Questions to guide the development of a support plan

Difficult behaviors result from unmet needs

My practice is based upon a simple idea: difficult behaviors result from unmet needs.  In a sense, difficult behaviors are messages which can tell us important things about the person and the quality of his or her life.  In my experience, people with difficult behaviors are often missing:

  • Meaningful relationships
  • A sense of safety and well-being
  • Power
  • Things to look forward to
  • A sense of value and self-worth
  • Relevant skills and knowledge
  • Supporters who are themselves supported.

These needs are usually minimized or ignored in educational or human services settings.  As a result, people may become:

  • Relationship resistant
  • Chronic rule-breakers
  • Helpless and insecure
  • Depressed and isolated

Supporting a person requires us to get to know the person as a complicated human being influenced by a complex personal history.  While it is tempting to look for a quick fix, which usually means attacking the person and his or her behavior, suppressing behavior without understanding something about the life the person is living is disrespectful and counterproductive.

Instead of developing a behavior plan to "fix" the person, help the person and the person's supporters to develop a support plan that reflects a real and authentic life.  John and Connie Lyle O'Brien suggest the following questions for building a support plan.  Note how different these questions are from those we typically ask, such as "How can we reduce this person's problem behaviors?" or "How can we manage this behavior?"

  1. How can we help the person to expand and deepen his/her relationships?

  1. How can we help the person to achieve a sense of health and well-being?

  1. How can we help the person to have more fun in ordinary, everyday community places?

  1. How can we help the person to have more power?

  1. How can we help the person to make a contribution to others?

  1. How can we help the person learn valued skills?

  1. How can we help the person's supporters to get the support they need?

Support Plan Forms
Click here for a packet of forms you can use to build a support plan.

© David Pitonyak, Ph.D.

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