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These tips have been contributed by other parents, carers and professionals. We hope they will give you some ideas to try, but if you need further help why not post a question on our forums or talk to our Behavioural Support site expert. See also our Challenging Behaviour Info pack
Don't show your own stress
Here is a tip from my wise 12 year old daughter on how she behaves when her teenage autistic brother is having an anxiety meltdown: "Keep calm, speak flatly, don't show your own stress in your face or voice. They don't know how to express themselves and they will mirror it back making the situation worse".
Do the angry stomp!
If your child or the person you are supporting is displaying aggressive behaviour, encourage them to engage in some intense physical activity instead (man, can I wash a floor when I'm angry!) Activities like doing the 'angry stomp', dancing hard, digging, walking briskly etc. Join in with them. You could likely both use the release!
Don't reward challenging behaviour
Disengaging until the person settles can be very helpful. That way, you are not rewarding challenging behaviour with attention.
Challenging behaviour tips
Check out this blog by Netbuddy's resident behavioural support expert, Gina Skourti: 12 Tips for managing challenging behaviour
My husband and I play a game where we place bets with each other which of our 3 disabled children will waken / kick off etc at what times. The 'winner' gets a treat from the other partner. Sounds silly, but making light of intensely stressful situations really does help us cope.
Give them space
When I am angry being in the same house as me can feel like you're invading my private space. Be aware of this when someone with special needs is angry because their sense of personal space can be much larger. Wait until they are calmer before you get too close.
Keep a journal
Keeping a journal and recording incidents can help you to look back and see if there are any patterns or contributing factors. It can also be a good thing to look through with the person you are caring for, talking about both the positives and negatives.
A"break card" can be useful for averting meltdowns. It gives a person the means to communicate their wish to leave an unpleasant situation. They simply need to hand the card over. Useful in school or out and about.
Find the message
Challenging behaviours are usually messages, work out what is trying to be said.
Mirror with humour
I've found the behaviour management technique of 'mirroring' ie adopting the same stance/ facial expression etc of a person who is displaying challenging behaviour works brilliantly. The situation becomes humorous and I relax.
Release the energy
My son's behaviour went very bad as he started puberty. We found a punch bag helped loads. He used to yell at it too when beating it up! Also lots and lots of scheduled exercise to get rid of some of the overload of stress/anger. We built it into his home from school routine as a daily thing.
Ten top tips
Behaviour = communication
Behaviour = communication. Just because you care for someone who doesn't talk doesn't mean they aren't trying to communicate with you. And, if they're angry, it's probably because they trust you to still like them when they calm down.
Check your local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) to see if they have learning disability specialists who can help with difficulties like challenging behaviour and other behavioural problems. Many places now have dedicated teams with learning disability nurses, psychologists, and other professionals who can offer assessments and support.
In the car
Divert challenging behaviour in the car by opening all the windows, turning the music up very loud or singing a very silly song. The unexpected can often buy you a couple of minutes to resolve the issue or pull over in a safe place.
Keep it calm
I find calm but assertive instructions and body language are the most important assets when dealing with any challenging behaviour. Any more emotion into an already emotional situation can only cloud judgements and cause greater confusion.
Lower your voiceWhen faced with someone who is aggressive and shouting, keep your face neutral and lower the volume and pitch of your own voice. Nine times out of ten, they will quieten down to hear what you are saying.
The Estia Centre in London have expertise on challenging behaviour and are a useful source of help, information and advice. www.estiacentre.org
The right amount of sleep is important. Ideally we need a minimum of 7/8 hours quality sleep each day. I have been using the netbuddy sleep section to help the person I care for sleep longer and better and it is making a big difference to his behaviour.
Loneliness is one of the main causes for challenging behaviour.
Puppets can do the job
Beth’s behaviour is often bizarre, challenging and inappropriate. She didn't react to reprimands or instructions in the way that other kids did, so I hit on the idea of using her favourite toy, Minnie Mouse as a puppet. Minnie asks Beth to pick up her clothes, or eat her dinner or sit quietly next to her. And Beth does! If I had asked her, she would have refused. Minnie also helped Beth to read, understand something about the world and taught her to play games that made sense.
It’s so easy to do everything for Toby including making decisions for him. Since I started giving him the chance to do more himself and to make decisions his behaviour has improved.
It’s so easy to forget drugs have side effects. In our case one of them was making Neil feel groggy and hungry, and not being able to communicate this caused him to self harm. Do check regularly this aspect.
Emily has issues with anger and frustration. What I've always done is to try to hold on tight, because she self harms. I talk gently and quietly into her ear the whole time, and she may well be screeching at me to let go, but I don't. Eventually when she's quiet, she's generally really sorry and upset, so I just hold and cuddle, and don't make a big deal of it. We also use a stress-ball to squeeze and an inflatable punch bag!
We worked out what Chrissie’s sensory needs are and asked an occupational therapist to put together a short menu of ideas to help her. For example when she feels stressed she has a doll which she squeezes / twists /bites which has stopped her from squeezing/twisting my skin and hurting me.
Stop the world
When Jake throws something or throws himself on the floor - then everything is turned off TV/ ipod - take all distractions away - and we say "Ok Jake nothing is happening , no one is talking about anything until you stand up, pick up xxx, and then we can carry on" that always works like magic!
Before the going gets tough.....
We intervene early when we see warning signs - we have a range of distraction techniques which sometimes work.
Music calms Tina down – try singing or putting on a CD. I hope this works for you too.
Check it out
When Anthony starts with challenging behaviour we always first check that he doesn’t have a medical problem like a headache, toothache etc
Advice from professionals
We are also having help from an expert aspergers centre which is a tertiary service. They are supposed to tell the local psychiatrist what programme of care and support my son's needs. It might be worth enquiring about one of these specialist services in your area.
We have an autistic son and have had some success with ABA therapy which helped with enforcing boundaries etc. Here is an overview.... ABA therapy
What about you?
Wendy is very sensitive and picks up on my moods. If I am stressed or feeling down her behaviour gets worse. I really recommend you do what you can to take care of yourself as well. If you put just a little bit of energy and time in to yourself it will help both of you.
Lighten the situation
When Sam was 14 and already taller than me, he could be very violent. He once had me up against the wall gripping my throat. I maintained eye contact, lowered my voice and informed him in calm modulated tones that he could strangle me if he wanted but did he know he didn't have any trousers on? He looked down, laughed and let go!
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