Course Details

Delivered by blended learning, this QQI level 5 award in Challenging Behaviours course is suited to anyone who has an interest in supporting those with intellectual disabilities and associated behaviour problems.

Start Date
1st February 2021
QQI Level 5
Portobello Institute
Course Duration
3 months


Challenging behaviour is any behaviour that others find difficult to manage and puts the person at risk as a result. It can often be an indicator of a problem with learning and is a form of communication for the individual serving a purpose such as attracting attention, avoiding demands or producing sensory stimulation.

This QQI level 5 course is suited to anyone who has an interest in supporting those with intellectual disabilities and associated behaviour problems. Managing challenging behaviours among people with intellectual disabilities is a course intended for those seeking to pursue a career in the area or for those seeking further knowledge for personal or family reasons. Portobello Institute’s QQI Level 5 Minor Award Challenging Behaviours is a qualification that will support your work as a special needs assistant in early years settings, primary and secondary schools, hospitals and care settings. During this course, you will acquire not only knowledge, but also empathy and understanding crucial to your future role as support to persons with intellectual disabilities needing assistance.


Why should I study this course?

Challenging behaviour can be described as destructive, disruptive and often results from an interaction between personal and environmental factors. The field supporting those with Special Needs Education is one of enormous variety and ever-changing needs. This QQI Level 5 course on Challenging Behaviours equips you with additional knowledge and skills, enhancing the support you can offer to persons needing assistance in their learning.

Portobello Institute’s QQI level 5 Minor Award in Challenging Behaviour gives you the opportunity to learn from a range of experts all of whom are passionate about the field of special needs assistance and education. They bring their insight, depth of experience from their work together with their passion for teaching to this course.

This QQI level 5 programme is designed to give you an understanding of the forms of challenging behaviours and how to identify these when presented by a person with intellectual disabilities. Recognising forms of “positive reinforcement” versus “negative reinforcement” gives a key insight into managing challenging behaviours.

This QQI level 5 Challenging Behaviours course is ideal for learners who wish to:

Gain a comprehensive understanding of the types and reasons for different behaviours presented by an individual with an intellectual disability

Expand their knowledge and understanding of the relevant concepts and theories surrounding managing challenging behaviours in individuals with an intellectual disability

Recognise examples in the daily lives of people with intellectual disability, where inappropriate or challenging behaviour is being maintained by the setting events and antecedents prior to the behaviour

Understand how the parts of the Antecedent, Behaviour Consequence (ABC) model work together and use an ABC chart for recording observations of inappropriate or challenging behaviour

Evaluate how well the goals and values of the Positive Behaviour Support model fit in with the policies of a service provider relating to challenging behaviour and recognise the range of characteristics that promote positive environments.

Who will recognise my qualification?

Upon completing this course, you will hold a QQI Level 5 Minor Award in Challenging Behaviours. This qualification complements other QQI qualifications such as the Level 5 & 6 in Special Needs Assisting. This module may be used as a credit towards a QQI major award.

What will I study during this Challenging Behaviours course?

During this course, you will learn to understand the environment and triggers that can create challenging behaviours in people with intellectual disabilities. You will learn about development and behaviour theories and how a range of positive and negative reinforcement actions can impact challenging behaviour in daily situations. You will develop the capacity to work and communicate effectively with parents, families, colleagues and other professionals to safeguard, support and promote positive behaviour in people with intellectual disabilities.

The Learning Outcomes for this programme are:

