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.