Archive_Addressing Challenging Behavior - Introduction

Video Transcript

Hello, and thank you for joining us today for the introduction to "Understanding and Addressing Challenging Behaviors of Individuals with Complex Needs." This is a webcast series and I'm Chris Filler, program director for the Lifespan Transitions Center at OCALI, the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence. We serve individuals and families and educators and professionals working with individuals with complex needs-- autism, low incidence disabilities.

Hi there. My name is Wendy Szakacs and I'm a regional consultant in the Northeastern and Eastern parts of Ohio. Chris and I are going to be your presenters for this webcast series and we are really, really glad to have you with us for this series. Chris, do you want to tell them a little bit about it?

Sure. First, do not be afraid when you look at how many pieces they are in this series. We took the original series, we broke it up into smaller pieces because of the complex nature of some of the concepts. People seem to understand it better if it's in smaller chunks. So don't get concerned when you see so many pieces.

The series is really designed to be used with individuals with complex needs and challenging behaviors. We start off looking at, first, the behavior and just defining what is the behavior that we're concerned about and getting focused on that. Then we move and look at factors surrounding the behavior and the relationship to the behavior that those factors might have. We do focus on the person and we focus on the person's strengthen and their challenges and their interests. As well as, yes, the needs that they have-- we do have to look at those as well. And we do take all of this together and put it into a process that allows us to put together a plan that supports that individual to change the behavior that we're concerned about.

This process can be used with so many different people, both adults, children, adolescents-- really, it's designed to be used with anyone. I bet even though I've described it, Wendy, they're wondering why this is such an important type of process to learn. Do you want to tell them a little more about it?

Sure. Well, each person's going to come to this process with a different knowledge base, and so you come with some knowledge about behavior, and we do understand that. So some of the information that you'll hear, you're going to say, oh, you know what? I knew that piece. Terrific. For others, it may be new-- maybe all of it, maybe some of it. When you get to those new points, just take your time. Take your time to understand, repeat if you need to, so that the process becomes second nature to you as you learn it.

When you think about this, we have to think about process versus procedure. And so this is process, because we're working with human beings. We can't give you this laundry list of things that-- I'll do this, this, this, this and I'm going to be able to fix things. But what we can do is take you through this process that will allow you to look at your individual-- apply these pieces that we'll teach you to your individual using your team. And then it will, hopefully, get to some positive outcomes for the individual that you're supporting. And so that process is different than a procedure, like putting together a model airplane, which is always going to work for you when you follow those steps.

Talking about individuals, for those of you who use positive behavior interventions and supports, or PBIS, this fits right in with what you're doing. For those individuals that the universal supports and the secondary supports are just not enough and you're moving up into that tier three tertiary supports, this fits right in. Functional behavior assessment, that's a piece of that. And so this will work right along with PBIS. And if you're not familiar with what that is, go to and you can get that information. Some great things there.

So Chris, I know that we've had some people say, so who should watch the series? Who should do the training? You want to talk about that?

Sure. Well, the short answer is anyone. Anyone can really be involved. Anyone that knows the individual that you're focusing on can be part of this team, and yes we do recommend that it is a team that works through this process. So it could be teachers, it could be a therapist. The family is definitely important to be on the team. The individual themselves could be on the team as well. Really look at paraprofessionals and job coaches, administrators, psychologists-- I could just keep going on and on, but you get the idea. Anyone that knows the individual and is willing to work the process. That's very important. They have to be invested and willing to work through the process.

There is one more thing that you may want to consider as a team. When we are talking about working through the process for the first time, if there is not anyone on the team that is really familiar with the process, it may be important to search out someone that could act as a facilitator or mentor. Somebody that at least has some familiarity with the process. That can be really helpful.

Right. Yeah, that's a good point. You know, Chris, when we present this series face to face to people, one of the things we really start off with is that perspective or point of view-- how we look at the student or individual that we're supporting before we work through the process. Do you want to start off with some of that belief system?

You know I do. Yes, I think that this is foundational to the process. When you start this process, it is so important that you believe that what you are doing is important, and that what you are doing, the person deserves to have that kind of support.

What I mean by that is that most of the people that we're looking at with these challenging behaviors, they really don't want to use those behaviors. These are not the way that somebody chooses to act, oftentimes. Oftentimes, it's that they don't know how to do something differently. They don't have a set of skills or they don't know how to access that set of skills when they need to. And so we have to believe that the person deserves the opportunity to learn that, to work through that.

And the skills I'm talking about are skills that are so vitally important for us to have to be able to be part of our community, to participate, to really be a person that is able to access their community the way they want to and when they want to.


You know, when we talk about behaviors and we think back, we used to validate segregating people because of behavior.

We did, yeah.

