how to manage challenging behaviour in a group setting — Scope | Disability forum
If we become concerned about you or anyone else while using one of our services, we will act in line with our safeguarding policy and procedures. This may involve sharing this information with relevant authorities to ensure we comply with our policies and legal obligations.

Find out how to let us know if you're concerned about another member's safety.

how to manage challenging behaviour in a group setting

maureenray Member Posts: 3 Listener
Hello, my name is Maureen and I deliver day program sessions to adults aged 18 to 65 years,  with intellectual disabilities.  My clients have grown up going to the same support services and have learnt what annoys other clients and how to press their buttons.  I work with two clients, a male and a female ages are 48 and 51.  They both have Downs Syndrome and they constantly fight in sessions (verbally), as the male client knows just what upsets my female client.  He is hearing impaired and it is difficult to communicate with him.  I have tried talking to him and asking him not to talk to the lady involved but it doesn't make any difference.  He goes out of his way to annoy her with certain phrases, and this makes the class very unpleasant for the other clients.  Are there any stagetgies I can use?


  • htlcy
    htlcy Member Posts: 128 Pioneering
    Hi Maureenray, thanks for posting. This sounds like a very challenging scenario, and I'm thinking of this in terms of how I would disrupt this behaviour (I'm a teacher in the learning support dept at a college). I'm sure you've tried the usual with regards to shuffling around the group, but how about introducing a strategy where you encourage clients to only speak of others in nice ways, and if this rule is breached, to enforce a time out rule? I often only let disruptive pupils talk when I prompt it, and ensure there are consequences if their behaviour is unacceptable. Unfortunately some group dynamics will always be difficult, but maybe introduce tasks that change the group dynamic to keep things fresh. It takes patience but I've found I can eventually work out ways of keeping the peace as long as strategies are put in place and are used consistently. Hope this helps somewhat!
  • will22
    will22 Member Posts: 31
    Morning maureenray,

    Groups! Yes as you say people who know each other well can usually pick which buttons to press very quickly and the whole group becomes bogged down in managing this. Working primarily in education it's a very familiar scenario. 

    A lot comes down to the needs and level of the individuals involved. I Agree with htlcy, a common strategy would be the setting of ground rules and some outcomes if these are broken. But this depends on a number of things, mainly that someone is able to inhibit their behavior or that they actually care if they are sent out of a group. 

    What is the nature of the group - what are you doing, how is it set up? 
  • maureenray
    maureenray Member Posts: 3 Listener
    Thank you htlcy and will22 for the suggestions.  The group comprises adults with intellectual disabilities attending a day program, which is structured primarily as a school day.  We are structured as 2 hour sessions, with the participants choosing what program they wish to do each term.  Sessions go from 10am to 12pm one hour for lunch and 1pm  to 3pm.  Most of my participants live in ADHC Group homes.  The programs are Library Lovers, Art, Craft, Health and Wellbeing, Community Access, Meal and Food Prep, Music and Computers.  The above behaviour happens in a lot of the sessions, depending on who has chosen what.  This has become a real challenge for me and I want to be able to manage it when the new term starts.  We live in a small outback town in Australia, and the options for people with a disability are limited.  The NDIS is about to roll into this region in July so some people will be eligible for individual funding and hopefully more choice in what their day looks like.
  • will22
    will22 Member Posts: 31
    Small outback town in Australia? I'm in a rainy town in the north west of England. If you're recruiting please let me know!

    Back to the groups. I'd say it's important to bear in mind that getting groups of individuals together with different needs is always tricky and with the best will in the world it's unlikely that you will eliminate all difficulties. As long as your clients are having a good time and getting something out of the sessions then I'd call that win. 

    If you have 2 clients who do not get on then supporting them depends on their level of understanding and ability to manage these situation. 

    From what you say it seems like they both want to be there and so the outcome of not being able to attend if some ground rules aren't followed may be sensible. If done in the right way (without falling into the trap of infantilizing individuals) then a reward scheme for a good session or good interactions to get access to the bets or most preferred sessions may be beneficial.

    If at all possible could there be some discussion with the 2, finding out what the problem is, supporting them to understand the impact on each other or resolve whatever issue they have?

    If the gentleman is using certain phrases and these upset the other client, then can she be supported to be able to better manage these? if they do not achieve the outcome he's looking for then he may possibly pack it in. 
  • maureenray
    maureenray Member Posts: 3 Listener
    Thanks will22, some great ideas in there.  I will sift through all the suggestions and see what happens in Term 1.  And  yes, Disability Services in New South Wales (a state in Australia) are recruiting for the National Disability Insurance Scheme roll-out in July.   There is lots of information on the internet about the NDIS if you haven't heard of it.  So if you like the idea of 43 degree heat in January and February you will be in the right place.  A rainy town in the north west of England sounds like Heaven at the moment as we are in the middle of a very hot summer!


Complete our feedback form and tell us how we can make the community better.