Challenge Newsletter Summer 2016: Prevention and Positive Steps

Vivien Cooper, CEO of the Challenging Behaviour Foundation, introduces the Summer Newsletter, on the theme of 'prevention and positive steps'! You can download a pdf copy of the newsletter, or read it online. To sign up to the e-newsletter, use the sign-up form on the right of this screen. Order a hard copy by emailing, or calling 01634 838739.



A Full and Active Life


Most of us have busy lives. We balance our time between family and friends, work and leisure, things we have to do and things we choose to do. We know that getting this balance right is essential for our wellbeing, and impacts on our physical and mental health.

Most families have the same aspirations for their children, whether or not they have a disability. Mine are that my children are happy, and lead interesting and fulfilling lives. The only difference between my disabled son and his non-disabled sisters is that Daniel needs more support to enable him to do this.

Throughout his life, Daniel has been supported by many different staff. Those few who have (for whatever reason) attempted to sit around “minding” him have quickly discovered that they will not be able to just sit around for long. Daniel responds to boredom in the same way as we all do – he will find a way to occupy himself. This can involve a whole repertoire of behaviours, most of which are damaging in some way – to him, the environment, or his staff. And, unless we are careful, Daniel is blamed for the challenging behaviour, when in fact it is a reasonable response to a situation he has no other way of communicating about.

In contrast, when Daniel is supported by people who assume that he wants to spend his time doing interesting things – and encourage and support him to take part – it more often than not results in Daniel and his staff having a good time. Of course, this takes a lot of careful planning. An apparently simple trip to the shops can be a disaster if you try to go when it’s too crowded, and an outing to a favourite theme park is best planned so it doesn’t coincide with school holidays, for example.

A few years ago, we noticed a worrying trend at the CBF. Families who contacted us reported that their relative’s budget had been cut and daytime activities became almost non-existent. Whilst some can be “free” (e.g. a walk in the park) many have a cost (e.g. swimming, entrance fees, gym or club membership etc).

We contacted the late Jim Mansell, who provided us with a robust statement, explaining that ‘the availability of a rich and varied programme of activities, in and out of the home, well-supported by staff who are skilled in person centred support, is likely to be essential for the safe support’ of a person with severe learning disabilities. Professor Mansell’s letter* concluded: ‘I cannot imagine that anyone with expertise or experience of supporting people with challenging behaviour would think that activities were unimportant or optional. Withdrawal of such support […] should not be undertaken at the behest of unqualified officials.’

As always we need to apply common sense, and ask ourselves: ‘how would I feel, how would I react, if I was in the situation we put people with learning disabilities in?’ Spending time engaged in activities that are meaningful to us is not a luxury; it is simply having a life.


Vivien Cooper OBE

Chief Executive and Founder of the Challenging Behaviour Foundation


*If you would like a copy of Jim Mansell’s letter to the CBF, please contact us on 01634 838739, or email

Family Stories from the Newsletter:

Going on Family Days Out!

A Sibling Story



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