Tizard Research Projects

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Early – Positive Approaches to Support

Research Team: Dr Nick Gore funded by the Patricia Collen Fellowship, Prof Peter McGill, Serena Brady and the Challenging Behaviour Foundation


Children with learning disabilities experience increased difficulty in communicating, understanding and controlling the world around them. Many children with learning disabilities also experience physical health complications and adverse life events. Because of these difficulties some children with learning disabilities are at an increased risk of developing behaviour that challenges such as aggression or self-injury. These behaviours have a significant impact on the wellbeing and quality of life of the child, their family and others who support them. Without intervention, behaviours that challenge often continue into adulthood, presenting further difficulties for individuals, families and services.

Research and clinical practice suggest that the risks of behaviour that challenges can be reduced by better recognising and meeting the needs of people with learning disabilities, yet far too often this support is only provided at a late stage when individuals and families are at a crisis point. Early – Positive Approaches to Support (E-PATS) is a demonstration project that focuses on supporting families and children with learning disabilities from an early age. The aim of E-PATS is to reduce the risks of behaviour that challenges before a crisis is reached and to limit the impact of such behaviour on children, families and professionals.

E-PATS delivered a package of best practice to 35 families with children who have a learning disability and are at high risk of developing behaviour that challenges. At the start of the project, the identified children were under 5 years and had a combination of risk factors. The central aim is to better meet the needs of these children at an early stage.

In addition other examples of early support of behaviour that challenges were identified and additional advice provided to help services develop and evaluate such initiatives. A professional’s network was created to disseminate and sustain learning in this area.

The fellowship (funding) to carry out this research was made possible by legacy funding from the Estate of Patricia Collen who spent the majority of her life, 71 years in total living in the Normansfield Hospital; a hospital set up to care for those with intellectual disabilities.


Early – Positive Approaches to Support – the development of a new family carer support programme


Findings are not yet available