The use of the word ‘complex’ refers to a person’s support needs, not the individual themselves. People with disability who are experiencing multiple and interrelated conditions or factors will require more intensive support.

Examples of these conditions or factors could include:

  • Multiple disabilities, adversities and/or disadvantages
  • Severe or profound intellectual disability
  • Dual diagnosis (diagnosed as having more than one condition)
  • Significant medical conditions and/or deteriorating health
  • Alcohol and/or drug issues
  • Issues related to past experience of trauma or neglect
  • Behaviours of concern (previously known as ‘challenging behaviours’)

A behaviour is of concern when it threatens the quality of life or physical safety of an individual, other people such as family or carers, or the community. This term is used to describe behaviour that interferes with an individual’s support and daily life.

Examples of
behaviours of concern

  • Verbal or physical aggression
  • Self-harm
  • Destruction of property
  • Impulsive or dangerous behaviour
  • Disinhibition
  • Hyper-sexuality

What causes
behaviours of concern?

A disorder or injury can affect the brain functions which control emotions, impulses, self-awareness and the ability to monitor behaviour.

Every challenging behaviour has a ‘message’ behind it. If we understand why a certain behaviour is happening, we can learn to respond positively instead of taking the behaviour personally and reacting negatively.

How should I respond to behaviours of concern?


  • Don’t take the behaviours personally – remember they are trying to communicate something.
  • Focus on responding positively to the behaviour rather than just reacting.
  • Ensure that you are consistently using positive strategies.
  • Provide structure and routine.
  • Set clear limits and rules about what you expect and what is appropriate.
  • Use clear, direct and frequent communications – give the person feedback about their behaviour, and specifically what you like and don’t like.
  • Be consistent with your responses to behaviours you don’t like.
  • Also be positive – notice and encourage appropriate behaviour.
  • Try to defuse behaviour (for example by using humour).
  • Help the person to calm down by talking, changing the topic or using distraction and diversion to shift behaviour.
  • Get support for yourself and the person exhibiting the behaviour of concern.


Positive Behaviour Support


Positive Behaviour Support is a widely-accepted approach to managing behaviours of concern. It takes a non-aversive approach and has become the standard for the disability sector.

Positive Behaviour Support replaces traditional techniques such as seclusion, physical restraint, punishment by taking away favourite items or activities, or offering bribes. Instead, it focuses on helping the person to reduce their behaviours of concern and increase their quality of life.

Positive Behaviour Support is based on the following concepts:

  • Offer support focusing on the individual’s strengths and capabilities.
  • Look for potential causes in the environment and modify these to meet the person’s needs.
  • Seek the reason behind a behaviour – try and understand what they are attempting to communicate. For example, is there an unmet need?
  • Positive approaches and strategies are better than punishment.
  • Everyone deserves respect and quality of life.

Ideally, Positive Behaviour Support is implemented with the support of an interdisciplinary team. It takes a holistic approach to assessing the environment, the behaviours of concern and their causes or contributors, then the design of strategies and programs.


Take care of yourself


Being exposed to behaviours of concern can be very stressful. Although you can stay outwardly calm while responding to the behaviour, it is normal to also experience emotional turmoil and even anger.

It is important to support yourself, even as you are supporting a loved one. Talk to family, friends, care workers and/or your doctor. Describe how you are feeling, and discuss options for dealing more effectively with the challenging behaviour in future.

Also take time out for rest and relaxation. Stay in touch with your friends and support network, and keep up with your hobbies and interests.

Above all, don’t take the behaviours of concern personally. Their causes are complex, but by using Positive Behaviour Support an individual will be able to communicate their needs in a more appropriate manner.


How can Achieve Australia help you?


Achieve Australia has the skills, resources and experience to support people with complex needs and behaviours of concern.

Through our My Wellbeing group of services and supports we provide access to clinical services including nursing, psychology, physiotherapy, behaviour support, speech therapy, and occupational therapy. We explore services by both need and locality in order to provide people with choice and control over outcomes.

Achieve has also engaged experts in behaviour support to advise key professional staff on issues such as violence, habitual absconding, serious self-harm and abuse.

Achieve Australia offers:

  • A person-centred approach with:
  • A unique plan for each individual
  • Strategies and advice matched to individual needs
  • Individual behaviour support
  • Restrictive Practices Authorisation support
  • Regular meetings, reviews of individual goals, and communications
  • Support by skilled and qualified practitioners
  • Both in-house and external
  • Multiple disciplines
  • Access to experts in behaviour support
  • Skills development and mentoring for families and carers

We will also help you to identify the funding and services you may be entitled to under the National Disability Insurance Scheme, as well as offering services which can be purchased with your own funds or other forms of government funding.