Using PBS in Australian disability services

Guest post by Brent Hayward

PBS stands for positive behaviour support. PBS is a way of supporting people with intellectual disabilities to have a better life and help them to stop using behaviours which hurt other people or themselves.


It might sound like PBS is the right way to go, and that’s true! We’ve known about PBS for about 30 years and we know that it works because there is lots of research about it . But what we don’t know very well is how to use PBS in Australian disability services.

In May this year, I was asked to go to Liverpool, all the way over in England to talk at a conference by the British Institute of Learning Disabilities (sometimes called BILD) called the International Positive Behaviour Support Research and Practice Conference. BILD want people with intellectual disabilities to be treated the same as other people, to join in their communities and be treated with dignity and respect – all the things that CID wants.
The conference was a chance for people to get together and talk about how to use PBS in the best way.


My talk at the conference was about disability services using cameras and trackers (sometimes called GPS) to watch and follow people with disabilities. In my talk I said that cameras and GPS shouldn’t be used because they don’t work very well, they are unethical (this means that they unfair to use because they treat people with intellectual disabilities differently) and there are better things to do . These better things are parts of PBS.

One of these better things is using behavioural interventions. These are ways of finding out why a person uses a behaviour which might hurt themselves or another person and finding ways to help the person not use the behaviour. This might be helping the person communicate something. Behavioural interventions are one of the most important parts of PBS4. Another thing we can do is to make sure that the staff who work in disability services do a good job by making sure they like their job, have good managers and that they help people with intellectual disabilities have a good life. These are the other important parts of PBS. So, at the end of my talk I said that cameras and trackers can’t be a part of PBS.

There were lots of other things talked about at the conference. One sad thing was when Beth, the mum of a boy with autism named Callum talked about how he was hurt on the arms and got scared when he was held down by staff (sometimes called physical restraint). His mum made a video and you can see it here: (it might make you sad). Beth did such a good job of helping people to understand that holding people down is bad that she won an award from BILD!


In Australia, there isn’t many people talking about or doing research about PBS in disability services like there is in England.
I’ve started doing research for my PhD (it’s like becoming expert for PBS!) about PBS in disability services in Victoria. I’m doing research about the rules (sometimes called policies) for disability services to use PBS, how staff are trained to use PBS and how staff then use PBS in their jobs. When I finish, I hope that I can help disability services do a better job to use PBS which helps people with intellectual disabilities have a better life.

My talk at the conference will be on the BILD website soon:

You can read more about BILD, watch videos and get lots of ideas on their website:

Parents, carers and staff can find more information about PBS here:
The Association for Positive Behavior Support:
The PBS Academy:

I’m on Twitter: if you would like to chat with me.

Bbrentrent Hayward is a registered nurse who works for the Senior Practitioner in Victoria. He has worked with people with intellectual disabilities for about 15 years as a support worker, as a nurse in mental health services and in government. He is doing his PhD at the University of Melbourne and he is a committee member of the Victorian branch of the Australasian Society for Intellectual Disability and a member of the Association for Positive Behaviour Support.

1Dunlap, G., Sailor, W., Horner, R.H. & Sugai, G. (2006). Overview and history of positive behaviour support. In W. Sailor, G. Dunlap, G., Sugai & R. Horner (Eds), Handbook of Positive Behaviour Support, pp. 3-16, Springer.
2LaVigna, G.W. & Willis, T.J. (2012). The efficacy of positive behavioural support with the most challenging behaviour: The evidence and its implications, Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disability, 37(3), 185-195.
3Hayward, B., Ransley, F. & Memery, R. (2016). GPS devices for elopement of people with autism and other developmental disabilities: a review of the published literature, Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities, 13(1), 69-74.
4Carr et al. (2002). Positive behaviour support: evolution of an applied science, Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 4(1), 16-20.

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