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When is behaviour communication? (Hint : always!)





The topic of behaviour is deeply controversial. Amongst autistic advocates the word is best avoided, and rightly so. Many have had years of others trying to make the behave more like neurotypical people.


For some well-known, mainstream educational influencers the idea that behaviour is communication ,is set aside, in favour of the belief in conscious but poor choices.


Personally, I avoid using the word ‘behaviour’ as much as possible. I tend to talk more about dysregulation

as I find it a more useful term. It's hard to avoid the word altogether however. I'm a specialist teacher and consultant. It's a topic all teachers want to know about. Many feel they lack training or knowledge in this area.


When I talk to school and nursery staff, I’ll define challenging behaviours as those ,which cause a threat to the safety of self or others or significant damage to property. Whereas disruptive behaviour is low level, frequent and persistent. Both interrupt learning, which is what schools, nurseries and many teachers focus on. This is a completely understandable response. Being faced with behaviours of concern day after day can be stressful. It's hard to be curious about the reasons behind a students actions when you are stressed.


My own interest, however, is in understanding the distress behind all behaviours of concern. In the case study of Kylie, told below, the reason for her rapid change in demeanour was surprising and potentially dangerous.


You may never have had the pleasure and privilege of working in a special school or with someone as joyous as Kylie, but nevertheless, I hope this story makes you think. Perhaps after you'd watched the video you'd consider a learner you have in mind and ask what their behaviour is communicating?


The story I am about to tell you ended happily. The staff involved could see that Kylie wasn’t herself and that the behaviour she was showing us was separate from her autism but was trying to communicate something.


For more information, watch the video. Feel free to leave your comments underneath




Hint: Kylie did not just wake up and decide to rub gravel into her face!



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