Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

New toolkit helps parents and carers manage challenging behaviour

Ambitious about Autism has created a new toolkit which provides families and carers with helpful tools and resources to manage challenging behaviour at home.

The toolkit includes a series of five animated films which are designed to help family members and carers identify emotional or behavioural challenges, while also providing them with the tools and techniques to manage them.

The videos cover topics including how to support children to feel connected to the people around them and make decisions for themselves, how to nurture feelings of competence and how to resolve family conflict using the ‘drama triangle’.

While the resources are primarily aimed at parents and carers of autistic children and young people, the charity says they’re a valuable resource for any parent or carer.

Managing challenging behaviour through the iceberg model

The ‘iceberg model’ uses the concept of an iceberg to explain the relationship between unmet needs and challenging behaviour.

Behaviours that challenge are the tip of the iceberg, sitting above the water where we can see them, while children’s unmet needs that are driving this behaviour lie below the surface, out of sight.

By understanding the relationship between unmet needs and behaviour, parents can identify the triggers for challenging behaviour and how to avoid them, thereby promoting more positive behaviour.

The video explains some common physical and emotional unmet needs, and urges parents and carers to step back when challenging behaviour occurs, and consider what could be sitting beneath the surface.

Emotional needs: nurturing autonomy, relatedness and competence

The next three videos explain the emotional needs of autistic children and young people, and the need for parents to nurture autonomy, relatedness and competence.

One video highlights the importance of giving children and young people autonomy over decisions and the capacity to decide for themselves, as this is key to their psychological and emotional development and can help to ease stress levels.

Feeling understood, seen and heard, and having strong emotional bonds to family and friends is also vital for children and young people. The toolkit explains how parents and carers can use the model of the four Ss – safe, seen, soothed, and secure – to help children feel connected to their family and maintains secure and strong relationships.

Children and young people also want to feel competent and able to take on life’s day to day tasks, while also feeling challenged so that they do not get bored. Skill levels and challenges therefore need to be matched, so that children do not feel anxious or overwhelmed.

Children therefore need opportunities to match their skill levels to activity and tasks that are important and meaningful to them, giving them a satisfying sense of competence.

Family conflict: the drama triangle

While conflict in the family home is unavoidable, there are certain steps parents and carers can take to improve how conflict is handled and strengthen relationships.

The drama triangle provides a model for thinking about how to behave when conflict arises, and helps to simplify the patterns of behaviour we typically fall into.

The last video in the toolkit explains the three main roles taken on during conflict: the victim, the rescuer or the persecutor. None of these roles are helpful, and the drama triangle helps parents and carers to break free from these roles.

A framework for managing challenges arising in the home

The toolkit is part of the charity’s wider ambition of making sure that autistic children, young people and their families have support and resources in place to help them look after their health and wellbeing.

Danae Leaman-Hill, Director of External Affairs and Development at Ambitious about Autism, said: “We know that parents and carers of autistic children and young people can sometimes feel overwhelmed when coping with behaviours of distress. Our quality of life at home toolkit provides a framework for managing the challenges that parents and carers may face.

“We hope it will help foster close family bonds that empower autistic children and young people to feel more confident and independent both inside and outside their home.”

You can access the full toolkit here.

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