Challenging Behaviour

Challenging Behaviour can be defined as

“Culturally abnormal behaviour(s) of such an intensity, frequency or duration that the physical safety of the person or others is likely to be placed in serious jeopardy, or behaviour which is likely to seriously limit use of, or result in the person being denied access to, ordinary community facilities.”

Emerson, 1995, cited in Emerson, E (2001, 2nd edition): Challenging Behaviour: Analysis and intervention in people with learning disabilities. Cambridge University Press

There is always a reason for challenging behaviour. Teenagers with autism can’t always express their feelings through facial expressions, body language or speech. In many cases, challenging behaviour becomes a way for a person to control what is going on around them, express their feelings and to get their needs met. It’s important to understand the reasons behind challenging behaviour for change to happen!

Challenging behaviours may be exacerbated by:

  • Puberty – Hormonal changes resulting in physiological development and mood swings.
  • Increased self-awareness – teenagers may start asking questions about why are they are different.
  • Sensory issues – the school environment can be overwhelming for some students.
  • Demands of school/life
  • Time of transition: i.e. from primary to post primary school and school to Further Education.
  • Unstructured times: break, lunch, waiting for teacher
  • Busy transitions/noisy corridors
  • Practical classes or group work
  • Following a timetable
  • Differing teaching styles
  • Handwriting- volume
  • Organisation of self and belongings
  • Unpredictable events e.g. a substitute teacher; classes being cancelled; unstructured events

Challenging behaviour is how we talk about a range of behaviours which some people with autism may display to get needs met.

Challenging Behaviours includes things like:

  • Hurting others (e.g. hair pulling, hitting, head-butting)
  • Self-injury(e.g. head banging, eye poking, hand biting)
  • Destructive behaviours (e.g. throwing things, breaking furniture, tearing things up)
  • Eating inedible objects (e.g. cigarette butts, pen lids, bedding)
  • Other behaviours (e.g. spitting, smearing, repetitive rocking, running away).

Read previous: ← Bullying

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