A Perspective on Challenging Behaviors

Atypical behaviors of children are a window in to their unique world.

I have had the pleasure of working with many beautiful autistic children who have behaviors ranging from biting themselves or others, intensely banging their heads, staring into space without movement, lying on the floor while licking the mirror, lining up objects, reciting all kinds of cartoons, etc. My training has allowed me to look at these behaviors from a very empowering perspective, while most of the world sees them as unacceptable. I view these so called "bizarre" behaviors as a window in that child's world and in the process gain an in-depth understanding of how I can best help this child connect to his/her internal (body) and external environment and begin to see the world around him as a friendly extension of him self.

The sensory integration approach explains the brain-behavior connection (e.g. every atypical behavior observed in an autistic child or another special needs child is directly related to the state of his/her Central Nervous System - CNS). Even though every autistic child presents a variety of ritualistic and atypical behaviors, when you look close, you will start to notice that every child creates their own unique pattern, speed, and intensity of how they prefer to engage in their unique behaviors. For example: one child might decide to place all his cars near him and begin lining them up by gently placing one car next to the other while moving with caution in a very predictable manner; another child might be running to get cars from another side of the room, falling down, smashing the car into the next car and then adjusting the car to make sure it is in perfect alignment with the other cars, and still maintain a very predictable rhythm. So here we have two children seemingly engaging in the same activity. But are they really engaging in a similar activity? They are both lining up cars. However their unique behavior is a communication to us all about what kind of sensory input their body is craving in order to achieve a state of balance.

Noticing the specific ways our children engage in their activities will allow those of us who love them to become super sensitive to our children's needs and thus allow a doorway for these children to engage with us and motivate them to be a part our world.

What if you decided that every action that your child does is a meaningful and purposeful action? Ask yourself, “What purpose is this behavior serving for my child?” Our children are always trying to help themselves. If we understand what they want, we can be even more helpful for our children.