Behaviours of Concern

Behaviours of Concern, previously referred to as 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 a behaviour of concern.  Autisitic teenagers may experience difficulty expressing their feelings through facial expressions, body language or speech. In many cases, a behaviour of concern 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 the behaviour of concern for change to happen!

Behaviours of concern 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 and outside 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

Behaviours of concern includes things like:

  • Hurting others (e.g. hair pulling, hitting, head-butting) – these happen infrequently
  • 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. sand, pen lids, bedding)
  • Other behaviours (e.g. spitting, smearing, repetitive rocking, running away).

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