dis508 understand complex




Credit points: 15

Subject outline

The complex support needs of people with cognitive disabilities arise from interplay between multiple factors such as social disadvantage, poor physical and/or mental health, and impaired cognition and communication. Challenging behaviours are exhibited by many people with cognitive disability as a result of their complex support needs. Such behaviours often entail their exclusion from services or the imposition of restrictive practices. In this subject, students will explore behavioural and non-behavioural perspectives on understanding challenging behaviours, and both individual and systemic interventions to create change. Three principal research-based interventions are explored: Positive Behaviour Support, Attachment, and the creation of Psychologically-Informed Environments. Students will be encouraged to master each of these distinct approaches before trying to think about synthesis of these making judgements about which is most appropriate for a person in a particular context.

SchoolSchool Allied Health,Human Serv & Sport

Credit points15

Subject Co-ordinatorSian Anderson

Available to Study Abroad StudentsNo

Subject year levelYear Level 5 - Masters

Exchange StudentsNo

Subject particulars

Subject rules

Prerequisites Must be admitted into HOUA


Incompatible subjects This subject is incompatible with ADP5CCN

Equivalent subjectsN/A

Special conditionsN/A

Learning resources


Resource TypeTitleResource RequirementAuthor and YearPublisher
ReadingsIncorporating Attachment Theory into Practice: Clinical Practice Guideline for Clinical Psychologists working with People who have Intellectual DisabilitiesPrescribedSkelly, A., Fletcher, H.K., Flood, A., & Jones, L. (2017)The British Psychological Society
ReadingsAttachment in Intellectual and Developmental Disability: A Clinician#s Guide to Practice and ResearchPrescribedFletcher, H.K., Flood, A., & Hare, D.J. (Eds) (2016)Wiley-Blackwell
ReadingsNew Directions in the Treatment of Aggressive Behaviour for Persons with Mental and Developmental DisabilitiesPrescribedLiberman, R.P., & Lavinga, G.W. (Eds) (2016)Nova Science Publishers: New York

Graduate capabilities & intended learning outcomes

01. Critique the way in which 'complex and challenging needs' are understood within the context of disability practice.

Reading and engaging with online activities.

02. Appraise the evidence-base for the application of Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) to the needs of individuals with cognitive disability.

Students will submit a critique of a positive behaviour support plan within the service system that it will be implemented.

03. Appraise the significance of different types of attachment in childhood, and how these are established, in order to understand the way adults approach relationships with others.

Students to read seminal resources in the field of attachment, and submit an annotated bibliography so as to demonstrate an understanding of key works in attachment.

04. Critically evaluate the three different types of organised adult attachment and disorganized attachment to understand their relevance for care relationships between people with intellectual disabilities who are challenging, and parents and staff.

Students to read seminal work in this area and consider care relationships from different perspectives. Succinct entries in the annotated bibliography will demonstrate their mastery of attachment concepts.

05. Critically appraise the concept of Psychologically-Informed Environments (PIE) and Trauma-Informed Care.

Apply learning scenarios through moderated online debate.

06. Critically appraise and defend judgements about the contexts in which either positive behaviour support, attachment or the creation of Psychologically-Informed Environments (PIE) are likely to be effective, separately or in combination.

Apply learning scenarios through moderated online debate.

Subject options

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Start date between: and    Key dates

Online, 2019, Semester 2, Online


Online enrolmentYes

Maximum enrolment sizeN/A

Enrolment information

Subject Instance Co-ordinatorSian Anderson

Class requirements

Unscheduled Online ClassWeek: 31 - 43
One 10.0 hours unscheduled online class per week on any day including weekend during the day from week 31 to week 43 and delivered via online.

Scheduled Online ClassWeek: 31 - 43
Three 1.0 hours scheduled online class every three weeks on weekdays during the day from week 31 to week 43 and delivered via online.


Assessment elementComments%ILO*
Support Plan critique (2000 words equivalent)Students to critique a plan and suggest recommendations to improve it.4001, 02
Annotated bibliography (500 words equivalent )Assessment will provide students with solid grounding in attachment through the review of published key works.1003
Comparative essay (1500 words equivalent )Essay requires students to compare behavioural approaches and explain environmental rather than individual interventions for challenging behaviour.3504, 05
3 x 200-word online forum posts (600 word equivalent)Students participate in moderated online fora throughout the semester (each worth 5%). These 'debates' draw upon case scenarios provided.1506