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Staff Retention through Behavior Support

Sept. 28, 2022

Most people go into a career caring for individuals with disabilities because they want to make a difference in the world and help people. However, those altruistic feelings can be fleeting if they do not see progress and have positive interactions with the individuals they serve. Without successful interactions, they start to feel like they are not making a difference and should move on. These negative feelings are compounded if they feel they or their property will get hurt. Competitive pay and benefits are important for employees to consider caregiving a career, but that will not be enough long-term if they feel like a failure. Because individuals with autism have social skills deficits, positive interactions with others do not come naturally. These challenges make a supportive, accessible behavior department a necessity. Most staff will have limited experience handling significant behavior in the community even if they have experience working with individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders. It is imperative (and legally required) for staff to be trained on the Individual Service Plan and behavior plan before working with the individual. This is a start, but hands-on training with someone with experience caring for the individual is also necessary for staff to experience success. The importance of shadowing an experienced provider cannot be overstated. This allows the employee to transfer what they have seen on paper into the real world. Seeing another staff person be successful with the individual is vital to understanding how this success can occur. This will help them understand that success is possible and have an obtainable goal of achieving that success. Finally, staff need a person who they can call in a crisis who can talk to the individual or staff over the phone or come to the rescue without judgement or repercussions. Behavior will happen and even extinguished behaviors can rear their ugly heads when individuals are stressed, in new situations or experience life changes beyond their control. The emphasis should be on working as a team to keep everyone safe. The behavior department can also make sure that any reporting requirements are completed and help to monitor staff who might benefit in a change in who they serve to avoid burn out. Without a department of trained, experience behavior specialist, none of this is possible and staff will quickly become frustrated and leave. Staff retention is an industry-wide, nation-wide problem and retention can be even more challenging for agencies serving those with neurodevelopmental disorders. Staff who are well-paid and supported will maintain those positive feelings that brought them to a career in caregiving in the beginning.