Positive Approaches Journal | 5

Positive Approaches Journal - Volume 2 Title

Volume 8 ► Issue 1 ► 2019

The Science and Art of Support


Considering how to most effectively support someone, especially someone with complex needs, is not about one approach, philosophy, or theoretical perspective. Sometimes, it is about finding the balance between the “Art and Science” of support. What does that entail? Building a foundation of relationships, trust, and rapport in which someone feels safe based on the individual’s preferences, interests, and desires is the “art” that you cannot learn from a textbook. Yet, we need to hone those skills to figure out how to establish a base from which good supports evolves. Coupled with that foundation, empirically validated science, tools, interventions, and techniques like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or Functional Communication Training should be employed. Implementing this science, what other people have proven works, capitalizes on the sometimes limited window of opportunity, time, energy and resources to teach prosocial and necessary living skills, as well as to decrease socially unacceptable or dangerous behaviors like ingesting inedible objects or isolating oneself. This integration already exists in the Positive Behavior Support (PBS) movement which encourages us, as supporters, to think about holistic ways to support people through their lives. “PBS is an approach that blends values about the rights of people with a practical science about how learning and behavior change can occur” (Horner, 2000)1. In this issue, esteemed professionals from Pennsylvania provide their perspectives and experiences on both the art and science needed to be considered as we support people with autism, intellectual disabilities, other developmental disabilities and mental illness.   

—Stacy L. Nonnemacher, Ph.D.

1Horner, R.H. (2000). Positive Behavior Supports. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 15, 97-105.