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Empowering People, Launching lives

Building communication to manage self-injurious behaviour

Geerthan’s anxiety around eating at school was leading to aggressive and self-injurious behaviour that inhibited his learning.  His class team worked on a new food programme for him which drastically reduced his anxiety and self-injurious behaviours around food.

Anxieties around food

When Geerthan was given food at school, he found the situation deeply distressing and refused to eat. Even when given meals he successfully eats at home, he would throw his plate across the room and become aggressive towards himself and others. His behaviour became such a barrier that it was a time that Geerthan did not look forward to.  A range of strategies had been tried to reduce Geerthan’s anxieties, from general exposure to foods, to pairing food with fun activities, yet nothing seemed to work.

Alternative coping strategies

In order to reduce Geerthan’s anxiety around food it was essential to remove the self-injurious behaviour. The team deduced that the food being brought from home was strongly associated with his house and this break in routine was causing anxiety. Geerthan was encouraged to use communication to express his feelings rather than challenging behaviour. The option for him to remove these meals was given and he could request for the food to be taken away. Work was done with Geerthan to establish food preferences to replace the meals brought from home. Daily, the food from home was removed and his preferred chicken and chips replaced it (a food that was previously not associated with home or school). Now able to communicate his needs, Geerthan’s anxieties reduced and he started eating the replacement meals.

New opportunities

Work is now being done with Geerthan to increase the variety of food that he eats to include healthier options. With the reduction of his self-injurious behaviour, Geerthan’s trips into the community have become much more enjoyable. He can travel on public transport with his Tutors, something he had not wanted to do, and can enjoy a wider range of food places whilst out at Southside Shopping Centre. Managing his anxiety has opened up a range of new opportunities for Geerthan.

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