Keep it Going! How to Make Sure Staff Teams Maintain High Quality Support

High quality support

Adults with intellectual disabilities have a right to high quality support, and it is important that services supporting people not only meet people’s basic needs but focus on enriching each individual’s quality of life.  Supporting people to have positive relationships, to participate in ordinary everyday activity, to learn skills, increase independence and be a member of their local community is all part of this.  Getting practices in place which support these outcomes and making sure they stay in place has many challenges. Positive Behavioural Support (PBS) provides a framework for enriching people’s environments and lives through detailed understanding of behaviours which occur.  PBS isn’t an overnight fix and requires the team around the person to buy into the approach, be skilled enough to apply it and to keep going even when things are tough.  This can be a real challenge for the team and their leader.


The Role of Coaching

Staff need both training and encouragement to implement PBS interventions and agreed plans.  However, the standard model of classroom based training doesn’t provide everything that people need. We often find that ‘training’ finishes when people return to their usual work environment, with the hope that what they have learnt in the ‘classroom’ will translate into changes in behaviour back at work.  However, people are more likely to put into practice skills that they have been shown and practised themselves in the context where they will be required to use those skills.  The model of Behaviour Skills Training guides us to think about more than information based training.


The model outlines 4 steps for training a new skill

  1. Instruction – Provide a description of the skill, why it’s important and when it can be applied. Repeat this step as necessary.
  2. Modelling – Show the person how to perform the skill. This can be done during a classroom based training session but is more effective in the real situation where the skill will be used.
  3. Rehearsal – Have the person practice the skill while you observe. Again, this is more effective if done in the situation where the skill will be used. The coach should record what the person did well and what areas they could improve on.
  4. Feedback – The coach should provide positive praise for the elements that the person did well and some form of corrective feedback on areas for improvement.

Steps 2-4 can be repeated if needed.


How the sessions are set up, the balance between positive and corrective feedback and style of delivery is really important. The Behaviour Skills Training model can also be used as a way of opening up a conversation and a joint problem-solving approach. Good coaching leads others in what to do, how to do it and also provides positive feedback.  A ratio of 4:1 or 6:1 positive to constructive feedback is a good rule to follow to keep the person engaged in the process of learning.



Coaching needs to become part of common practice, not an add-on to the role of an already stretched manager, but an integral part of maintaining and driving up quality.  Some people make natural coaches whilst others will need support and coaching around their own coaching skills.  Coaching helps teams to ‘keep going’, to improve their practice and ultimately provide better outcomes for the people they support.

© Redstone PBS 2017



Daniels, A. C. (1994). Bringing Out the Best in People: How to Apply the Astonishing Power of Positive Reinforcement. McGraw-Hill, New York, NY.


Redstone action points

  • Does your service provide enough hands-on coaching to put skills into practice? What training do your potential coaches need?


  • How might your current coaches be supported to bring out the best in their teams?



Emma BriEmmanew picndley – Senior Behaviour Analyst (BCBA) Emma has worked in the field of applied behaviour analysis with people with intellectual disability and/or autism for over 17  years.  Emma has worked with both children and adults in a variety of settings which include family homes, schools, community teams and residential services. Bsc Psychology, Msc Applied Behaviour Analysis




Kate StruttKate StruttDirector of Redstone PBS and Clinical Psychologist.  Kate has over 19 years’ experience of working in intellectual disability and autism services, both within statutory services and the independent sector. Kate is registered with the Health and Care Professions Council. Bsc Psychology, D.Clin Psyc, PG Certificate Applied Behaviour Analysis.



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