Positive Behavior Support-Nevada program seeks to improve quality of life

Community educational program at the University helps individuals with challenging behaviors, new workshops offered

10/30/2012 - By: Megan Akers
Positive Behavior Support Workshop At a Positive Behavior Support-Nevada workshop, class participants learn new approaches on how to improve children’s behavioral challenges. Photo by Ashley Greenwald.

The Positive Behavior Support-Nevada program, located in the University of Nevada, Reno's College of Education's Nevada Center for Excellence in Disabilities, offers a way to positively impact the quality of life for individuals and families struggling with disabilities. In addition to a variety of services already provided, the non-profit, statewide program installed a new series of workshops that have helped its participants make strides in improving the specific challenging behaviors that many individuals with disabilities face.

Positive Behavior Support-Nevada was founded in 1999, but is a part of a larger, national movement called the Association for Positive Behavior Support. The statewide program, which is supported by the Fund for a Healthy Nevada and Aging and Disabilities Service Division, strives to address and prevent challenging behavior by teaching individuals new skills, increasing independence, promoting positive environments and enhancing quality of life. The program uses a multitude of environmental, lifestyle and functional assessment strategies as well as individualized behavioral interventions to develop a comprehensive support plan intended to improve quality of life across multiple settings.

Ashley Greenwald, the program's administrative and clinical director, has been key to increasing the outreach of the program by developing curriculum for new topic-specific classes that teach parents, teachers and other participants how to effectively deal with specific challenging behavioral problems.

"Many times, in parenting and supporting individuals with disabilities, people tend to focus on the problem behaviors alone and are more hands-off when that person is doing well," Greenwald said. "Our classes stress the importance of skill building and other preventative measures which increase the self-sufficiency and overall quality of life of individuals with disabilities."

The program has created a variety of services emphasizing that challenging behavior can be a result of an environment that is not effectively supporting the unique needs of the individual with disabilities. The services so far include school-wide Positive Behavior Support training and support, early childhood training and support, workshops, information presentations and in-service training events.

There are currently seven different workshops offered: Potty Pros, Picky Eaters, Routines and Transitions, Functional Communication, Breaking the Cycle of Defiance: Prevent Teach Reinforce, and Addressing Challenging Behavior. The classes all incorporate the idea of preventative measures, skill building and "catch your child being good" in order to improve the challenging behaviors each individual class is focused on. The idea came out of several conversations Greenwald had with Don Jackson, the project director of Positive Behavior Support-Nevada, about how the program could better meet the needs of Nevada communities struggling to deal with behavioral issues.

"The overall goal of the classes is really to show parents or teachers how they can approach and overcome the problems they may be struggling with," Jackson said. "It is crucial for people to know that the best time to address problem behaviors is when they're not occurring."

The classes, which are offered at various times based on the class topic and consumer demand, are provided throughout different regions of Nevada and have proven to be quite popular.

"Within the past year, we have had more than 1,000 class attendees, and 97 percent of our participants have indicated positive responses that the training is valuable and that they are satisfied with our service," Greenwald said.

After completion of a Positive Behavior Support-Nevada workshop, class participants can also request individualized behavioral consultation to assist with assessment and development of an individualized behavior support plan that will address the unique needs of their child or focus individual.  Jackson and Greenwald intend to further develop and improve the class series in the future, as well as continue to extend the overall positive outreach of the PBS-NV program.

Read more about the services provided and program workshop locations, or follow the program on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pbsnv.


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