Carinya Special School
Coleborne Avenue, Mortdale NSW 2223
Phone: (02) 9580 2852 Fax: (02) 9580 7054
Challenging behaviour definitions
• Severely challenging behaviour refers to
behaviour of such intensity, frequency or
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 community
facilities (Emerson et al., 1988).
• The behaviour needs to be seen as abnormal in
the context of the person’s culture.
Challenging for whom?
• One of the reasons for the adoption of the term
'challenging behaviour' was to provide a
reminder that severely problematic or socially
unacceptable behaviour should be seen as a
challenge to services rather than a manifestation
of psychopathological processes.
• In order to respond to this challenge services
need to promote positive behavioural
development, reduce the occurrence of
damaging behaviour and maintain people’s
access to a decent quality of life despite
continuing behavioural difficulties.
• Any review of the literature on challenging
behaviour demonstrates how broadly the term
can be used. The database developed by
Didden and his colleagues lists over 50 different
behaviours, ranging from adipsia to vomiting.
• Many authors have dealt with the problem of
definition by concentrating on a particular sub
group of behaviours, such as self injury or
• Prevalence studies that have looked at a wide
range of challenging behaviours have indicated
that such behaviours often coexist.
• Priority must be given to helping people with
disabilities who show challenging behaviours to
learn new skills, participate in their communities
and reach their full potential, but
• We do a disservice to these individuals and to
those living with them or caring for them if we do
not address the behaviours which can become
such an enormous barrier to individual
development and result in social exclusion.
• Within the literature, there is an increasing
use of the term ‘Positive Behaviour
• This approach has emerged from three
major sources: applied behaviour analysis,
the normalisation/ inclusion movement,
and person-centred values. PBS
integrates the elements into a cohesive
Individual or systems approach
• The intervention will not necessarily be an
• Assessment of the individual and his or
her environment may indicate that the
intervention needs to take place at a
systemic or organisational level.
A one off?
• The intervention process should be seen as
cyclical, with new information refining the
formulation and making the intervention more
focused and effective.
• Given the persistence of severely challenging
behaviours, work with people whose behaviour
is severely challenging is likely to be long term.
Just the person?
• The nature and definition of challenging
behaviour is that it is behaviour that occurs in a
social context, in an environment.
• You cannot ignore environmental factors in the
creation and maintenance of challenging
• Equally, individual characteristics, whether
inherited or acquired, must be recognised and
incorporated into the assessment, formulation
• The degree of risk to the person and others must
always be assessed.
• Much challenging behaviour presents a serious
risk to the person and others – to physical and
mental health; to leading a full, valued and
• There is a need to ensure that a reactive
behaviour management strategy is in place as
soon as possible.
Functional analysis and
• The weight of the evidence available in the
literature indicates that the most effective
way of assessing challenging behaviour is
to carry out a functional assessment.
What to include?
• Psychiatric diagnosis may be associated with
challenging behaviour for some people with disabilities.
This is a complex area.
• Different types of mental health problems produce very
different types of challenging behaviour, ranging from the
apathy and withdrawal of depression to acting out
• Challenging behaviour may be the atypical presentation
of a mental health problem. It is possible that psychiatric
disorders may be manifested in unusual ways among
people with highly restricted language and adaptive
How do we collect information?
• direct observation;
• structured record keeping;
• interviews with key informants;
• reviews of relevant documentation.
• observation of the person with disabilities
in the setting where the challenging
The principles behind
• All behaviour has a cause.
• The ultimate goal is to support children with challenging behaviour
to control their own actions and reactions.
• Self control is not taught through giving rewards for good behaviour,
for example stickers and stars - or punishment for bad behaviour, for
example taking away privileges. These are tempting to use because
they are very effective at changing behaviours quickly, but they give
all of the control to the adult. Redirection/guiding to alternative
activities, prevention strategies and other techniques that teach self
control more effectively.
• Challenging behaviour is reduced when children have opportunities
to make choices, develop friendships, be leaders, take
responsibility, be treated with respect, have their feelings supported
and their frustrations attended to.
Strategies for Changing
• Ecological or environmental adjustments can
help minimize the possibility of problem
behaviour occurring. Possible adaptations
include: removing distracting or disturbing
sensory stimuli; provision of preferential seating;
provision of a clear and predictable schedule;
provision of choice; and having a place where
the student can go to relax.
• Being proactive is more effective than being reactive to
issues of inappropriate behaviour.
• Positive programming emphasizes the acquisition of
skills and ensures curriculum that is tailored to the
individual needs of the student.
• Assisting students to increase and enhance skills relative
to self-awareness, self-calming and self-management
requires a multifaceted approach.
• This involves using creative teaching strategies;
establishing incentives; utilizing and acknowledging
student strengths and being alert to potential
• Visual supports/cues
• Rehearsal/role plays and provision of performance feedback
• Routines, expectations, cool down/quiet time action plan
• Social stories to reinforce rules/options for managing anger
• Establish the 3Rs – rights, rules and responsibilities
• Never ask, ‘Would you like to’ – state ‘We are going to…’
• Use forced choice questions
• Offer behavioural choice for task completion.
• Use approach – withdraw – approach strategy. This allows time to process teacher
• Acknowledge the first sign of cooperation. Separate the student from the behaviour.
• Restate the rule/make reference to visual
• Relaxation strategies – preferred music tapes, quiet room/area
• Allow take up time
• Reinforcement of desired behaviours
Crisis Management Planning
• Prevention is the most effective way to work with
students who exhibit extreme behaviours.
• A written plan detailing procedures for a ‘meltdown’
situation is essential. A student crisis management plan
provides a blueprint of events that are likely to precipitate
a rage attack and details specific strategies for
• The plan should detail the roles of staff members; an
evacuation plan; crisis communication options/contacts
and expectations for other students during these
occurrences. Staff (and on occasions students) need to
be familiar with the crisis procedures and trained in the