Life-Skills, Inc.’s “Making a Difference” Award Recipient – 29th Annual Legislative “Gathering with the Governor”

Eileen Harris, our Speech-Language Pathologist for our South Central Day Hab and Residential programs received the “Making a Difference” award at the 29th Annual Legislative “Gathering with the Governor” on May 30, 2019, which took place at the AC Hotel by Marriott in Worcester, MA.

Eileen was recognized for her work, and her involvement in several areas that has directly enhanced the lives of the individuals we serve.  Eileen’s commitment to increasing the abilities and functional capabilities of the individuals with whom she works has been an inspiration to everyone in the Life-Skills, Inc. programs.  Congratulations Eileen!

For more information on the event, see the write up from Telegram & Gazette:

Making a Difference Award

Positive Behavior Supports (PBS) at the Universal Level: Staffing Communication

by Justine McDonald, Positive Behavior Supports Coordinator

Life-Skills, Inc. has implemented Universal Supports at 15 programs (6 Day Habs and 9 Residential sites) thus far!  Part of the implementation phase model that Life-Skills, Inc. has developed involves site-specific goal development.  Universal Supports training is broad, so identifying specific need areas for sites is imperative to successful outcomes.  After focused micro-trainings occur, staff vote on one targeted area of universal support to address relevant to their program site and then develop measurable ways to address that need area.  Most program sites voted to address individual support, but a handful of sites also voted to work on staffing interactions.  One trend that has emerged is a high level of interest expressed by sites to receive more training at the staffing level, specifically around communication.  The graph below outlines how 8 out of the 15 sites where Universal Supports has been implemented, developed site-specific goals geared towards staffing interactions.

Why are staffing interactions important to the work we do?

  • Staffing interactions directly affect the environment; individuals sense when tension exists between staff.
  • Effective communication at the staffing level is an essential proactive measure to preventing programming challenges.  (Example: If 1st shift staff fail to communicate to the 2nd shift that an individual is struggling with the recent loss of a family member and, as a result, exhibiting challenging behaviors, the 2nd shift staff taking over is not well prepared to  provide emotional support to the individual. This may result in the unfortunate continuation of problem behaviors.
  • When we work as a team, recognize each other, and communicate effectively, not only do we provide better services to the individuals, but we usually enjoy our work and the people we work along side much more.

Tips for Effective Communication:

  • Be aware of your tone of voice and body language
  • Ask clarifying questions (don’t assume)
  • Go to your co-workers directly before bringing in supervisors
  • Praise your co-workers when they do something well, even if it is a co-worker you don’t always enjoy working with.  This will help develop a positive working relationship.

Introduction to Positive Behavior Supports (PBS)

by Justine McDonald, Positive Behavior Supports Coordinator


By now, you may or may not have heard about PBS.  Either way, let’s talk about it by addressing some frequently asked questions.

Q: What is PBS?

A:  According to DDS, Positive Behavior Support (PBS) is “a systematic, person centered approach to understanding the reasons for behavior and applying evidence based practices for prevention, proactive intervention, teaching and responding to behavior, with the goal of achieving meaningful social outcomes, increasing learning and enhancing the quality of life across the lifespan.”  It’s primary focus is on prevention rather than reaction.  It emphasizes proactive strategies such as offering choices and empowering people where they live and work by creating more supportive environments that are sensitive to individuals’ preferences and interests.  Building rapport, communicating and listening, providing structure and consistency, and creating a positive and reinforcing atmosphere through social praise and re-direction are other universal concepts to PBS.

Q: What are the three Tiers of PBS?

A: The three Tiers of support ensure that every individual gets the level of support they need.  Universal Supports is a level of support that everyone receives all the time that consists of proactive intervention.  If slightly more support is needed (such as a formal reinforcement program with contingencies) a “targeted” support would be indicated.   If even more support is required (i.e. use of restrictive  interventions), then an intensive support plan would be needed.  This visual of a pyramid below may help you conceptualize these levels of support.

Q: Why is Life-Skills, Inc. implementing PBS?

A: Life-Skills, Inc. is implementing PBS (specifically Universal Supports) for two reasons.  First, Universal Supports and its focus on prevention are best practice and we have evidence within our agency that it benefits the individuals we serve.  We have seen general positive outcomes such as a more proactive culture and specific positive outcomes such as decreased staff turnover rates associated with Universal interventions.  Second, PBS is a DDS  (Department of Developmental Services) initiative in which DDS is recommending PBS implementation to improve the quality of behavioral practices and quality of life for individuals served by provider agencies.

Q: What research is out there about PBS to show that it is effective as best clinical practice?

A: Positive Behavior Supports has mainly been implemented in school systems with a fair amount of research to indicate its effectiveness in that setting.  It has just recently migrated into adult services for people with developmental disabilities so there is less research demonstrating its effectiveness in this setting. Massachusetts is one of only a few states nationwide to support the PBS initiative in adult services.