  • Define the concept of “challenging behaviour”
  • Identify inappropriate behaviour presented by an individual with intellectual disability
  • Describe behaviour in observable, measurable terms
  • List the goals of Positive Behaviour Support
  • Explain how internal factors, related to a person’s health and well-being, can underlie challenging behaviour
  • Explain how external factors related to the environment and the reactions to behaviour, can underlie challenging behaviour
  • Define the terms “positive reinforcement”, “negative reinforcement”, “antecedent” and “setting events”
  • Recognise examples of positive and negative reinforcement of inappropriate or challenging behaviour in daily situations in the lives of people with intellectual disability
  • Recognise examples in the daily lives of people with intellectual disability, where inappropriate or challenging behaviour is being maintained by the setting events and antecedents prior to the behaviour
  • Demonstrate how the parts of the Antecedent, Behaviour Consequence (ABC) model work together
  • Use an ABC chart for recording observations of inappropriate or challenging behaviour
  • Gather and record information about an individual with intellectual disability that can be used in the analysis of challenging behaviour and development of a support plan
  • Distinguish between inappropriate behaviour and challenging behaviour
  • Describe the challenging behaviour presented by an individual with intellectual disability in terms that are observable and measurable
  • Outline the typical strategies used by staff and carers for dealing with inappropriate behaviour
  • Outline the values underpinning Positive Behaviour Support
  • Evaluate how well the goals and values of the Positive Behaviour Support model fit in with the policies of a service provider relating to challenging behaviour
  • Discuss how challenging behaviour can be reinforced both positively and negatively
  • Explain why negative reinforcement and punishment are not used in the Positive Behaviour Support model
  • Describe the four types of strategies that constitute Positive Behaviour Support:-teach new skills

Who will I learn from?

Programme Manager

Olivia Hamill

“Working as a PM for EY & SNA means working in an ever-changing industry, as investment in the childcare industry in Ireland has been to the forefront in recent years.  This investment is not unlike the investment made by students- as they invest in their future through their educational journey. Being involved in their journey is fulfilling as you watch them flourish over time and support them in achieving their goals”


While my initial third level education was in Business Management my career path took a turn when I became involved in fostering. The more research (for homelife benefits) I conducted in the areas of children with additional needs, child development, play activities etc., I realised that this was an area I had a keen interest in. From here I went onto firstly study a Level 5 in ECCE, to have the basis for further study within the area. Then I completed a H-DIP in ECEC which led me onto a Level 9 MA in Child, Youth and Family studies.  I studied part time while working full time, and this has helped me immensely in understanding students journey on similar paths- it can be a  struggle trying to balance working, reaching assignment deadlines, attending classes, along with daily home (and social!) life, but once you achieve your end goal it is worth it. Having also worked in various rooms in childcare settings, this added to my experience, skills, knowledge, and abilities. Working in the sector assisted me greatly (before I took up the role as Programme Manager) while I was tutoring with Portobello as I was able to impart knowledge and experience to students.

Why did you choose to work in education?

Having gone back to study myself many years after my initial education, my own experience contributes to understanding individual students needs and abilities. Everybody learns differently and it is beneficial in the educational industry to have an understanding that some people may be visual learners, while others may be kinaesthetic or auditory learners while some may learn through reading and writing. Match this understanding with various modes of course delivery, tutors who are passionate about their subject areas, are inclusive to all types of learners and this can only lead to a successful outcome for students.

Collaborating with and listening to students is also an important aspect within the education industry, we all have knowledge to offer and learn from each other, having had this experience myself while studying, this was always something I encouraged while tutoring. Facilitating students to share knowledge and experience while motivating and supporting them through their learning journey is all part of the role as an educator. These roles also become part of your role as a PM, you want to see everyone achieving their goal and you are there to help, guide, advise, support, motivate and encourage them throughout their time spent with the college.

Your experience as a Programme Manager.

Before a student embarks on their learning journey, Portobello takes the time to explore which mode of delivery suits an individual’s needs, abilities, and time available to study. While working as a PM with Portobello I have come across many inspirational students, some who have not studied in many years, some who have had learning difficulties, others may be changing industry entirely, while some just simply want more knowledge as a parent to help them in understanding their children’s needs. As a PM contributing to all student’s journey through listening, supporting, motivating, and encouraging them throughout their education is an important aspect and it is inspirational to see students achieving their goal.

Why Portobello?

Working with Portobello allows you to get to know students, which allows students to feel valued and everyone in the Institute is committed to supporting students on their learning journey. Portobello offers flexibility in course delivery, this is something which can be a deciding factor on choosing a course, students consider what fits their lifestyle and free time available to study. By offering blended, part time, full time, online or distance courses, this gives Portobello the ability to offer courses to suit a range of students needs.


  • MA in Child, Youth & Family Studies
  • H-Dip in Early Childhood Education & Care
  • QQI Level 5 in Early Childhood Care & Education
  • BBS Honours Degree in Business Management





Fran Trehy

Position: Special Needs Assisting lecturer

 ‘The heartfelt hero, using their talents to help students discover their own. Dedicating their time and energy each day to the students in their care, and doing it all while meeting the individual needs of many.’

