As a parent or guardian for an individual with an intellectual or developmental disability you may be asked if you want behavior supports on a treatment plan. Often, people aren’t quite sure what behavior supports are, but are told they can help manage behaviors. Typically, the person presenting this option is a service coordinator or case manager.
Adding this type of support to the treatment plan seems reasonable to you, so you agree and viola – behavior supports are added to the treatment plan.
But, as the parent or guardian you still don’t really understand behavior supports. So, let’s take a few minutes to explain. First, a caveat, different states and different funding sources have different requirements, so check with your local agencies and providers for specific information.
In general terms, behavior supports focuses on teaching people the skills to live more independently and decreasing challenging behaviors. The first goal of behavior supports is to teach the person new skills, or improve existing skills, to improve the person’s quality of life. The second goal is to have skills generalize across settings and to maintain over time.
Independent skills could be as basic as learning to ask for something or learning to wait in line to as complex as planning and cooking Thanksgiving dinner, getting a job, or driving a car. Challenging behaviors really refers to any action that is a hurdle to independent skills. Most people think about aggressive behaviors, stealing, running away, or other high risk behaviors when thinking about challenging behaviors. But, other examples include verbal aggression, lying, noncompliant behaviors, or lacking a life skill that leads the person to rely on someone else.
So who provides behavior supports? The answer to this depends on where you live and how services are funded. Different states have different requirements for who can provide services and so do funding sources. Navigating the interactions between these two can be daunting. Behavior supports providers are usually behavior analysts (Board Certified Behavior Analyst, BCBA) or psychological professionals (licensed psychologists, licensed counselors, etc.). Some states or funding sources allow for technicians to provide services, as long as the technician is supervised by a professional.
How are services provided? This, too, depends on where you live and how services are funded, but also depends on the behavior supports provider. There are two basic service delivery models. With the first, the behavior supports provider would deliver direct services to the person at the person’s home, school, vocational site, or in a clinic. The second is to provide consulting services, where the behavior supports provider works with the person, families, schools, residential providers, or other invested parties to provide services. Regardless of the delivery model, services consist of evaluating the person, developing a treatment plan, and monitoring the person’s progress.
When choosing a behavior supports provider, things you will want to think about include:
- Who will be providing the services? Will it be the professional, a technician, families, teachers, direct support staff or some combination?
- What is the experience of the provider? Does the provider work only with adults or children? Do they have experience working with people with intellectual disabilities, Down Syndrome, Autism Spectrum Disorders, or behavior disorders?
- How will services be delivered? Will the person be going to a clinic to meet with the provider, or will the provider come the person? Will the provider give direct services or will they work with the person’s supports (family, direct support staff, school, etc.)?
- What are the limits of the funding source?
So, there you have it. Hopefully, this will shed some light on this sometimes misunderstood service.
Jose Levy – MA, BCBA
Director, Behavior Solutions