PETMA™ Training

The PETMA™ model was co-developed by Martha McGinn and Bernie Kerridge, who collectively possess over 90 years of combined experience in the disability services field. With backgrounds spanning frontline roles, management positions, and clinical roles, Martha and Bernie share a deep passion for supporting individuals with complex behaviours, employing supportive and dynamic methods to facilitate their journey towards improved lives. Along the way, their innovative approaches have earned them multiple awards for creativity.

In 2007, Martha and Bernie established a private business which later evolved into the National Institute of Intellectual Disability Studies in 2016. Throughout their time in business, they collaborated closely with various organisations, nursing homes, and schools across Ireland. They conducted intensive Expert Training Needs Analyses (ETNAs) directly at the frontline where services faced challenges in supporting individuals with complex behaviour, often resorting to the use of restrictions and restraint to maintain safety.

Drawing from their extensive expertise, Martha, and Bernie meticulously reviewed service users' files to understand the underlying causes of distress. Working collaboratively with these services, they developed bespoke training programme tailored to address specific needs, resulting in a significant reduction in the use of restraint, up to 97%, and a decrease in the frequency and intensity of distressful behaviours.

Upon recognising common patterns across different types of services, Martha and Bernie developed several PETMA™ programme to cater to the diverse needs of disability services, schools, and nursing homes. Detailed information about each programme is available on the respective links.

Driven by a commitment to accreditation and standards in training, Martha and Bernie sought certification for PETMA™ by BILD ACT against the Restraint Reduction Network standards. They are proud to announce that PETMA™ holds the distinction of being the sole Irish-based behaviour support model on the Island of Ireland and stands among the pioneering models to achieve certification from the British Institute of Learning Disabilities (BILD Act) and accreditation from the Restraint Reduction Network in both the UK and Ireland.



The content of our PETMA programme were meticulously crafted based on a thorough Expert Training Needs Analysis (ETNA), which were conducted in Irish disability services, nursing homes and schools. This collaborative approach ensures that our training programmes are finely tuned to meet the specific needs and challenges faced by each service only including theoretical and physical components of training that were relevant.  

The analysis reviewed, incidents from various perspectives including the individuals, clinical, risk, organisational, health, and safety, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of the challenges at hand. Given the intricate nature of managing distressful and aggressive behaviour, we followed and adapted a structured process recommended by HSE Linking Service and Safety 2008 to design our training programme.

  • Clinical consultation with direct support staff, including the review of individual service users' files when necessary.
  • Consultation with health and safety representatives, as well as those responsible for risk management.
  • Engaging with service managers or school principals and other senior staff members.
  • During these consultations, both documented and undocumented incidents are thoroughly discussed, with a focus on identifying training implications and addressing practice issues.


When is an ETNA necessary?

We highly recommend this approach for organisations, where services are supporting individuals who are very distressed and are engaging in physical aggression, where staff are overwhelmed and stressed, or where high levels of restraints are utilised.


PETMA™ Curriculums

We understand that not all services require an indept analysis prior to implementing training, particularly given that we have consequently, developed several tailored curricula for different types of services including Disability Services, Nursing Homes, and Schools.

Our curricula include.

  1. PETMA™ 2-day Foundation programme for those supporting Adults.
  2. PETMA™ 4-day Foundation programme for those supporting Adults.
  3. PETMA™ 2-day Foundation programme for those supporting Children and Young People.
  4. PETMA™ 4-day Foundation programme for those supporting Children and Young People in Schools.
  5. PETMA™ 4-day Foundation programme for those supporting Adults/Children and or Young People with Autism.
  6. PETMA™ 3-day Foundation programme for those supporting Older Adults
  7. PETMA™ One-day Refresher Programme.
  8. PETMA™ Train the Trainer Programme.

In addition, when offering these unique training programmes, we further engage in a consultation process directly with each organisation. This involves a less intense approach than our expert training needs analysis. This TNA affords us the opportunity to draw from our large extensive range of theoretical and physical skills teaching modules, while ensuring our PETMA™ crore modules are included.


Physical Skill Components

Physical skills teaching is determined by the TNA. Only physical skills which are determined as relevant when the TNA is conducted are included in the teaching of PETMA™. In instances where physical intervention becomes necessary, PETMA™ furnishes guidance in professional, ethical, therapeutic, legal, and safe physical disengagement techniques. These approaches are carefully constructed risk-assessed, tailored to individual clients, incorporate gradient strategies, and adhere to physiological principles.


Our Values

These values form the foundation of our PETMA™ training model, and it is our aim for both learners and organisations to embrace these principles. Individuals who engage in distressful behaviour have the right to:

  • Have their voices heard, with interventions aimed at meeting their goals, focusing on their abilities, enhancing their quality of life, and nurturing their skills. The best interests of the individual must be balanced with their own views and opinions.
  • Receive support from well-trained staff equipped with the necessary skills and attitudes to provide balanced responses to their behaviours. Interventions should be based on functional assessments and guided by a clear hypothesis, leading to the development of positive behaviour support plans.
  • Receive support recognizing that their distress stems from situations they struggle to cope with, necessitating an understanding of these situations and their underlying causes.
  • Be assisted by frontline practitioners who maintain appropriate boundaries, keenly observe for early signs of behaviour escalation, and possess a range of de-escalation techniques.
  • Receive support in an environment that upholds their basic human rights, including dignity, respect for physical and mental integrity, and participation in decision-making.
  • Be supported by frontline practitioners matched to their needs and actively developing competencies outlined in our Competency Framework.
  • Physical intervention is a measure of last resort, governed by a clear decision-making framework and conducted in a justifiable, reasonable, and proportionate manner. A gradient approach is employed, and all frontline practitioners involved in the decision to use restrictive practices are committed to disengaging at the earliest possible moment.
  • Safety is paramount for everyone within the organisation, and all individuals involved in incidents should receive debriefing and participate in incident reviews to prevent recurrence.