IWK leading the way in Behaviour Management

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Crystal Lowe-Pearce, Psychologist Pediatric Rehab
Victoria Cernjak, Occupational Therapist  

“There is often a negative connotation associated with the word “behaviour,” Victoria Cernjak, IWK Occupational Therapist says. “We knew staff were eager to learn more about behaviour management and positive support strategies. That’s how Behaviour 101 was born.”

Behaviour 101 began as a training module in Pediatric Rehab Services in 2014. As Cernjak says “It was offered initially as a response to OT/PT staff needing to understand behaviour, but not feeling they were competent enough to implement any strategies.”

The training was so successful that it grew organically from a small group within rehab then to all of rehab, then to the province and a clinical development leader thought it would be good for the entire health centre. The module was so well received that in 2015 it was transitioned to a one hour presentation in the IWK Children’s Health Program’s Interprofessional Orientation.

Within the same timeframe that Cernjak was working with OTs/PTs, nurses were approaching Crystal Lowe-Pearce, Psychologist Pediatric Rehab for behaviour management training. In 2016, Cernjak and Lowe-Pearce started working together on the development of Behaviour 201, a recap of 101 with the addition of new resources.

Rehabilitation staff were asked what they would be looking for to further develop a competency in behaviour management. They indicated they would like rehab case studies and that practice sessions led by an interprofessional team would be helpful. Behaviour 201 was developed in 2016 and became part of the additional orientation for all new Pediatric Rehabilitation staff.

“This module focuses more specifically on positive behaviour support with populations commonly seen for rehabilitation, and adds practice opportunities using rehabilitation specific cases,” Lowe-Pearce says. “Solution focused coaching philosophies were incorporated into the presentation and really resonated with people.”

And it’s not just resonating within the walls of the IWK.

In the Fall of 2018, Cernjak and Pearce-Lowe submitted a poster to the Ontario Association of Children’s Rehabilitation Services (OACRS), now known as Empowered Kids Ontario (EKO). The organization was so impressed they asked Cernjak and Lowe-Pearce to return to do another presentation.

In November, they went to Holland Bloorview Rehabilitation Hospital and presented. They laugh as they explain it was standing room only and everyone came back after lunch. Cernjak says this is because it provides more hands on examples that people can really relate to and wrap their heads around and not just abstract theories.

“Feedback has been great,” Cernjak says. “People kept coming up to us after the session telling us they loved the tangible examples and saying ‘I feel like I can do this now’.”

And their expertise in behaviour is being sought across the nation. Ron Joyce Children’s Health Centre – McMaster Children’s Hospital has reached out to arrange a phone call with their developmental pediatric rehab.

Kids Inclusive Centre for Child & Youth Development in Kingston asked if they could have access to materials and also asked Victoria to come present to them, which she did in early March.

And the sessions show no sign of slowing down, as people are now emailing them with their success stories.

“We’re looking at how we can use telehealth in the future,” Lowe-Pearce says. “These strategies can be implemented health centre wide in every discipline.”