Understanding Challenging Behavior
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Understanding Challenging Behavior

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The issue of challenging behaviour is of increasing concern to educators at every level of schooling. In today’s world children are coming to school with increasing levels of stress and uncertainty ...

The issue of challenging behaviour is of increasing concern to educators at every level of schooling. In today’s world children are coming to school with increasing levels of stress and uncertainty in their lives.

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Understanding Challenging Behavior Understanding Challenging Behavior Presentation Transcript

  • Understanding Challenging Behaviour _____________________________________________________________________________________ Biography of David J. Carey: David was employed for many years as the Coordinator of Special Education and Programme Development at the Froebel College of Education, one of Ireland’s five primary teacher-training colleges. He has recently decided to pursue his primary interests, the private practice of psychology and writing books. He is a psychologist with 25 years experience in both clinical and educational settings. He has worked with children, adolescents and adults having a variety of emotional and behavioural difficulties including Oppositional Defiant Disorder, ADHD, Conduct Disorder as well as serious mental health problems such as bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia. At Froebel he has lectured in special education and coordinated several post-graduate programmes including a Master’s degree in special education. He is a part-time lecturer on the Master’s in educational psychology and special education at University College Dublin, an occasional lecturer at Roehampton University, London and at Trinity College Dublin. David is the author of The Essential Guide to Special Education in Ireland and is on the editorial board of REACH, the journal of the Irish Association of Special Education Teachers. He is currently completing a guide to the education of children with autistic spectrum disorders in mainstream schools. He has published extensively in Ireland and in the US on various mental health topics and special education issues. He has lectured internationally and currently is the director of an educational development programme in Nairobi Kenya, working with Kindergarten teachers and providing volunteer teachers in the slum schools of Kabira, Africa’s largest slum. Private Practice: David includes the following specialities in his private practice: 1.) Hypnosis for self-esteem, self-confidence and habit control 2.) Individual therapy of adolescents and adults 3.) Assessment of children, adolescents and adults 4.) Assessment of child-custody issues 5.) Assessment of ADHD in children, adolescents and adults 6.) Individual cognitive-behaviour therapy for ADHD in adolescents and adults 7.) Group therapy for adults For an appointment or additional information please call: +353 (0)86 8115764 Email Me: info@davidjcarey.com _____________________________________________________________________________________ www.davidjcarey.com
  • Understanding Challenging Behaviour _____________________________________________________________________________________ UNDERSTANDING CHALLENGING BEHAVIOUR The issue of challenging behaviour is of increasing concern to educators at every level of schooling. In today’s world children are coming to school with increasing levels of stress and uncertainty in their lives. Coming to school with anxieties, a history of poor early years experiences, and familial difficulties they bring with them a variety of behaviours that can disrupt the learning environment for themselves and others. Efforts are underway to create and sustain interventions at classroom, school, and system level to reduce the frequency and severity of behavioural disturbances in schools. An understanding of the psychological, social, familial, and brain-related factors that contribute to challenging behaviour is the first step towards creating effective whole-school policies and related classroom strategies that reduce behavioural disturbances in schools. What is challenging behaviour? Challenging behaviour is difficult to define. It is not a diagnosis and not a special education condition (although it can accompany several special education conditions). The educational literature does not contain a unified and consensual definition but the one featured in the INTO handbook is a good reference point. “Behaviour of such intensity, frequency and duration that the physical safety of the person or others is likely to be placed in serious jeopardy or behaviour which is likely to seriously limit or delay access to, and use of ordinary facilities” (Emerson et. al. 1987) cited in INTO “Managing Challenging Behaviour” Challenging behaviour takes a number of forms, some of them low some are high intensity. Again, the INTO publication offers a good description of the variety of challenging behaviours encountered in schools with the pupil’s own and/or other pupil’s learning. _____________________________________________________________________________________ www.davidjcarey.com
