What if his challenging behaviour is actually a cry for help?

If you were walking home in the dark one night and heard a female screaming for help would you see those screams as challenging behaviour?

What if you were in a hospital and heard a child cry? Would you see that as challenging or would you be more sympathetic?

We all understand the lady screaming on a dark night is desperate for help. We all understand the child crying in hospital is scared and does not understand what is going on around him.

So why when my child with learning difficulties and autism screams and cries does everyone suddenly see it differently?
Professionals have labelled my child as having ‘challenging behaviour’. He kicks, pulls hair, scratches, bites, screams, cries, throws himself down stairs, throws objects in temper, head butts the floor, and attacks people. He is now almost my height and a third of my weight. He is only eight!
He can also be loving, gently, funny, happy, warm, lovely and wonderful. 

Like the lady screaming in fright on a dark night there are times he is scared. Right now he is terrified of open doors. His anxiety soars making his adrenaline pump through his little body to an extent he has to react. His challenging behaviour is his way of communicating fear and anxiety.

Professionals tell us to restrain him, speak to him calmly and discipline him. Would we do this to the lady screaming on a dark night? Most people would in fact rush to help her yet people seem to rush to get away from my son when he has the same feelings of life being out of control. Both scream…both are full of fear…yet we call one challenging behaviour and the other simply a means of communicating for help in a desperate situation. Perhaps we need to realise both are the same?

Like the little child we hear crying in the hospital ward who is worried, in pain, and not understanding what is going on around him so too is my son at times when we take him places he isn’t familiar with or he doesn’t want to be there. Why do we have sympathy for a little child in a hospital ward yet look in distain at my son when he cries at the supermarket aisle? 
My son has no speech. Behaviour is his way of getting his message across. How can he communicate that he did not want chicken nuggets for his dinner? One way is to throw them at me. Instead of punishing that behaviour or seeing it as challenging I prefer to see it as communication and frustration at not being able to say what he wanted. I don’t want to encourage his behaviour but until I can teach him a better way of communication I have to understand his method of ‘speech.’

When he drags me out the door and onto the street some professionals feel I should ignore him or restrain him. How then would he be able to show me the reason for his fear?

Yes I would love him to be calmer, happier and less physical at times. I do discipline and teach him as his difficulties allow but I want society to stop seeing my child as simply having challenging behaviour and see him as a child crying for help exactly like a woman on a dark night or a little boy in a hospital ward.

Perhaps the challenge in his behaviour is actually a challenge to society? What if the challenging behaviour is actually a cry for help that we are all ignoring?

Perhaps in that case we need to challenge our own thoughts and not his behaviour?

9 thoughts on “What if his challenging behaviour is actually a cry for help?

  1. Pingback: What if his challenging behaviour is actually a cry for help? | faithmummy

  2. You certainly explained this thoroughly and simply. And I admit, finding it and reading this couldn’t have presented itself at a better time.

    I admire our team at the school my son attends, but I’m starting to see the “need to fix this” versus “what can we do to help him better communicate”. Even I am still learning, we didn’t gain speech over night. And the older he gets, the bigger the emotions and reactions will become, the barriers in communication will remain. I have never gone out looking for the ultimate fix, I wish it didn’t feel like his school was slowly heading in that direction.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. oh you are so right, it’s only challenging if you see it that way, if you have patience and love then you see it as a cry for help or a different form of communication.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This isn’t an amazing blog entry. I get so fed up of the tuts and stares when J is having difficulties when we’re out. J can’t tell me what’s wrong or how to help him, I have to figure that out by the clues he can give me. Yes sometimes it is a paddy as I won’t let him have something he wants…but that’s children for you. I think some peoplee forgot that these are children…or mini adults!x

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes! Miriam please can I share this? As a Speech and Language Therapist specialising in working with people described a having challenging behaviour this is wonderfully well written. Behaviour is communication, trying to address one without consideration of the other will never work. How brilliant that Isaac has you to advocate so strongly for him 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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