The Minnesota Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities
Promoting Independence, Productivity, Self-Determination, Integration and Inclusion
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Positive Behavior Supports

Mike Mayer

What are some things to check if a person is having a behavior issue?

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Mike Mayer: Well, I’m going to go back to something that I talked about just a little while ago, which is the whole issue of what are things that they’ve been trying to do? Have they been trying to do something that they haven’t been able to do? Is it related to frustration? Is it a task that they really believe they need to learn how to do or that, for whatever reason, they feel they need to complete because it’s going to meet some need that they have, and so they’ve got an unmet need? I would strongly suggest that we take a real careful look at what are the things that seem to make them happy, seem to motivate their behavior. That’s the reason we created an assessment of the essential motivations, tension, and resistance is to pay attention to what are the things that are most important in their lives, fundamentally, from an emotional psychological standpoint. And I’ve had people say, “Well, you know, you don’t know with people who have, you know, really significant disabilities.” Oh, yeah, you do. You can figure those things out.

But also what are the barriers that are in their way? What are the things that prevent them from being able to do it? How big are those barriers and does that… does that seem to cause more distress because of the barriers being there? From them being able to do the things that if they really, really love painting and drawing and all that other kind of stuff, but we took it away from them because it wasn’t age appropriate. We said, “Oh, that’s for little kids.” Well, no, it’s not. It’s for people. Art isn’t a thing that’s on the basis of age, it’s on the basis of interest and skill and talent and all those other kinds of things. And so maybe we shouldn’t be taking that away from them. We should be giving an appropriate outlet. Does it mean that they have to color in the Little Mermaid coloring book and we’re going to call that art for the rest of their life? No, it doesn’t mean that at all. It may mean that some days they really like coloring in the Little Mermaid coloring book and it’s okay. But it should also mean that there’s a variety of other things, other ways that they could express their creativity and their interests and those kinds of things.

So what is it that is fundamental to the individual? What are the barriers that might have been constructed or that just exist because of physical limitation or medical issues or things along those lines that are in the way from them being able to do it? How do we make reasonable adjustments or accommodations within ourselves, within our programs, within our homes to enable the person to be able to have those experiences and be able to express who they are as people.

And also what is it we’re trying to make them do that they don’t want to do? My mom tried really, really hard for a really long time to get me to clean up my bedroom. I never actually met her standard for a clean bedroom. But, you know, her making me clean my bedroom often made me mad at her about other stuff later on. So I may have had, I may have cleaned my bedroom, but then I had attitude for four hours after that, that had nothing to do with the fact that we were having meatloaf for dinner, but it sure looked like it had something to do with meatloaf and dinner. So what is it we’re trying to make people do that they don’t like doing, that they’re resisting that may be creating an attitude or setting up a scenario or creating what we call precursors or antecedents to future behaviors?

So taking a look at that kind of stuff, taking a look at the communication, what are they trying to say to us? Taking a look at the medical issues. Maybe they’ve got a sore or a bruise or something along those lines. And, sometimes, it’s just about my emotions. I don’t know about you, but I’ve woken up on mornings and I look at myself in the mirror and I just say, “Shut up. Don’t say a thing,” because I’m already angry and I don’t know why. I mean, I just got up angry that day. And I’m telling myself don’t make everybody else in the world miserable because you’re miserable right now. It’s not their fault.

But the reality is, is that we have all have emotions. Some of us have learned how to manage them better than others. It’s one of the things we rarely teach people with disabilities, is that it’s okay to have the emotion. It’s okay to have the feeling. It’s what we do with it that causes the problem. Instead, we walk around going, “Oh, don’t be sad. You don’t have anything to be sad about. Everybody’s happy here.” “No, not everybody here is happy. And I have a roommate I can’t stand, and…” But instead of acknowledging and legitimizing those expressions of emotion, we try to minimize them. And so take a look at have we done any of that kind of stuff. So that’d be some places to start.

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The GCDD is funded under the provisions of P.L. 106-402. The federal law also provides funding to the Minnesota Disability Law Center, the state Protection and Advocacy System, and to the Institute on Community Integration, the state University Center for Excellence. The Minnesota network of programs works to increase the IPSII of people with developmental disabilities and families into community life.