Thursday, October 20, 2005

Communication by Behavior

Communication is often difficult for complex special needs child. They may have a hard time telling you when something hurts, they are confused or something is bothering them. Negative behaviors (aggression, property destruction, excessive activity or meltdowns where he throws himself on the floor refusing to move - to name a few) are one way of communicating that something isn't right.

The challenge to parents or caregivers is to figure out what is behind the behavior. Recently Billy Ray had leaking appendice and multiple other problems that were difficult to diagnose because he was already on antibiotics for a skin problem so the lab tests didn't show the infection. By the time it was discovered he was literally pulling out handfuls of my hair. Behavior can be just to get attention. On the other hand, it can be a serious communication such as this. Careful observation is necessary to figure it out. Even then it may take a while to find the cause.

No one likes to be punched or kicked. When someone you love abuses you there is a sense of betrayal or profound sadness. Accepting it as my child communicating his needs to me took more patience and prayer than I ever imagined I'd be capable of.

Meeting your child's needs reduces the negative behaviors. Understanding those needs is a challenge in itself. For Billy Ray it meant developing a method for giving him information through visuals as well as verbally, a schedule he could count on and maintaining a journal so that I could track triggers. Adapting his life to his comfort level was not a slam dunk but it made a big difference in his need to communicate by negative behavior.

Until tomorrow,

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