Ben was repeatedly abused at both Winterbourne View and Veilstone, suffering terrible trauma. Through significant input from those around him, and informed by the expert Positive Behaviour Support he receives, Ben’s challenging behaviour has vastly reduced in both frequency and severity. We, and his family, continue to learn. For example, having recently helped Ben repaint his bathroom, we learned that the pink colour – matching the colour of the bathroom at Veilstone – had long been acting as a hidden trigger for him.
Ben is far from alone. Research shows that people with a learning disability are 6 times more likely to experience sexual abuse and 3 times more likely to experience emotional or physical abuse. Trauma – whether or not it is formally diagnosed as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – is sadly a common experience for people with learning disabilities.
Many of the family members of people Dimensions supports also experience trauma, following a lifetime of fighting the system and of seeing how their loved ones are treated.
In recent years, there has been an increased focus on trauma. Indeed, commissioners have begun to ask us to deliver ‘Trauma Informed Care’, an approach which recognizes the impact of trauma, and creates a culture based on five guiding principles: safety, trustworthiness, choice, collaboration, and empowerment (Keesler, 2014).
Good providers have always known that understanding a person’s history – including whether or not they have experienced trauma – is key to supporting them successfully. Person-centred support should be based on a thorough understanding of a person’s learning history and experiences, especially when they include a Positive Behaviour Support component. Furthermore, our model of support, Activate, provides us with a systematic way of ensuring the people we support achieve outcomes that matter to them.
So far, I have talked about trauma in people we support and their families. But it is also important to note that many front line staff will themselves have experienced trauma. Dimensions is currently training upwards of 50 colleagues to be ‘Mental Health First Aiders.’ Alongside the free counselling available through our Employee Assistance Programme, this is represents a constructive response to the increasing toll mental health problems are taking on our workforce.
My aim in writing this blog was to start a conversation about how Trauma Informed Care could enhance the support a person receives. I don’t have all the answers, and would value your views. Why not get in touch?
Nick Barratt MSc, BCBA, Head of Behaviour Support
Keesler, J.M. (2014). A Call for the Integration of Trauma‐Informed Care Among Intellectual and Developmental Disability Organizations.