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Behaviours that challenge

Many autistic people will display behaviours that challenge. Largely, this behaviour occurs as a result of the person finding it hard to communicate.

In this context, people often refer to aggression or self-injurious behaviour (SIB). In reality we should consider it to be any behaviour that has a negative effect on the person and their family. Behaviour could include, though is not restricted to:

  • SIB such as head banging, biting, scratching
  • Aggression to others such as hitting, hair pulling, throwing objects
  • Screaming or yelling
  • Running away

It is important to remember that all behaviours serve a unique purpose to the individual. Understanding why these behaviours occur is an important step in preventing any harm to the individual. Learn more about the functions of behaviour.

Functions of behaviour

An alternative

Behaviours that challenge are learnt in the same way that all behaviour is. What happens after the behaviour is the most important part as this is how behaviour is reinforced. If a child gains attention for behaviours that challenge, it will make it more likely to occur in the future. By giving an alternative to the behaviours and moving their attention you can diffuse the behaviour and decrease the chance of it happening again. Learn more about the ‘why’ here.

Coping with behaviours in public

It can be hard if these behaviours occur in public. It may be difficult to explain to passers-by if you are also trying to keep your child safe. Having cards explaining your child’s behaviour can help. Download an example here.

For more information on behaviours that challenge, download our factsheet on the topic.

Child on the floor

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