How to help children with behaviours of concern

A continuation of part five in the IncludED@OSHC learning journey, safe environments.

Some children with complex disabilities express behaviours of concern.

Behaviours of concern are escalated behaviours that can impact the wellbeing or physical safety of the child or people around them. This behaviour can disrupt day-to-day life and activities.

The behaviour may involve emotional outbursts, shouting or screaming, violent reactions, running away or loss of control.

It's important that staff understand it is the behaviour that is of concern, not the child.

The behaviours happen for reasons that are individual to each child. They are triggered by environments or situations. They are not the result of a child being 'bad' or 'naughty'.

Triggers include stress, anger, anxiety, fear, sensory overload, being overwhelmed or tired. They often occur when a child moves from a state of calm to experiencing agitation or strong emotions.

Children with complex disabilities may express these behaviours because they can't clearly verbalise their feelings or regulate their emotions.

Some behaviours of concern may pose safety risks. The child could hurt themselves, other children or staff, or damage property.

Your service can help a child manage and change their behaviour patterns by creating a positive behaviour support plan.

Behaviour support plan

This is a plan that details how to respond to and support a child's specific behavioural needs or escalated behaviours. It provides staff with information on what behaviours to look out for, how to respond and how to help the child de-escalate their behaviours and replace them with more positive responses.

When developing a behaviour support plan:

  • check if the child already has a behaviour support plan from their school, family or disability support provider
  • if they do not have a behaviour support plan, develop one with the child, their family and support team using the individual support plan downloadable template (docx 697kb)
  • make sure the plan is individualised to the child – a strategy that works for one child may not work for another
  • ask the child, family and support team about the behaviours of concern, the triggers and what support the child needs
  • agree and document the strategies
  • make sure all staff are aware of and understand the plan
  • work out if you need to adjust your program or spaces
  • regularly monitor and review the child's behaviour and the impact of the strategies, and update the plan if needed
  • regularly discuss any behaviours or incidents with the child, their family and support team
  • provide and ask for feedback from the child and their family on the child's behaviour and how you can improve your support
  • discuss the child's needs with their school and other support professionals, and put in place consistent strategies.

Behaviour support plans may include:

  • information on the child, such as their strengths, motivators, likes and dislikes
  • agreed behavioural or developmental goals
  • supports or adjustments to meet the child's behavioural needs
  • stimuli, triggers, emotions or events that may escalate the behaviour
  • signs of escalation to look out for
  • strategies to manage or de-escalate the behaviour when needed.

Case study: Behaviour support planning with Jamie

Jamie is a 15-year-old who goes to OSHC. He has a lot of energy and loves playing games that involve a lot of running around and aren't too complicated, such as soccer or tag.

Jamie sometimes displays escalated behaviours, including verbal aggression to other children if he loses a game. As he is physically larger than most of the other children at the service, the educators need to make sure that Jamie is quickly supported to safely let out his energy and calm down when he displays aggressive behaviour.

The service met with Jamie, his parents, teachers and National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) psychologist to discuss strategies to help de-escalate Jamie's aggression at the service.

Jamie responds well to being offered a break to run around the yard and 'get out' any angry words. He joins back in the game when he feels calm. The other children understand that sometimes Jamie will take a break in the middle of the game, and the educators make sure to adjust the activity so that no child is disadvantaged by Jamie taking a break.