  • Understanding Challenging Behaviour _____________________________________________________________________________________ Challenges the day to day functioning of the school. Challenges the right of staff and pupils to a safe and orderly environment Has a duration, frequency, intensity or persistence that is beyond the normal range of what schools tolerate Is less likely to be responsive to the usual range of interventions used by the school for misbehaviour (INTO, Managing Challenging Behaviour) From the educational perspective the most important point to consider is that whatever the form of behaviour labelled “challenging” it is a type of behaviour most unlikely to respond to the customary strategies used in the classroom and school. Behaviour is challenging when our efforts as educators, assuming they are appropriate in the fist instance, fail to reduce either its frequency or intensity. What causes challenging behaviour? Challenging behaviour, whether it occurs in children, adolescents, or adults can arise from a number of different causal factors that include, but are not limited to Senile Dementia Alzheimer’s Disease Huntington’s Disease Severe Autism Severe/Profound General Learning Disability ADHD Traumatic Brain Injury Schizophrenia, Bi-Polar Disorder Opposition Defiant Disorder Conduct Disorder Socio-economic Disadvantage Attention-seeking Communication difficulties Special education conditions Dysfunctional family systems Dysfunctional schools Dysfunctional teachers Developmentally inappropriate methodology Child temperament Educational neglect Abuse, trauma, chaos _____________________________________________________________________________________ www.davidjcarey.com
  • Understanding Challenging Behaviour _____________________________________________________________________________________ Given the fact that the cause of challenging behaviour can be varied it is critical for educators to be mindful that whatever interventions, be they at classroom level or school policy level, must be tailored to the cause. Interventions for challenging behaviour that arises from ADHD, if applied to children with autism, will likely be harmful to the child and lead to increased difficulties. For this reason it is not possible to generate one-size-fits-all interventions or to find a manual of quick fixes. Before anything is done to create interventions it is necessary to investigate the causal factors, research the causal condition, take a close look at the class and school environment and assure there is a proper “fit” between cause and intervention. Issues in Identifying Challenging Behaviour Since there is no generally agreed definition of what constitutes challenging behaviour it follows that there can be great variation in what is identified as challenging, by whom it is identified, and from whom it is manifested. All behaviour is relative to a context be it social, environmental, cultural, or historical. What is challenging in one context can be perceived as quite normal in another. The contextual nature of human behaviour makes it difficult to be certain what is appropriate or inappropriate. Another difficulty in ascertaining whether or not behaviour is challenging is the fact that we cannot be definitive as to whether what we call challenging is a continuum of behaviour or is a distinct category of behaviour. At what exact point does a behaviour cease to be irritating and become challenging? Who makes this judgment and how? What criteria are used to make this judgment? It is well recognised in schools that a child who is described as challenging by one teacher is perceived as a typical youngster by another. All teachers, like all parents and all adults, have differing thresholds of tolerance for behavioural variations. We must exercise caution before we conclude that a child is exhibiting challenging behaviour. As hard as it may be to consider there are times when the problem is within us, not the child. Researchers continue to tease out biological versus environmental factors as causal agents in challenging behaviour. The old question of nature or nurture has been answered definitively now. It is neither one or the other but both; it is how our nature is nurtured that largely determines our behavioural repertoire. There are however, biological factors that put an individual at greater risk for development challenging behaviour. Among these are a strong family history of mental health problems or delinquency and temperament. More will be said about this later. There are gender related issues involved in challenging behaviour as well. In the West, as in most countries, girls are socialised differently from boys. Right from infancy males are played with more vigorously than girls, are allowed to engage in more active play, and have behavioural patterns that are tolerated differently when they occur than if they occur in females. Research seems to indicate that only one factor accounts for _____________________________________________________________________________________ www.davidjcarey.com
  • Understanding Challenging Behaviour _____________________________________________________________________________________ the difference in how fathers parent children as opposed to mothers-the amount of physical play then engage with in their children. Fathers tend to play more vigorously with children than mothers, and play more vigorously with their male children then their female children. There is research that seems to indicate that the male sex hormone plays a role in aggressive behaviour in boys. A definitive answer to some of these gender issues has yet to be arrived at. Ethical issues will always raise their head when attempting to create interventions, programme, and policies for children with challenging behaviour. What sorts of measures are appropriate? What is the role of punishment? Are sanctions appropriate? What behaviours will we attempt to change and what cost will the child pay if we are successful in changing them. Children who live in a violent and aggressive environment in their community may pay a price if their own aggressive responses are totally eliminated in school. There are certain survival factors that have to be taken into account when we begin to change children’s behaviour in significant ways. I am not making a case for the tolerance of aggression in school but attempting to raise the ethical issues involved in placing an obsessive focus on individual behaviour rather than on behaviour and school structures. Perspectives on Challenging Behaviour The response to challenging behaviour is affected by the perspective one takes to