Dealing With Challenging Behaviour

What is Challenging Behaviour?

Whilst challenging behaviour is not a learning disability, there is a likelihood that people with a learning disability will show symptoms of challenging behaviour. The symptoms of challenging behaviour include physical violence towards others, aggression, verbal abuse, a short temper and an individual attempting to harm themselves.

People aren’t necessarily born with these symptoms or behaving this way. Challenging behaviour is quite often the result of frustration at the symptoms of a learning disability, such as an inability to communicate or frustration at not being able to complete a task properly. It can also be a sign that an individual is feeling pain or some form of discomfort – children in particular may struggle to communicate their pain or discomfort in other ways.

Challenging behaviour can also be caused by a mental health problem. Depression and anxiety can both trigger symptoms of aggression, self-harm or they can cause an individual to lose their temper easily.

what is challenging behaviour

Managing Challenging Behaviour

It is advisable to find an effective way of communicating with an individual who is exhibiting symptoms of challenging behaviour, as there may be a way of communication which allows them to express their feelings more effectively. For example, passing them a small note with a message of calmness or encouragement – anything that is likely to have a positive, calming effect.

You can also talk to your doctor, who will be able to provide advice. Your GP will also be able to refer your child to a psychologist for some specialist advice and treatment.

There are several ways of managing challenging behaviour, which will allow you to have more control over the situation. As previously mentioned, finding an individual’s preferred way of communication is important. This may even give them an opportunity to communicate with you over how they want to be supported, particularly if their challenging behaviour seems close to being triggered.

Encouraging enjoyment is also important. Observe how they respond to their favourite activities and make a list of tasks that will help them to maintain calmness and happiness.

tips for reducing symptoms of challenging behaviour

Tips for reducing symptoms of challenging behaviour

Being ready to anticipate issues and triggers can be helpful. Look out for environmental factors, such as the weather, the people around them or the time of day. It may be useful to figure out a distraction technique, or a calming activity, for any times when they are in an environment that they find uncomfortable.

There are breathing techniques which can encourage calmness within an individual with challenging behaviour. These techniques can be provided by a doctor or a specialist, or there are plenty of options online.

Challenging behaviour is not just a risk for other people, it can also cause harm to the individual as well. And it’s not just self-harm that can be risky for the person with challenging behaviour – aggression or verbal abuse can lead to fights, or the individual being harmed. It is important for the people around them, including teachers and peers, to be aware of the challenging behaviour. This will allow others to discover methods of managing the individual’s behaviour. For example, a teacher can allow the individual to go into a quiet room if it seems likely that their behaviour is close to being triggered. Maintaining awareness of the behaviour may also encourage empathy from others, as other people will have a better understanding of the reasons behind the behaviour.

Encouraging Positive Behaviour

Positive Behaviour Support is a useful way of considering an individual’s symptoms and circumstances and finding a way of supporting them into behaving in a more positive manner. The concept of Positive Behaviour Support is to focus on encouraging positive behaviour, rather than finding an immediate solution to the challenging behaviour. The idea with this method is to teach an individual about acceptable ways of behaving and the positive rewards that can be gained from this, and encouraging the individual to adopt this approach. Building a positive connection, or even a friendship, with the individual, is a great way of building trust and gaining knowledge of the individual’s preferences. This can encourage the person to adopt the more positive behaviours that they are being taught.

encouraging positive behaviour


Simply put, challenging behaviour is a set of symptoms where an individual will behave in a way which would be deemed negative, aggressive or antisocial by the people around them. Challenging behaviour is not a learning disability, but it is linked to learning disabilities, as some individuals with learning disabilities are likely to exhibit some symptoms of challenging behaviour.

There are many ways of managing challenging behaviour, such as finding triggers for the behaviour and developing ways of avoiding them. There is also Positive Behaviour Support, where the individual is encouraged to embrace a more positive mindset and lifestyle.