Just as each person is different, so are behaviours that challenge. However, behaviour is generally considered challenging if it puts others at risks or impacts an individual’s quality of life. It includes acting aggressively, being destructive or disruptive and self-harm.
Dealing with Challenging Behaviours
There are lots of ways you can deal with challenging behaviour in learning disabilities. Here we’ve outlined seven of the most effective.
Before you can manage challenging behaviour in learning disabilities you need to understand what is causing them. It might be a person is anxious, uncomfortable, in pain or bored. Once you know what’s causing the behaviour, you can better manage the situation.
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 their reacting negatively. Using calendars, clocks, pictorial pictures, symbols and timers can help here.
This might be difficult when the person you love is behaving aggressively or is upset or angry, but it’s important to remain calm in these situations. Try not to raise your voice – in fact, lowering it has been shown to help, as it can make someone stop and listen. Remember too that we often pick up on the moods of others so, if you’re feeling stressed, your loved one may respond to this.
When someone is behaving inappropriately, your first response may be to tell them to stop it. However, this can be seen as a challenge and may result in behaviours escalating. Change the language you use by suggesting rather than giving direction. You might say ‘let’s use our inside voices’ instead of ‘stop shouting’, for example.
For people with learning difficulties, it can be difficult for them to understand emotions, which are complex things. Help them understand good emotions by explaining how you feel to them 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.
Sometimes challenging behaviours can be caused by a reaction to medication or the interaction between different medications. Speak to your GP to see any changes in their behaviour if this is the case.
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 that they are feeling things are getting out of control, allowing you to move 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 ideas coping strategies to manage even the most stressful situation.