This task will be focused on a service user group, more specifically on adults. It will explain challenging behaviour in people with learning disabilities through a psychological perspective which is behaviourism, and finally discuss how a social worker could address the issue by applying a psychological intervention or approach which will be behaviour modification.
Valuing People (2001) recognises that learning disability can limit a person’s daily functions which can result in low status within the society where the person lives, producing social exclusion. Communicating can be difficult for people with learning disability because their difficulties can include speech disorders, problems with non-verbal communication and impact on their social interaction (Genders et al 2002). Adopting a social model, Oliver (1996) stated ‘Disability, according to the social model is all the things that impose restrictions on disabled people’ (p.33).
A psychological perspective that provides some insights is behaviourism, which was established by B F Skinner (1976). Behaviourism is underpinned by the idea that a person’s behaviour is shaped by their experiences which can be changed by learning new behaviours. Norman and Redfern (1997) define behaviour as the individual’s actions and activities which are shaped by the environment, place, time, persons and objects present in the activities. They go on to suggest that behaviourism is a philosophy of mind with assumptions about human nature. This perspective focuses on behaviour and its consequences which can be characterized by positive reinforcements (Norman and Redfern, 1997).
Behaviourism is a theory of learning which suggests that all behaviours are obtained as a result of conditioning. Conditioning happens when the person interacts with the environment. There are two types of conditioning: classical conditioning and operant conditioning. Behaviourism explains behaviour in terms of reinforcements. The antecedents of the behaviour and its consequences are relevant and need to be considered (Graham, 2007). This is normally achieved by undertaking ABC analyses of the situation over time (Beckett, 2002).
People learn new behaviours through consequences, from their experiences and from others. If the behaviour is being reinforced it will be repeated later because the behaviour gets strengthened. However, behaviourism is a deterministic approach where people’s behaviours are controlled and changed by the environment (Sammons, 2008).
It is important to recognise these barriers. However, people with learning disabilities who present behaviours that challenge services sometimes require specific intervention to address such behaviours. According to the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities, Challenging Behaviours can be defined as people who need support in communication and in...