Frequently Asked Questions about behaviour support

FAQ: My son is displaying challenging behaviour. Who can help us with this?

A: All behaviour happens for a reason and being aware of the reason is very important. There are a few factors which you may wish to consider:

1)     Firstly you can check for any health problems. Speak to your GP/Dentist, as any medical needs may be the cause of the challenging behaviour or may make it worse e.g. a child may be banging their head due to an ear infection/toothache but may not be able to tell you about this pain. Try to provide as much information as possible i.e. what type of challenging behaviour is displayed, when it happens and how long it lasts. It is also important to have regular reviews of medication to check that it is still appropriate and that the challenging behaviour being displayed is not a side effect of the medication.

2)     You may wish to speak to your child’s school/college/care provider/respite service to discuss any strategies they are using which work well with your son. Some providers also have access to behavioural specialists (such as Educational Psychologists) who can provide assessments and advice.

3)     CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service) can help to assess emotional, behavioural or mental health problems. Your GP can refer you to CAMHS and professionals within the team may be able to identify a few different factors which are affecting your child’s behaviour. Adults can be referred to the Community Learning Disability Team for support, also via the GP.  These teams usually consist of various professionals including social workers and specialist nurses, but vary according to area. A social worker can carry out a Care and Support Assessment and tell you about what support your son is entitled to, what services he can access and how they can help with caring for your son.

4)     There are three further assessments which may also provide further valuable information.

  • You can ask your GP or your Social Worker for a functional assessment. This assessment is carried out by a Clinical Psychologist or a Behavioural Specialist, jointly with the family carer. It will look at what is causing the behaviour being displayed and identify ways for your child to express his needs using different communication methods or different skills. The information gathered will be used to produce a Positive Behaviour Support Plan, with the aim of reducing the challenging behaviour.
  • A sensory assessment may be useful in identifying if your child’s challenging behaviour is due to sensory difficulties and what can be done to help with this. This assessment is usually conducted by a Specialist Occupational Therapist.
  • A communication assessment can identify difficulties and the most appropriate method of communication for your child. This is usually carried out by a Speech and Language Therapist (preferably with knowledge of Learning Disabilities).For sensory and communication assessments, school staff and/or your GP will be able to make a referral.

Further information can be found at Finding the reasons for challenging behaviour: Part 2, Positive Behaviour Support Planning: Part 3 and Health and Challenging Behaviour

For further information about Care Needs Assessments and Care Plans please refer to Getting the best support package: Ten Top Tips


FAQ: ‘I’ve been told that no-one can help me with my daughter’s behaviour, what can I do?’

A: You shouldn’t have to manage all on your own - families have a right to support. It’s known that there are effective ways to change behaviour and that it’s best to start as early as possible. Services vary from area to area and it can take a really long time to get any help. A lot of families struggle to make people understand how much they need help and then to get any help; this is very frustrating and makes families feel more isolated. With the CBF’s information it is possible to make a start on changing things, like Asante’s family did. To access help you could:

Use NHS Services

  • If your daughter is under 18, the local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) are the NHS service that helps children and young people with emotional, behavioural or mental health problems. The service may have nurses, social workers, psychologists and other therapists, who can assess your daughter and offer some support or intervention.
  • If your daughter is over 18, there will be an Adult Community Learning Disability Team or Adult Mental Health Service that she can be referred to.

Some areas have a local behaviour team dedicated to supporting people with learning disabilities, look at this list or use our map to see if your area has a team.

If you’ve been to the local mental health service or learning disability team and they have done all they can for your daughter, ask them to refer to a specialist service for further help. There are specialist national services at the South London and Maudsley Hospital that local health professionals may be able to refer your daughter to.

Find specialist help

If you find there is no local or national support available, ask if the school, care provider or respite service has access to a behaviour specialist.  If they don’t, the CBF have a list of independent behaviour consultants available on request that they could use to ‘buy in’ the specialist help. Some people may be able to choose to use behaviour consultants privately and pay for the service themselves.

Ask for the service you need

Where an area has nothing available, people can ask the NHS to fund the health services they need. Write a letter to the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to request a specialist in functional assessment to be made available as part of the local offer. You can use this template letter to help you and find the address of your CCG using this NHS Choices search tool.


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