behaviour. The behavioural perspective assumes that all behaviour is learned and shaped by reinforcement. Positive reinforcement increases behaviour, punishment or negative reinforcement reduces the frequency of behaviour. From the behaviourist perspective a human being is a set of responses shaped by the external environment. A cognitive behaviour perspective places cognition at the centre of behaviour. We behaviour according to the way we think, visualise, or imagine. From the perspective the human being is more than just a set of responses to stimuli but is a conscious being, making choices, perceiving the world in certain ways, and behaving according to the rules of logic laid down in the thinking brain. The psychodynamic perspective conceives of behaviour as a result of unconscious conflicts, primitive drives of which the person is consciously unaware, and deep-seated anxieties or fears. From this perspective we are pawns of our unconscious minds, pushed and pulled by powerful forces beyond our awareness. There is a new model emerging of an alternative perspective from those mentioned above. It can be referred to under a variety of names but is best _____________________________________________________________________________________ www.davidjcarey.com
  • Understanding Challenging Behaviour _____________________________________________________________________________________ understood as a biopsychosocial perspective. This model is holistic in that it conceives the human being as a totality of biological, psychological, and social factors all exerting equal influences on behaviour. In this understanding of behaviour the human brain has been influenced by genetic and environmental events and factors and the resulting organisation of the brain is what causes any particular behaviour to emerge. Whether we are aware of it or not every educator has one of these perspectives about children’s behaviour. Our perspectives become our understanding and our understanding shapes our responses. The more we become aware of our perspective the more we become able to alter it; the more we can alter it the greater the opportunity to come to a new understanding and create new solutions. The Biopsychosocial Perspective In the biopsychosocial perspective all behaviour is a result of brain growth and genetic, environmental, social, familial, health, parenting, and hundreds, if not thousands, miscellaneous factors. At the root of this perspective is the human brain. Much has been learned about brain function in the past 10 years alone but it is too early to generalise from this knowledge and create solutions in educational settings. However, a look at some of the basics can help us understand what is going on “under the bonnet”. All children are born with a particular temperamental constitution. This is the biological, largely genetic basis of personality. Temperament is a given and remains relatively stable throughout the life span. The behaviours we exhibit change over the course of time, some can be suppressed to live a more functional life, but the unique temperament of a person does not change much. Psychologists have identified a number of temperamental factors: Activity Level - how active the child generally is Distractibility - degree of attention/concentration when not interested Intensity - how loud the child is Regularity - predictability of functions such as appetite and sleep Sensory Threshold - sensitivity to physical stimuli Approach/Withdrawal - characteristic response to new situation/person Adaptability - how easily the child adapts to transitions/new activities Persistence - stubbornness, inability to give-up Mood - tendency to react to work in positive/negative way Each of these temperamental traits exists on a continuum. A child can be born within the middle range of any one or all of these or may be born at an extreme end of the range. All these temperamental traits have value and all can be neutral, positive, or _____________________________________________________________________________________ www.davidjcarey.com
  • Understanding Challenging Behaviour _____________________________________________________________________________________ negative. Any parent of more than one child quickly notices the different temperaments of their children and gradually becomes aware how different temperaments translate into different parenting styles. Simply stated, some children are easy to rear than others and it is temperament that is responsible for this. Just as they can be either easy or difficult to rear, the differing temperamental traits of children make them more or less easy to teach. This is nature and it is this natural disposition of children that requires us to create environments at home and school that closely match temperament. The Spirited Child Writing in 1998, Kurcinka describes children she refers to as spirited. Using temperament as a starting point she identifies six parameters of behaviour characteristics that make some children difficult to content with. These are: Intensity - powerful reactions Persistence - not giving up easily, not changing one’s mind Sensitivity - quickly responsive Perceptiveness - notice everything Adaptability - uncomfortable with change Energetic - need to be on the move Kurcinka makes a powerful case to support the idea that it is the responsibility of the adults in a child’s life to profile the child’s temperament, match it to their own temperament, and create environments and interventions that facilitate a balance between the two. Whether or not we use the psychological definition of temperament of wish to conceptualise children as “spirited” there is growing evidence that some of what we call challenging behaviour results from biological traits and must be recognised and dealt with in an ecological perspective, adapting the surroundings, expectations, and methodology to the needs of the child. The Three Ages of the Child Every child has three ages. The easiest one to comprehend is chronological age although even at this, seemingly most basic level, confusion can arise. Every 6th class teachers knows that children at this age differ widely in physical traits and characteristics. Some are clearly well into the beginning stages of puberty; some have not reached pubescence at all. Physical differences translate into different expectations about levels of maturity and behaviour. Children who appear physically beyond their age are often perceived, as being able to function at a more mature level than their _____________________________________________________________________________________ www.davidjcarey.com