If they couldn't talk the way that we talked, if they couldn't communicate the way that we communicate, if they couldn't act the way that we act, we felt that was reason enough to say that they needed to live or learn or be in a different place. And now we know that that's not right, that's not morally or ethically right and it's not even legal. So we are obligated as support folks to really invest some time into teaching people the kind of skills that they need so they can be more a part of the community that they would like to be in.


So as we think about this, Wendy, it reminds me of some of the discussions that we've had around belief systems and around how relationships really enter into that discussion, and how important the relationships are. I think it would be nice if you could talk to them a little bit about the importance of relationships.

Oh, for sure, Chris. We have talked about that a lot and it's so important. You know, first of all, having your team on the same page with the belief system that Chris just was talking about and then that knowing that the individual you support-- being able to get them to the ability to learn these skills from your team is going to need a respectful, trusting relationship with that individual and the persons on the team.

My former life was a classroom teacher and I was running a program, was called to come and see a student who might be able to come to our program. And so I went to visit this individual where he was at and was taken into a small room where this student was at with another adult. And so I went and sat down near him. He was kind of sitting in with some blocks and things. He was in first grade at that time. And the first thing I know is, he's looking at me and smiling, but a block came flying by my head. OK, we're all right with this, you know? And then another block came flying by my head.

An adult came into the room and kind of whispered to me, you might want to move back. And I just had that feeling things were OK, and so I didn't move back. And he just kind of kept looking at me and checking me out, and I was just talking to him and another block came by. And you know, it whisked my hair, but it's still didn't hit me. And so there was just something about him, you know? And I said, you know, I think he needs to come to our program.

And he did, and it was not always easy getting that relationship started. He didn't trust people and he really struggled with behaviors. He didn't have a lot of academic skills, and so we were working to build those too, along with a lot of other things.

And this individual, I went to his high school graduation last year. He went from what I just described and coming into the classroom, and then was able to transition back to his home school, who continued to support him in the ways he needed supported. And he was able to graduate. He's in college now.

And I'm sorry to say that, had you asked me when he came to my program, "You think this guy's going to go to college?" I don't know that that would have been on my radar at that point. But we did believe that he could move to his own potential and kept working at that, and so that came from the ability to build that relationship with him. Then he was able to get to his optimal learning level and be able to progress in the way that he was very capable of.

I talked to him not too long ago and I asked him-- I said, you know, when you were back in our program, what do you remember about being there? And he said, well, first of all, when I came, you promised me you would not restrain me-- and we didn't-- and secondly, you said that every day was a new day. And it was. We let him start over every day at first, because he needed that. And that's what built the foundation of that relationship and allowed him to get to where he is now.

And we believe this is such an important thing that actually your next webcast in this series is about point of view. It's about disposition and how we want your team to be able to think and approach this whole process. And we were fortunate enough that our colleague from OCALI, Shawna Benson-- I said, can I borrow this out of her low incidence work and use it with the behavior series? We greatly appreciate that.

So I'm thinking by now, Chris, they are probably ready to know what they need to do with this series.

First of all, you've learned a little bit about what the series is about and what to expect. But how do you get started? Well, I have a couple tips. First of all, take your time. Take one step at a time, one webcast at a time. Don't skip from one to three or five to seven. Take it in sequence. Even if you think you know the content, go ahead and run through it-- some of them are very short-- just so that you don't miss anything. You can go back if you want to and review them as many times, if it is a step that you're not as familiar with.

You do want to work the process, and I think it's really important that you have someone in mind that you want to build some supports around-- somebody that that you know, somebody that you work with or that you live with that you want to support and apply the process to that person. Don't just listen to Wendy and I, because we'll drone on for a while, but really take the concepts and apply them.

And then finally, what you're going to see is that there are a number of downloadable forms and guidance documents. But again, please do not get overwhelmed looking at these and thinking that we're going to present you with a process that's going to require you to fill out form after form after form for the rest of your life. That's not the way that it works. These documents and these forms are really there to help you learn the process, to give you directions, step by step, to be resources. Once you learn the process, once you learn what the steps are and how to use the process, you may not even need the forms.

What we're really talking about, Wendy, is being able to take this process and make it your practice. Make this the way that you do business, the way that you address behaviors, the way that you think about challenging behaviors. That's what this is about.

And so, taking those points in mind and the foundation that we've laid here, please join us for the first webcast. That is the webcast that Wendy was just telling you about, the point of view webcast. And Wendy will be your facilitator during that, so enjoy that and we'll see you later.

I'll see you there.


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Learn the belief system that is foundational to the process of understanding and addressing challenging behavior. OCALI staff members, Chris Filler and Wendy Szakacs, provide an overview of the 11-part series based in positive behavior supports, functional behavioral assessment (FBA), and behavior intervention planning. This team-based process focuses on "the match" of interventions to student specific strengths and unique challenges. Discover the steps for getting started with the process.

View all the Documents in this series here