All behaviours have meaning and purpose. We all use them to communicate.  For some people it is their most effective way to communicate.  At Prior’s Court, we always honour this inline with total communication, but sometimes we need to support the young people to find a more appropriate or effective way to get their needs and wants met.

Young people at Prior’s Court have a range of needs associated with their autism, learning disabilities and other diagnoses they may have.  This affects how young people perceive and interact with the world, including affecting communication, social interactions, processing and managing sensory information.  Sometimes young people may behave in a way that challenges us, which can have a negative impact on the young person, others, their environment, their relationships, and ultimately their quality of life.

To support young people at Prior’s Court, we use the Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) framework across the organisation. The PBS framework compliments our values, and within this, all our approaches to learning. PBS is person-centred with the focus on adapting the environment around someone, which includes staff approaches, training, and culture. The way staff, led by our PBS Specialists, support young people is values and evidence-based.  This means we would never use punishment or aversive practices to change behaviour.  

There have been recent news stories from some education, care and health settings that reference more punishment-based strategies. Not only does this go against our values, but punishment is also the least effective way to change behaviour as it only teaches someone what not to do.  At Prior’s Court, and in the wider field of PBS, we use positive reinforcement to teach people more functional ways to communicate their needs.  This is in the form of positive and desirable results to a behaviour.  For example, tapping a cup and getting a drink is a positive result that teaches someone to do this more to get their needs met; breaking a cup and not getting a drink is not a positive result so naturally discourages the behaviour.  The option of having a drink being removed or a punishment for breaking the cup would never occur.

In addition to evidence from data through Prior Insight, the Learning Framework, and specific assessments; we hugely value and utilise qualitative data such as from observations, talking to staff and families, and most importantly, listening and responding to young people and their experiences.  Ultimately, our practice is informed by each individual young person.  

Alongside the positive environments that our site and TEACCH approach offer, a big focus of PBS is relationships.  It is our job as staff to adapt our approach to a young person and to build a relationship with them, so they feel safe and listened to.  This also creates consistency across staff teams so we can provide young people with predictable care that works for them across their day and night.  

Together with our bespoke PBS training, all staff are trained in Team Teach which is a behaviour support package which provides a holistic approach to understanding and de-escalating behaviour.  This also includes physical intervention training that may be used to keep a young person and others safe and reduce risk.  This is always a last resort.

Using the PBS Framework, the aim of our PBS Specialists is to enhance each young person’s quality of life, ensuring they lead full, enriched, and productive lives with opportunities and choice.  Everybody at Prior’s Court is responsible for this, but our PBS Specialists lead on creating plans for young people, and training and coaching staff.  They also provide support at the specialist level of our tiered approach, using functional assessments to better understand a young person’s behaviour whilst adopting a multi-disciplinary approach to supporting them.

Emma Barnes, Therapy Lead at Prior's Court

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