Just as each person is different, so are behaviours described as challenging. Behaviour is generally considered challenging if it puts others at risk or impacts an individual’s quality of life.

The first step to supporting someone displaying challenging behaviours is to try and understand if the person is trying to communicate an unmet need or want. Here we provide some person-centred strategies for managing challenging behaviours in your loved ones.

What is Challenging Behaviour?

Behaviour is often defined as challenging when it places the individual or those around them at risk or if it leads to a poorer quality of life for the person.

When a person displays challenging behaviour, it is often because they are unable to express an unmet need or want. Challenging behaviours can be a way of letting others know, “I am not comfortable, happy, well or safe.” These types of behaviours are common in people with complex needs such as autism or learning disabilities that may find it difficult to communicate with others about what they need.

There is no single cause for challenging behaviour. Everyone’s behaviour can be affected by strong emotions such as feelings of anxiety, boredom or exclusion. For people with complex needs such as challenging behaviour, these feelings can lead to agitation, frustration and other emotional challenges.

As people with complex needs learn new ways to positively express themselves, challenging behaviours are often reduced in frequency and severity.

Understanding the underlying causes of behaviours that challenge is the first step towards helping your loved one learn new, positive ways of communicating.

Challenging Behaviour in Early Childhood

Challenging behaviours are common during early childhood when young children are still learning positive ways of expressing their needs and wants. However, you should be aware that ongoing challenging behaviour that negatively impacts quality of life may indicate another underlying health issue such as a learning or developmental disability.

If you are worried about ongoing behaviours your child is expressing, speak to your GP. Children that display challenging behaviour can often benefit from early intervention and support. They may be able to refer you to another professional such as a psychologist that can help your child find new ways of expressing themselves.

How to Support People with Challenging Behaviour

Everyone is unique and deserves support tailored to their needs. By uncovering some of the underlying reasons for your loved one’s challenging behaviour, you can help them learn new ways of communicating with the world around them.

Here are some of the ways that you can support your loved one while managing challenging behaviour:

  1. Understand Triggers

Before you can support people who have learning disabilities who present with challenging behaviour with, you need to understand the cause. It might be that a person is anxious, uncomfortable, in pain or bored. Once you know what’s causing the behaviour, you can better manage the situation.

  1. Make Plans

People with learning disabilities often find change difficult. Planning ahead and letting them know what’s going to happen can go a long way to reducing any anxiety they might feel, minimising the likelihood of them reacting negatively. Using calendars, clocks, pictorial pictures, symbols and timers can help.

  1. Remain Calm

This might be difficult when the person you love is expressing strong emotions such as anxiety or anger, but it’s important to remain calm in these situations. Try not to raise your voice. Lowering it may encourage someone to stop and listen. Remember that we often pick up on the moods of others so, if you’re feeling stressed, your loved one may respond to this.

  1. Language

Language is a crucial tool in managing challenging behaviour as it can either escalate or de-escalate a situation. The choice of words, tone, and body language can significantly impact the person’s response and their willingness to cooperate. Using clear, respectful, and empathetic language can help build trust and rapport, leading to better communication and more positive outcomes.

  1. Teach Emotions

For some people with learning difficulties, it may be difficult for them to understand complex emotions. You can help them understand positive emotions by explaining to them how you feel using simple terms or by showing them pictorial emotions. This will allow them to explain how they feel too – remember not to discount their feelings but help them work through them.

  1. Check Medication

Sometimes challenging behaviours can be caused by a reaction to medication or the interaction between different medications. Speak to your GP if you notice new behaviours in your child.

  1. Break Cards

A person with challenging behaviours will often struggle to communicate, especially when they are anxious or upset. Break cards allow them to let you know visually when they feel things are getting out of control, allowing you to address the situation.

Finally, no matter how much you love a person, managing challenging behaviours can be stressful, not just for them, but for you as well. If you are feeling overwhelmed, speak to healthcare professionals or join a carer or parent support group. This will help you realise you are not alone and also broaden your knowledge of coping strategies to manage even the most stressful situations.

Challenging Behaviour Advice and Support

At Liaise, we are proud to support people with complex needs including behaviour that may challenge. Through our support living and residential care services, we provide community-based homes where people with complex needs can thrive in a stimulating and structured environment.

Our individually-tailored support plans focus on risk management and positive behaviour support to reduce the frequency and intensity of behaviours of concern. This allows each individual we care for to receive the specialist support they need to live a full and enriching life.

Your goals are our goals. We are here to ensure people have the support they need to lead happy, purposeful lives. All with the dignity and inclusion they deserve.

If you would like to learn more about our care and support services, do not hesitate to contact us. We look forward to hearing from you.

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