Navigate Life Texas: Resources for kids with disabilities and special needs

Navigate Life Texas: Resources for kids with disabilities and special needs

How to Address Behavioral Issues in Children with Disabilities

12/09/2016 | Published by: Sharon Brown

Children with disabilities may sometimes have behavioral problems. They may exhibit as defiance, meltdowns, or even physical attacks. Often there is a simple reason why the child is behaving this way. Behavior is a form of communication.

Defiance is a very difficult behavior to deal with. When a child is defiant, it is very hard not to focus on how difficult the child is being. Many times defiance means frustration. And so it’s sometimes helpful to stop and consider how you can change your reaction.

Find out what is causing the child’s frustration by using some sort of communication. Using assistive technology (AT), American Sign Language (ASL), or direct talk, try to get the child to talk about what is bothering them. This will usually calm everybody down enough to figure out a solution.

Sensory issues can cause many issues during the day. Try to figure out what is causing your child to be upset.  Is clothing too tight, too loose, or irritating? Tags on clothing can be very uncomfortable. Sometimes just the lighting in the room can cause issues. Is it too bright, too dim, or flickering?  Noise can also be a big trigger. Try to create quiet, calm, comfortable surroundings.

Another tough time for children with disabilities is transition time. It can trigger many behavior issues. To ease the anxiety of moving from one activity to the next, there are a few things that you can try. Verbal cues work for some children. Let them know what is coming next so they can adjust.  

Some children do really well when timers are used to let them know an activity is ending. Set it for 5 minutes, give a cue, and when it rings the activity is over. Another thing you can try is picture or word schedules. These things can help the child have an idea of what their day will be like and what will happen next. 

Always try to take a step back, change your thinking, and figure out why the undesirable behavior is happening. Sometimes just a change of perspective will help. Remember, there is usually a reason the child is acting out.

You can learn more about behavior on the Behavior Problems in Children with Disabilities on this website.

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