Stepping up to the challenge of understanding people's behaviour...



‘Difficult behaviours are messages which can tell us important things about a person and the quality of his or her life’ David Pitonyak

Building on the success of their first in-house behaviour analyst, Green Light recently appointed a second behaviour analyst to help understand these messages and the support needed for a decent quality of life.

Ioanna, Stephen & Jo 
Stephen Buckley, who grew up in County Cork and studied an MSc in Applied Behaviour Science at Trinity College in Dublin, is working alongside Tizard Centre trained behaviour analyst, Ioanna Konstantinidou to create tailored programmes of support for individuals with autism and other conditions increasing the risk of the person displaying ‘challenging behaviour.’ Behaviour that is detrimental to their safety or ability to have a decent quality of life.



Green Light’s director, Jo Pyrah said “Many of the people that we support have long histories of being failed or let down by services. More often than not, this is due to people failing to properly understand the underlying messages behind certain behaviours; what it means to that person, in that environment. Unfortunately, it’s still the exception for companies like ours to have the behavioural expertise needed to demystify this for our staff. Stephen joining us is our continued commitment to the real challenge as we see it; understanding people’s behaviours and what we can do to build their skills and improve quality of life. It is also recognising that the evidence-based approaches Ioanna and Stephen bring are the best known ways of stepping up to this challenge.”

Welcoming Stephen, Ioanna added: “We had a lot of interest in this new role, with applicants from across the UK. Stephen has extensive experience from his time in adult autism services in Ireland. Before his move to Green Light, Stephen was part of a specialist team brought in to improve the care and change the culture of a failing residential care home. He brings a wealth of skills and experience to the team.”

Stephen explained “The Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) inspectors found the home had failed to provide proper care for the residents. The staff were using a very paternalistic approach. Our aim was to introduce Positive Behaviour Support, with a focus on quality of life. It was a challenging role and invaluable experience."

As well as achieving a BA and MA in Applied Psychology at University College Cork (UCC) Stephen spent several years volunteering and working for the Camphill Communities of Ireland. Camphill residents share their home and lives with volunteers who are not regarded as carers in the conventional sense but are encouraged to develop a relationship based more on a life-sharing approach. Having studied ABA and PBS Stephen believes that a scientific-based approach is more effective in improving quality of life than the spiritual, familial approach adopted at Camphill.

“Autism is a neurological developmental disorder,” explained Stephen, “Language allows us to understand concepts without experiencing them directly. People on the autistic spectrum may struggle to process social information because they have poor or reduced cognitive functioning in this area. That’s why objects and routines become more important to people with autism. ABA links all behaviour to our environment. It might seem minimal and empirical but it makes more sense to me to see humans as creatures of habit who have patterns of behaviour. People need to develop and it’s important to look at the outcomes and the impact that you’re having and not just your intentions.” As Rob Horner, put it ‘Our job is not to fix people, but to design effective environments’.

Stephen is trained in the ABA approach which is the scientific basis for PBS: “ABA identifies the function behind each behaviour and what the person is communicating and the skills needed to teach them. I don’t think ABA is the answer for everything - you need other approaches but it’s essentially supporting people to be independent and to lead a full life.”

In the coming months Stephen is aiming to become a Board Certified Behaviour Analyst, like Ioanna, and is looking forward to working with the people Green Light supports: “I’m excited by the fact that Green Light uses ABA in conjunction with PBS and I want to be part of this as it develops.”

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