What’s the point of Assessment?

18 months ago, someone in my neighbourhood complained about a damaged drain to the council.  In this photo you can see the two metal bars that were damaged by someone and were sticking dangerously into the air.  Within a matter of days the council arrived to duly assess the situation and develop their planned response.

Based on the assessment, the council placed hi-vis bunting around the hazard, to alert passers by exactly where the problem is and thereby minimising the risk of injury.  The council no doubt recommended that the damage be repaired at some point, but implementation of repairs was put on the waiting list.

As you can see, 18 months later that bunting is looking worse for wear.  The damaged metal bars remain in place, and at some point a truck drove over the drain for good measure.

So, what’s my point?

There is no point investing time and energy, and valuable funds, engaging a specialist to complete an assessment if nothing is going to change as a result.  A good behavioural assessment needs to not just focus on defining, describing and explaining challenging behaviour. It needs to result in a plan of action that can be, and is, implemented.

In my experience the assessment is often the easy part.  The step that follows, negotiating with stakeholders to create a shared vision and plan that is both clinically valid and practically achievable can be difficult.  Then the most difficult part is often then helping families, support workers, and the person themselves change their habits in accordance with that shared vision plan.  Meaningful behaviour change, that is learning new skills and behaviours to the point that they become habits, is hard work!

When you are negotiating quotes or service agreements with potential behaviour support providers, ask questions about how involved you want them to be in supporting the hard work that comes after the assessment.  Historically, some providers have provided assessment only services with little follow-up.  To be fair, perhaps in the past funding may have only supported limited involvement of behavioural specialists.  But the world is slowly changing, and people with complex behavioural support needs are now more likely to be able to get the funding for behaviour support they need.

Now if only there were planning meetings for Councils and their public works. Who knows, with the right service agreement, sufficient funding and appropriately trained staff, perhaps the council would one day be able to repair that drain in my neighbourhood after all.