About Fran

As I am a Special Needs Assistant for the past 16 years, I feel I can give the student a true insight into the classroom environment.  I went back to education myself in later life and after completing my Arts and Humanity degree focusing on Family Studies, the urge to stay as an SNA was so strong, so when Portobello came up to teach the Level 5 and Level 6 Special Needs assisting courses, it was a dream come true In so many ways. I have had a very eventful life to date, travelling the world, working in very varied work environments for example Dublin Airport, Hospitals, and an array of other careers, one of which is being a mother to three teenager/young adults,  I had a child with special needs myself who passed away very early in life so Special needs is very close to my heart.  I have passion for the career and the children in my care.  I hope anyone that I am lucky enough to teach will benefit from that passion. 

Since taking the position of Tutor with Portobello I have encountered so many people with the same ethos as myself not only with colleagues but with students alike, to be Special Needs Assistant takes a very special person, to change children’s lives for the better is so rewarding. I could not have chosen a better college to teach in and I am truly grateful to assist as many people as possible to progress in this challenging, rewarding career.

Fran’s Teaching Philosophy

 I am a very relaxed Educator, I like to make students feel comfortable and to be in an environment where no question is a silly question, I like to exude passion for special needs children and for all children in education.  I would love my students to leave the course with all the knowledge necessary to become the best they can be. I also want students to have the urge and longing to progress and further their education after completing the course and to make sure they have the confidence to pursue that. I believe that teachers should create a positive and safe atmosphere for all their students, and be the best teacher they can be by using the different teaching strategies, being prepared for any situation, and always doing what’s best for the students.


  • BA Hons, Arts and Humanity focusing on family studies
  • Special Needs Assisting Level5 and Level 6
  • Dyslexia, Dyspraxia awareness certificates
  • PECS and ABA Certificates 


Bernie McCormack

Position: SNA tutor

‘While we teach, we learn.”

About Bernie 

My career to date spans through Further Education, Sports Development for people with Intellectual Disabilities, Secondary and Private School Education, Health and Leisure Management, Fitness Instructing, Sports Coaching, and most recently Project Managing and Health and Safety in the Construction Industry.

Throughout all current and previous jobs preparation and suitable training have been key to success. I have taken huge experiences from working with all types of people. This has helped greatly in preparing classes, workshops, challenges, and content for the Special Needs Assisting Course. My in-school experiences in addition to working in the intellectual disability area for over 7 years have helped greatly with anticipating and responding to learner needs throughout the Special Needs Assisting programmes.

Bernie’s Teaching Philosophy

As a pragmatic tutor and person, I approach teaching in a very interactive and student-led way. I use teaching methodologies used in classrooms by SNAs when delivering the course to challenge though processes and to highlight best practice. I encourage maximum active participation, independent learning, and staged assignment approaches throughout all courses. I respond to each group and alter my delivery style when required. I deliver regular and varied feedback through out courses to guide learners towards higher standards while building self-esteem and reinforcing learning. I review the content after each course and keep up to date with industry best practices.


  • P. Dip in Health and Safety in Construction
  • BSc. (Hons) In Physical Education Studies
  • BSc. (Ord) in Health and Leisure Studies
  • Prince2 Practitioner
  • ACELS Level 7 Certificate in English Language Teaching
  • PHECC First Aid Responder Instructor
  • QQI Level 6 Manual Handling Instructor
  • QQI Level 6 Training Needs Identification and Design
  • QQI Level 6 Training Delivery and Evaluation
  • QQI Level 6 Special Needs Assisting
  • QQI Level 6 Leadership

How will I learn?

Delivery Mode

Course Structure

This is a one week intensive course with Webinars delivered Monday – Friday. Interactive webinar sessions are held every morning, 10am – 12.30pm.

What does Webinar & Online learning mean?

In response to the current Covid-19 shutdown, Portobello Institute has re-designed this course for delivery as an e-learning and Webinar course. We have extensive experience delivering e-learning courses and have the resources that are specifically designed for delivering courses to an e-learning audience. Your course will run at a specific time each week when you will log-on and your tutor will deliver the content over a 2 hour period with a break of 10 minutes half-way through. You can ask a question at any stage and hear the questions and responses of other students attending this course. Your tutor is available up to 20 minutes before class so you may log-on early and seek support if there are any areas of the content that you need additional support with. Alternatively, our full-time programme manager is available to support you throughout your learning journey.

