Behaviour Information

two boys fighting

Normal Behaviour Development

Behaviour Tips (how to get the best from your child)

  • boost their confidence by focusing on strengths
  • reward good behaviours with smiles, praise, high 5’s or hugs
  • provide motivation with stickers, happy face charts, pennies in a jar etc
  • create behaviour boundaries (this helps child to feel secure)
  • keep boundaries consistent
  • keep boundaries similar in different households
  • have daily routines and keep life simple
  • ignore minor irritating behaviours
  • be alert to tantrum ‘triggers’ and use distraction
  • avoid giving into tantrums
  • keep communication positive (i.e. tell your child what to do rather than what not to do)
  • avoid using too many words
  • get child’s full attention when giving instructions (crouch down to their level, use their name, touch their shoulder, encourage eye contact if child is able)
  • get child to repeat back rules to aid better understanding
  • limit choices
  • use ‘when’ and ‘then’ approach (i.e. ‘when’ you have done this ‘then’ you can do that)
  • play with your child for at least 10 minutes each day following their lead and interests. Give your undivided attention and have fun
  • make reading books together part of the daily routine and include a bedtime story
  • use interactive books to develop social understanding and emotional intelligence
  • stick to regular routines at bedtime and make sure child gets enough restorative sleep
  • give child opportunities for exercise and outside ‘green-time’ everyday
  • limit time spent on technology and replace with social/creative activities

Challenging Behaviour

What is challenging behaviour?

Behaviour refers to how a child acts or conducts themselves, especially towards others. It is their actions, reactions and functioning in response to everyday environments and situations. Challenging behaviour is a term used to describe behaviour that interferes with a child’s daily life, disrupts a child’s learning, and interferes with others or behaviours that cause the child and family distress.

What are the building blocks necessary to develop behaviour?

Challenging behaviour is often seen where there are deficits in the following areas of development:

  • Self-Regulation: The ability to obtain, maintain and change emotion, behaviour, attention and activity levels appropriate to the task or situation.
  • Sensory Processing: Accurate processing of sensory stimulation in the environment as well as in one’s own body, which directly impacts behavioural reactions.
  • Receptive (understanding) Language: Comprehension of spoken language.
  • Expressive (using) Language: Producing speech production or language being understood by others.
  • Executive Functioning: Higher order reasoning and thinking skills.
  • Emotional Development/regulation: involves the ability to perceive emotion, integrate emotion to facilitate thought, understand emotions and to regulate emotions.
  • Social skills: are determined by the ability to engage in reciprocal interaction with others (either verbally or non-verbally), to compromise with others and be able to recognize and follow social norms.
  • Planning and sequencing: The sequential multi-step task or activity performance to achieve a well-defined result.

When is the behaviour a problem?

Challenging behaviours usually break unwritten social rules and are difficult to understand.

Examples of challenging and complex behaviours include:

  • physical or verbal aggression
  • self-injury
  • property destruction
  • disinhibited and impulsive behaviour
  • hyper-sexuality
  • impulsivity
  • aggressive behaviour.

A child who has difficulties with behaviour  might:

  • Display opposition to parent or adult requests.
  • Be quick to get frustrated.
  • Have tantrums that last for longer than typical.
  • Display more tantrums or behavioural episodes per day than is typical.
  • Be difficult to discipline (e.g. are aggressive or not seem to care)
  • Typical behavioural strategies are ineffective.

Tips for managing challenging behaviours

Here are some basic tips that can help to reduce the chances of challenging behaviours, or develop positive responses to them

  • provide as much structure and routine as possible
  • communication should be clear, direct and frequent
  • talk about issues, including the behaviour and what to do about it
  • be clear about which behaviours are acceptable or not
  • have clear limits and rules – what is expected and what is appropriate
  • give the person feedback and information about their behaviour
  • be consistent in how you manage behaviour
  • be positive – notice and encourage appropriate behaviour frequently
  • take into account changes in thinking, understanding or memory
  • use strategies that defuse behaviour and help a person calm down, such as talking it through, changing the topic or changing the task
  • use redirection, distraction, and diversion to shift behaviour
  • use humour to defuse things and reduce tension and stress
  • get support for yourself and for your child.

Some activities that can help

  • Time out: this helps to interrupt a non-desirable behaviour and allows the child to calm down
  • Choices: offer alternatives
  • Role Playing: Explicit teaching in structured social situations through modelling and role-plays.
  • Use role models: Small group cooperative games with good role models to provide opportunities to practice social skills.

Consequences of untreated behavioural difficulties

Most children that have behaviours that challenge also struggle with:

  • Peer rejection and social isolation.
  • Following instructions from others in a position of authority such as at school or scouts.
  • Poor academic outcomes as the negative emotional state is not conducive to learning
  • Anxiety and low self-esteem, particularly when they are more aware of their behaviour, so too does a parent/teacher.
  • Limiting a family’s ability to enjoy outings and social events.
  • negatively reinforced behaviour.

Where to seek help

If your child has difficulties with challenging behaviour, it is recommended you speak to

  • Your health visitor if the child is pre-school age
  • Your GP for referral to behavioural Team
  • Your paediatrician who may also refer you to an Occupational Therapist and Psychologist.

Here is the link to the Essex Children’s Learning Disability Service:

The Children’s Learning Disability Service are a specialist multi-professional healthcare team providing a service for children with moderate to severe learning disabilities who have additional difficult to manage behaviours, primarily within the home environment.

They offer behavioural assessments, sensory assessments, sexual health and sleep assessments, which inform behavioural-based intervention strategies for children and their families.

Useful resources

Associated Services

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