All behaviour is a form of communication.
Behaviour is something we can observe and label.
Behaviours of concern are like “leaks in a pipe”, if we just repair the leaks, we are not actually addressing why the leaks keep happening and therefore as we repair one, another is likely to form.
So often I see children and adolescents who have been referred to me to address behaviours of concern. The exciting thing about my role, that I try to share with the parents, educators and key stakeholders I work with, is I get to be a detective each day.
A behaviour of concern is like investigating a crime scene. I first must collect all the evidence. This could be in the form of parent and educator report, observational data from several different settings and scoring from both parent completed and performance-based assessments.
I then get to consider all the information (aka the evidence) I have gathered and hypothesize some potential reasons that are causing the behaviour. My desk at this point in time really does look like a pin board in a detective’s office. My hypothesis may lead me to complete further investigation which may include additional performance-based assessments, further questioning of parents, educators, or other key stakeholders, and/or exploring through informal observation in the clinic.
There are several key factors that always stand out when understanding a child’s behaviour. These include;
- Sensory processing differences
- Language processing which may be influenced by auditory processing
- Nonverbal communication skills
- Environmental factors and demands
- Autonomic nervous system and arousal
- Pre-requisite skills required for the task/activity
Next time you observe your child doing something, strange, or challenging, instead of reacting, getting frustrated, and trying to “fix” the problem, pause for a moment and be curious as to what your child is trying to communicate and why.
Author: Kim Elter – Occupational Therapist