The effectiveness of the Who’s Challenging Who support staff training intervention to improve attitudes and empathy towards adults with intellectual disability and challenging behaviours: study protocol for a cluster randomised controlled trial

Randell E, Hastings RP, McNamara R, Knight R, Gillespie D, Taylor Z

Trials 18, 1: 460

Available online 5 Oct 2017


Findings suggest approximately one in six people with intellectual disability engage in ‘challenging behaviours’, which include aggression towards others/property and self-injurious actions. In residential settings, actions of staff members can make challenging behaviours more likely to occur, or make these behaviours worse. In particular, negative attitudes from members of staff and lack of understanding about the reasons for challenging behaviour are contributory factors. ‘Who’s Challenging Who?’ (WCW) training is designed to emphasise the role of staff in residential settings as a challenge also to people with intellectual disability. The course is delivered jointly by a trainer with intellectual disability who has been labelled as having challenging behaviour, along with a trainer without intellectual disability.

This is a cluster randomised two-arm trial of WCW training versus a waiting list control. Overall, 118 residential settings will be recruited and randomised on a 1:1 ratio. Within each setting, two members of staff will be invited to take part in the trial. Participants will complete assessments at baseline and at 6 and 20 weeks. WCW is a half day initial training course with some follow-on coaching to ensure implementation. The primary outcome is changes in staff empathy towards people with challenging behaviour. Secondary outcomes at the staff level include confidence, attitudes and work-related well-being. Secondary outcomes at the residential setting level include recorded incidents of aggressive challenging behaviour, and use of any restrictive practices.

If the results of the cluster randomised trial are positive, we will disseminate the findings widely and make all training manuals and materials freely available for anyone in intellectual disability services (and beyond) to use. Our training approach may have wider implications in other areas of social care. It may also provide a generally applicable model for how to train people with intellectual disability to act as co-trainers in intellectual disability social care settings. People with intellectual disability and challenging behaviour have already been involved centrally with the design, development and pilot evaluation of WCW and will also be fully involved throughout this trial.