When we see a behaviour, a person is simply trying to communicate something! For example, if they are jumping up and down with excitement, we can assume that they are really happy – similarly if we see someone crying, it is because they are very sad.
Behaviour is a way of communicating needs or wants in response to an environment. Behaviour allows communication ‘beyond words’.
What we often don’t realise is that when someone is ‘acting out’, screaming or aggressive in nature, they are trying to tell us something that is often difficult to communicate with speech.
Heightened anxiety or stress is a major contributing factor that is often misunderstood. It could be misconceived as a reluctance to conform or adhere to rules and expectations.
Each person has their own set of sensory sensitivities and it’s important to be aware of these – if sensory needs are not being met, there will often be an explosion of emotion – usually in the physical form, screaming, crying and aggression.
Whether verbal or non-verbal, in moments of heightened anxiety, the ability to process information and communicate effectively is reduced and sometimes the only way to get the message to you is to respond with behaviour.
Some of the behaviours that you might see are as follows:
– Aggression – self harm / harm to others – Absconding / running away
– Throwing items / furniture – Withdrawal / refusal
– Screaming / crying / swearing – Crawling under tables or in cupboards
– Sensory seeking / avoiding behaviours – Selective mutism
– Stimming / flapping / rocking / pacing
These types of behaviours may be linked back to the following reasons:
Misunderstanding or confusion – Social Misunderstanding, Communication and Confusion about what is expected or what a task involves.
Sensory sensitivities – Too much sensory input (oversensitive) or not enough input (undersensitive)
Anxiety or stress – about what is going to happen, what has happened or what is happening now.
Communication difficulties – Not being sure of what was communicated, or not being sure of how to communicate.
Emotion confusion – Feeling overloaded with emotion and not knowing what to do with it or how to respond to it.
Boredom or under / over stimulation – a common thing that may well be overlooked.
Pain associated with conditions eg. ear infections, headaches
Intolerances to food/environment eg. Allergies
Once we analyse the behaviour and work out what it is trying to tell us, we can look more closely at the environment to ensure that it supports a person’s needs. Learn more about communicating through behaviour and how to provide the best possible support in our workshop on ‘Understanding and Supporting Behaviour’
We would love to hear from you! Share your success stories with us!