Behavioural Disorders In Children
A Behavioural Disorder is a term used to describe behaviour that interferes with a child’s daily life. Behaviour refers to how a child conducts themselves. It is their actions, reactions and functioning in response to everyday environments and situations. When a Behaviour interferes with a persons ability to function it is called a Behavioural Disorder.
Why Is A Behavioural Disorder a Problem?
- Health and quality of life: Challenging behaviour may seriously affect a child’s and parent’s/carer’s health and quality of life.
- Reduce risk: Some risks associated with challenging behaviour include self-injurious behaviour (including ingestion or inhalation of foreign bodies, hitting the head against hard objects or throwing the body on the floor) can result in serious injuries. Accidental injury is also a common issue in children with aggressive behaviour, not only for them but also surrounding children and more commonly involved adults.
- Dietary deficiencies: Oppositional behaviour may result in dietary deficiencies, weight loss or gross obesity.
- Social isolation: Challenging behaviour can often lead to social isolation of both the child and their parents.
- School transition: Social isolation is likely to impact a child’s sense of well being and transition to preschool or school.
- Reduce mental health issues: Research also suggests that lack of social skills can lead to loneliness and depression from an early age.
- Maturity: How a child behaves is a direct reflection of their maturity.
The Building Blocks Necessary To Develop Behaviour
- 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: 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.
How Can I Improve Behavioural Disorders
- Social skills: Teaching social skills with an emphasis on recognition of feelings, play skills, problem solving and self-regulation.
- Functional equivalents: Teaching children functionally equivalent skills (e.g. if physical aggression means leave me alone, teach the child the equivalent skill, i.e. ‘go away’ sign).
- Early identification: Of emerging challenging behaviours.
- Preschool or School environment: Have a positive and supportive relationship with staff and carers involved.
- Consistent and realistic expectations: Ensure that all people involved have the same expectations of the child.
- Success: Ensuring that all children encounter (or are actively scheduled) the opportunities necessary for their success.
- Eye contact: Get close to the child to ensure they are able to hear you and see your face; get down to their level.
- Know the motivators: Behaviour management starts with knowing your child’s “currency” or motivators – the “what’s in it for me?”. These motivators might be: praise, time with parents, IT/screen time, access to special games or toys to name a few. These rewards need to be immediate (when you choose) or at least quantifiable so that child knows when they have earn it. You can either take these rewards away in the event of misbehaviour or take them away ahead of time so that kids need to ‘earn’ them through good behaviour. Where possible, use visuals to support this by adding a counter of some form (e.g. a pom pom) to a jar.
- Simple language: Use clear, specific language when making requests and, if necessary, show them what you want them to do.
- Tone of voice: Tone and volume of voice when making requests is important (e.g. firm but friendly tone if the request is non-negotiable). Even when a child may not understand the instructions, they often understand the tone of voice.
- Boundaries: Both children and parents need to understand the boundaries for what is unacceptable behaviour to ensure the agreed upon strategies are implemented consistently.
At Fired Up People our Occupational Therapists and Speech Pathologists can help with reducing, biting, hitting others, self-harming, melt downs and defiance. Targeting a range of emotional and sensory regulation techniques.
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