Course materials are structured to be accessed on a week by week basis and are available to download from our e-learning platform as you progress through the course. Assignments are all designed for completion at home and once completed, you will upload these to the elearning platform. Feedback and results are posted here for you to access too.

You will have the opportunity to engage with your fellow course colleagues as if you were in class together – all from the comfort and safety of your chosen environment. Webinars are available to download at a later stage should you miss a class making this a very flexible and convenient mode of learning.


Course Structure

This is a blended learning course with two online webinars delivered on the Saturday dates as detailed below.

What is a Webinar?

A webinar, in the context of online learning, is a lecturer delivering a presentation or class online to a group of students. We use specifically designed elearning software so you can participate in the class just as if you were present in the same room. You can ask a question of the lecturer at any stage during the class. The software is designed with “break-out rooms” where you can discuss a topic or complete a group exercise with a smaller group from your class. You will need a computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone that has internet connection, an audio facility so you can hear and speak during the class and a camera so your lecturer and fellow class participants can see you. The webinar is a secure online environment and only those permitted entry by the lecturer can gain access to the “classroom”. Webinars are recorded during each session and should you miss a session, you can catch up with the recorded session at a later date. You will only be able to access Webinars of the group you are assigned to.

Webinar Schedule

This course is delivered over 1 week starting 01/02/21 to 04/02/21

Webinars are delivered on Monday to Friday from 10am to 12.30pm with breaks at intervals during the sessions.

How will I be assessed?

A variety of assessment methods are used to support students with different learning styles. There are 2 assignments and 1 project during this course. The assignments are short pieces of work whilst the project is completed over a number of weeks, bringing together various themes and topics you will have learned during the course.

Related Courses

Blended Learning

Challenging Behaviours

Delivered by blended learning, this QQI level 5 award in Challenging Behaviours course is suited to anyone who has an interest in supporting those with intellectual disabilities and associated behaviour problems.

Portobello Institute
Start Date
30th January 2021
Online with webinars

Challenging Behaviours

Delivered online by webinar, this QQI level 5 award in Challenging Behaviours course is suited to anyone who has an interest in supporting those with intellectual disabilities and associated behaviour problems.

Portobello Institute
Start Date
4th February 2021

Speak to an expert

Choosing a course that will lead you to your career of choice is a significant decision. Understanding the delivery modes, supports available, career opportunities and further study options are all key considerations when making your choice. Our course adviser team are experts in the courses Portobello offers, the employment prospects and possible progression routes to other programmes – they will guide you through the detail and support you with any queries you may have.

It is important you make the right choice for you and choose the Institute and course that will best suit your needs.

Your Consultant

George Boylan

About George

I’m George. I am very passionate about fitness, aesthetics and looking after the body and mind. I love helping people and having this job allows me to guide people in the right direction so they can follow the career they want.

How long are you working in Portobello?

 2 years.

What do you enjoy about working in Portobello?

 Getting to work with like minded people that push to give students and potential students a better education and helping them progress in their professional careers.

What inspires you about working in education?

 Being able to help someone improve and progress to a career they are passionate about.

Have you a story that you recall that touched you/made you laugh/made you cry?

 A student that did not get the leaving cert points to get into Physiotherapy,  so he thought there were no other options for him. He found our BSc Sports Therapy course and when I interviewed him he was a very intelligent young man and he was very passionate about following his dream job to be a Physiotherapist. When I gave him the news that he was accepted to study here he almost cried and it was lovely to see and to be able to help him follow his dreams.

How do you feel when you have helped a student reach a decision on their course choice?

One of the best feelings for me is helping a student choose the right course. Most students are unsure which career they want. Being able to explain to them what exactly the roles involve and helping them make the right choice is amazing. Some people will work in a job for 10 years before they realise it is not their dream, Being able to talk to students at an early stage and helping them get a job in the role they want is very rewardin

Book a consultation

How do I apply?

Entry to this course is by direct application to the college.

Application Process

Step 1

Complete the online booking form.

Apply Now

Step 2

You will receive confirmation of your online booking and your place on this course by return.


Course Price

Per academic year.


Full Payment

Total amount payable.