“PBS is a holistic approach that emphasises preventative strategies. For example, if a person has an accessible and meaningful environment, and capable support networks, then this will have a significant impact on their quality of life and may prevent challenging behaviour in the first place.”
Dr Fisher’s research focuses on building and promoting PBS as a preventive, systems-wide and tiered approach to behaviour support.
“This is an important aspect of my research because often a person is referred to a behaviour support practitioner for specialist support before the most basic and rights-based systems and supports are even in place – those that create an accessible, predictable and meaningful environment. This isn’t okay and is a really inefficient use of resourcing.”
She is also focused on building the capabilities of families in providing effective behaviour support and is currently working with a team in NSW to examine the feasibility of a PBS family education program for adults with dementia. Another of her projects is developing and trialling a PBS training and mentoring program to build capabilities of aged care organisations in providing effective behaviour support to people with dementia.
This emphasises Dr Fisher’s focus on educating families and building effective behaviour support systems from the ground level up.
Sometimes, she says, behaviour support practitioners are required to develop specialist and comprehensive behaviour intervention plans, but “we could better use resources if we had the foundations of good practice in place – reserving specialist behaviour support for where it’s really needed”.
While the practice of PBS has been around for a long time, it has gained momentum in Australia following the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in 2013.
“The disability service landscape has been shaped significantly through the introduction of the NDIS because it names and funds positive behaviour support. It has been a gamechanger,” Dr Fisher says.
There are now thousands of PBS providers in Australia. However, there are some concerns regarding PBS policy and implementation funded by the NDIS, and a recognised need to upskill our behaviour support workforce.
“The NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission is aware that work needs to be done,” she says. “They have initiated some important work focused on improving the quality of PBS service provision”. This includes two NDIS-funded projects that Dr Fisher is involved with – one intent on giving more voice to people around their behaviour support and helping them to understand their rights, and another to build the capabilities of behaviour support practitioners.
Although there appears much to be done in improving behaviour support in Australia, the work of Dr Fisher and her colleagues provides hope for all people to have better lives.