My practice is based upon a simple idea: difficult behaviors result from unmet needs. In a sense, difficult behaviors are messages which can tell us important things about the person and the quality of his or her life. In my experience, people with difficult behaviors are often missing:
- Meaningful relationships
- A sense of safety and well-being
- Things to look forward to
- A sense of value and self-worth
- Relevant skills and knowledge
- Supporters who are themselves supported
These needs are usually minimized or ignored in educational or human services settings. As a result, people may become:
- Relationship resistant
- Chronic rule-breakers
- Helpless and insecure
- Depressed and isolated
Instead of developing a behavior plan to "fix" the person, help the person and the person's supporters to develop a support plan that reflects a real and authentic life. John and Connie Lyle O'Brien suggest seven question following questions for building a support plan. These questions are different from those we typically ask, such as "How can we reduce this person's problem behaviors?" or "How can we manage this behavior?"
These questions include:
- How can we help the person to broaden and expand his/her relationships?
- How can we help the person to achieve a sense of health and well-being?
- How can we help the person to find joy in ordinary and everyday places?
- How can we help the person to have more power and control in his/her life?
- How can we help the person to make a contribution to others?
- How can we help the person to learn valued skills?
- How can we better support the person's supporters?
David Pitonyak is interested in positive approaches to difficult behaviors. He believes that difficult behaviors are "messages" which can tell us important things about a person and his or her surroundings. Understanding the "meaning" of an individual's difficult behaviors is the first step in supporting the person (and the person's supporters) to change.
David also believes (to paraphrase Jean Clark), that a "person's needs are best met by people whose needs are met." Supporting a person with difficult behaviors begins with an honest assessment of the needs of the person's supporters. Creating more responsive human services is possible only when we take responsibility for problems of the workplace culture. A healthy organization is an organization that invites all of its members to take an active role in decision-making, provides support to each member as defined by the member, and evaluates its success by the degree to which it lives up to its promises.
David has consulted with families and professionals throughout the United States, Canada, England, the Republic of Ireland, and the Netherlands. He lives in Blacksburg, Virginia with his wife Cyndi . They have two sons, Joe and Sam.