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What are behaviourally based interventions?

Behavioural practitioners seek to understand how we learn things and why we behave as we do. By “learn things” we mean everyday skills such as getting dressed and preparing breakfast, more “academic” skills like reading and writing, and other complex skills (e.g., driving, communicating with other people). The focus is on issues that are of importance to us all, and on teaching skills and building supportive environments that enable positive behaviour change for individuals, groups, or society more broadly. The goal of any behavioural intervention is to improve quality of life.

Behaviourally based interventions do not refer to a single programme or technique. They are best thought of as an umbrella term for any intervention or activity that is clearly described; is based on principles of learning; results in meaningful, durable, and measurable changes in behaviours that are socially significant; and where the intervention can be shown to be responsible for those changes in behaviour. To be socially significant, interventions that are included within the remit of behavioural science must benefit the individual, group or wider population, and in doing so accord dignity, respect and compassion – ethical practice is of paramount importance to the field. In addition, interventions need to be based on evidence of their effectiveness. Any decisions taken in respect of an intervention should be based on data routinely collected as part of that intervention. This ensures best practice and individualised support for anyone assisted by a behaviourally based intervention.

Behaviourally based interventions have been developed to address issues of concern such as literacy, safety in the workplace, gambling and recycling, and to help specific populations such as autistic people, and those with dementia, addiction, intellectual disabilities and other developmental disabilities.

While behaviourally based intervention approaches can be effective, there has previously been a lack of high-quality research studies providing strong evidence for behaviourally based interventions, such as systematic reviews with meta-analysis and randomised controlled trials (RCT). As a result, some behavioural interventions have not been included in evidence-based practice reviews or guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). The Sharland Foundation Developmental Disabilities Applied Behavioural Research and Impact Network (SF-DDARIN) was established to address this issue, through conducting high quality research studies on behaviourally based interventions for children and adults with developmental disabilities (including intellectual disabilities and/or autism) and their families.

With our stated aim to increase the reach and impact of behaviourally based interventions for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to support their independence and increased quality of life, SF-DDARIN is focusing on two areas of research:

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