional development programs. PBS practitioners receive individual and group-based supervision to ensure their skills remain top-notch. The organisation also allocates resources for external professional development opportunities, staying current with the sector and best practices.

Measuring effectiveness and making adjustments

In the world of PBS, effectiveness is key. Barkuma employs a scientific approach to assess the impact of support plans. By collecting data and comparing it to baseline measurements, practitioners can determine if strategies are working or if adjustments are needed. The ultimate goal is to enhance the individual’s quality of life while eliminating or reducing restrictive practices.

Balancing rights and safety

One of the most delicate aspects of PBS is striking the right balance between respecting an individual’s rights and ensuring safety. Jessica explains, “We weigh up whether the risk of the behaviour is higher than the potential impacts of the restriction preventing the behaviour.” It’s a nuanced process that demands careful consideration.

Maintaining a person-centred approach

A person-centred approach is at the core of Barkuma’s PBS services. They invest time in getting to know the individual and understanding their goals, interests and unique needs. Collaborating with the person and their support network is vital in developing effective strategies that cater to their specific circumstances.

“Our role is to also advocate within those support networks. If a person very clearly has a goal, which might not necessarily be aligned with what the support system can support, then we try to advocate to achieve the person’s goal in a way whereby we can keep everyone safe.”

Common Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) strategies

PBS strategies are diverse and adaptable. They often involve modifying the individual’s environment to meet unmet needs. This may include the accommodation of sensory sensitivities or developing a routine to provide predictability and increase feelings of safety and security. The focus is always on addressing the root causes of behaviour.

Key principles and best practices in promoting Positive Behaviour Support (PBS)

Jessica highlights the key principles of PBS, which include collaboration, enhancing the quality of life and individualisation. She also notes a growing trend in the field – celebrating neurodiversity and adopting affirming approaches that respect different ways of processing information.  “A really good thing that we’re focusing on right now is the idea of celebrating neurodiversity and taking an affirming approach.”

Support and advice for caregivers

Supporting individuals with behaviours of concern can be incredibly demanding. Jessica advises caregivers to recognise that all behaviour has a function. By understanding why certain behaviours occur, they can find alternative ways to meet the individual’s needs. She also recommends caregivers seek support and self-care strategies, emphasizing the importance of their own well-being.

“The Carer Gateway website is a government initiative that covers what supports may be made available to carers.”

Accessing Barkuma’s Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) services

To access Barkuma’s PBS services, individuals can initiate the process with their NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) funding. Referrals come from family members, and support coordinators, although other professionals can also make referrals. Barkuma is dedicated to helping individuals from children (over 7 years of age) to adults.

Success stories and positive outcomes

Perhaps the most inspiring aspect of Barkuma’s work is the transformation it brings to people’s lives. Jessica has witnessed individuals, with the help of PBS strategies, who have overcome behaviours of concern and now lead more fulfilling lives achieving their goals.

“One example is the children we have worked with who were using really intense physical aggression in order to get sent home from school.  A functional behaviour analysis determined there was a real sensory function to that behaviour. So the reason that they were doing it is they needed to escape the overstimulating classroom environment.”

“Classroom lighting and posters on the walls were changed.  Adjustments were made to the way in which instruction was delivered in the classroom.  And now that child is at school full time, whereas before they were only there three hours a week.”

By championing Positive Behaviour Support, Barkuma is not only making a positive impact in the lives of individuals with disabilities but also setting an example for a more inclusive and empathetic society. Let’s continue to celebrate diversity and support those who need it most.