  • Understanding Challenging Behaviour _____________________________________________________________________________________ brain will allow. So looks can be deceiving and it is important, as a general rule, to tailor interventions to chronological age. The next age of the child is intellectual age. Intellectual age refers to the general level of intelligence of the child, that is, stated in lay terms, IQ. Intellectual age can be greater than or less than chronological age. Intellectual age tends to remain stable throughout the life span unless disease, trauma, or environmental toxins impact it. Children with General Learning Disabilities all have significantly below average IQ. This low IQ means that their level of conceptualisation, generalisation, abstraction, and comprehension will be below chronological age. We don’t speak to these children the same way we do to other children because of their intellectual deficits. Likewise, in the case of gifted or exceptionally able children, we match our language to their level of cognitive ability. Matching our interventions to the intellectual age of the child makes it likely we will create more effective solutions to behaviour difficulties. The third age of children is their emotional age. This is where things can get a bit confusing. The emotional age of a child fluctuates with environmental factors such as stress, trauma, anxiety, and health status. A child’s emotional age can be well below their chronological or intellectual age. Take for example the nine-year old who pitches a fit after loosing a football match. He is acting like a three-year old in a tantrum. Now, what is important to realise is that emotional age can be below chronological or intellectual age but can never be truly above either of them. All children who appear to be mature beyond their years, who have “old heads on young shoulders” have been socialised to act that way, and it is an act. A good example is the child from a home in which there is severe alcoholism. They are often placed in a position of caring for the parent or other sibling. Becoming “adultified” they develop attitudes and vocabulary, a pseudo-sophistication, that is deceiving. When we interact with them at this false level of development things often go awry. As a general rule it is always advisable to intervene with a child at the level of their emotional age (remember-it can be below or equal to chronological and intellectual age, but never above it). This is especially true of discipline. Getting the match right, perceiving the child as he or she truly is, is an important part of “fit” that hard to define essence of appropriate education and appropriate behaviour management. _____________________________________________________________________________________ www.davidjcarey.com
  • Understanding Challenging Behaviour _____________________________________________________________________________________ Biography of David J. Carey: David was employed for many years as the Coordinator of Special Education and Programme Development at the Froebel College of Education, one of Ireland’s five primary teacher-training colleges. He has recently decided to pursue his primary interests, the private practice of psychology and writing books. He is a psychologist with 25 years experience in both clinical and educational settings. He has worked with children, adolescents and adults having a variety of emotional and behavioural difficulties including Oppositional Defiant Disorder, ADHD, Conduct Disorder as well as serious mental health problems such as bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia. At Froebel he has lectured in special education and coordinated several post-graduate programmes including a Master’s degree in special education. He is a part-time lecturer on the Master’s in educational psychology and special education at University College Dublin, an occasional lecturer at Roehampton University, London and at Trinity College Dublin. David is the author of The Essential Guide to Special Education in Ireland and is on the editorial board of REACH, the journal of the Irish Association of Special Education Teachers. He is currently completing a guide to the education of children with autistic spectrum disorders in mainstream schools. He has published extensively in Ireland and in the US on various mental health topics and special education issues. He has lectured internationally and currently is the director of an educational development programme in Nairobi Kenya, working with Kindergarten teachers and providing volunteer teachers in the slum schools of Kabira, Africa’s largest slum. Private Practice: David includes the following specialities in his private practice: 1.) Hypnosis for self-esteem, self-confidence and habit control 2.) Individual therapy of adolescents and adults 3.) Assessment of children, adolescents and adults 4.) Assessment of child-custody issues 5.) Assessment of ADHD in children, adolescents and adults 6.) Individual cognitive-behaviour therapy for ADHD in adolescents and adults 7.) Group therapy for adults For an appointment or additional information please call: +353 (0)86 8115764 Email Me: info@davidjcarey.com _____________________________________________________________________________________ www.davidjcarey.com