About 1% of the UK population have intellectual disabilities (Sheehan et al. 2015). Behavioural disorders vary due to their symptoms and outcomes on the quality of life, and the child who is formally assessed as a child with challenging behaviour may be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or autism. The scope and magnitude of the problem requires a thorough investigation in the field of challenging behaviour as well as the assessment of children according to the existing policies.
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In the Irish education system, teachers follow an inclusion policy to treat children with special needs (Woods 2014). The Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 promotes the development of an inclusive environment for every child with special educational needs (Department of Education and Skills n.d.). Regarding the current legislation and a variety of health problems, if the child is not formally assessed, such situation turns out to be the case for discussion. This paper aims at discussing behavioural problems and the types of challenging behaviours, evaluating the role of observations and the necessity to assess children to succeed in managing the work with challenged students.
There is a distinction between such concepts as personality and behaviour. Personality is what we are, and it can hardly be changed or improved (Call of the Wild n.d.). Behaviour is what we do and how we act. Though behaviour depends on personal values and belief, there is a possibility to change behaviour and act in a different way to achieve a desirable result, avoid conflicts, or meet someone’s expectations.
Human behaviour may be influenced by internal and external factors. Levitt (2013) focuses on the role of genetic, social, and environmental factors. Burgess (2016) explains the importance of cultural factors that may define behavioural outcomes. There is research-based evidence that such genes as CADM2 and MSRA can be used to explain behavioural changes and particular temperaments (Burgess 2016).
Importantly, according to the latest data, the genetic component of autism is much more significant than was initially suggested. While the aggregation of the condition in families was a fairly established fact, previous estimates pointed to the approximate heritability of 50 percent. However, the methods used in previous studies did not fully reflect the scope of the issue, which was addressed in the latest study published in JAMA.
According to the findings of the study, the heritability of autism is up to about 80%, whereas the non-shared environmental influence was less than 20% (Bulman 2017). These results are corroborated by previous twin study findings, which estimated the heritability at approximately 90 percent (Bulman 2017). Genes may play an important role in the formation of human behaviour, but such factors as age or environment cannot be neglected because they determine an understanding of personal beliefs, family assumptions, and social values.
Children are exposed to a number of behavioural problems. Henderson (2016) introduces several problems. Psychological problems are rooted in poor family conditions or inappropriate parenting styles when a child is exposed to violence. Children develop certain habits to protect themselves. Such habit disorders may include nail biting or hair pulling (Henderson 2016). Children are in need of a safe environment where they can sleep or interact with each other to avoid serious sleeping or anxiety disorders. Behavioural modifications are caused by disruptive disorders like ADHD.
Combination of Factors
In case the combination of several factors occurs, specific steps should be taken. Communication impairments may worsen the condition of a child because of the impossibility to ask for help. Autism results in the inability to talk and explain personal needs. Worsened by poverty, autism can be dangerous for children and their families because parents cannot address for help and learn how to live with autism. Phobias, obsession, or anxiety can influence the work of children with challenging behaviours due to the inability to cope with problems and communicate.
There is no specific definition of “challenging behaviour”. Researchers develop new parameters of this type of behaviour (Northern Ireland NAHT 2015). Challenging behaviour may be interpreted as behaviour that can challenge or threaten personal safety (NHS Choices 2015; Sheehan et al. 2015). In many cases, the threat comes from the hostility and aggression exhibited by the individuals towards their peers and family. In other situations, the challenge is associated with the violation of cultural and/or social norms.
Finally, in addition to personal safety considerations, challenging behaviours disrupt the processes important for the well-being of the impacted individuals, such as education. Finally, these behaviours pose a threat to social interactions by compromising the interactions with peers. Children with challenging behaviour are not always able to participant in usual activities, express their needs, and interact with other children.
Today, many countries and their governments have to deal with mental health problems and the necessity to manage the outcomes in the safest ways. About one in 10 children may be affected by a mental problem like autism or hyperactivity, one in 25 children may have an anxiety disorder, and one in 100 children may suffer from ADHD (Counselling Directory 2016). The results of these problems vary from short-term depression to suicide.
Reasons for Challenging Behaviour
Biological causes have to be identified as the role of genes cannot be neglected. Children and their families may not even understand why they are challenged at this moment if similar cases were observed several generations ago. The evidence from the scholarly literature suggests that challenging behaviour may be caused by poor treatment and a wrong parenting style. For instance, according to the research by Howenstein et al. (2015), authoritative parenting style was associated with more positive behaviour, whereas both permissive and authoritarian parenting had a negative impact. Attention-seeking is another issue that is commonly reported as a determinant of challenging behaviour.
Since the lack of attention is often associated with poor parenting, it is reasonable to suggest the connection between these variables. Finally, it was suggested that both poor social skills, commonly associated with inadequate parenting, can be tied to the socioeconomic status of the family. In other words, children resort to challenging behaviour as means of mitigating the environmental challenges. It may be a response to an unfavourable environment, the lack of knowledge about a community, or the inability to communicate personal needs.
Childhood Behaviours and Disorders
Educators and caregivers have to differentiate different childhood behaviours. Such recognition can help to understand what support and care should be offered to children. Several examples of behaviours and disorders can be given.
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Examples of Childhood Behaviours
In theory, childhood behaviours vary. Some children find it normal to bite nails when they feel bored, guilty, or ashamed. Body rocking and head banging are problematic behaviours when children soothe themselves, find comfort, and feel relief. These activities are rhythmic and occur at bedtime. They can also be the sign of autism. Hair pulling is a disorder when a child cannot stop pulling hair from scalp or eyebrows. It may cause positive emotions when a person feels relief as soon as hair is removed. Negative emotions like stress or anxiety can be observed.
Breath holding occurs when a child gets angry or frustrated and holds breath for about one minute to relax. Children who demonstrate hitting or pinching behaviour are challenged by overstimulation, poor cognitive development, wrong parental example, or stress. Self-harm is dangerous for children because it is not always possible to identify the causes and predict the outcomes. Some children demonstrate temper tantrums as a reaction to problems. They start crying or screaming to prove their positions; still, in many families, such behaviour is normal.
Examples of Disorders with Co-Occurring Behavioural Problems
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism result in poor concentration, difficulties in sitting still, and weak listening abilities. The symptoms of these disorders are similar, and both of them can occur simultaneously. Therefore, not every child may be properly diagnosed. In some cases, such misdiagnosis is relatively harmless, since the interventions necessary for ADHD treatment can relieve the symptoms associated with autism.
For instance, both the children with ADHD and those with autism benefit from increased consistency in daily routines and clearer instructions. However, the general approach to treatment of the conditions has substantial differences. For example, children with ADHD benefit from the interventions that capitalize on concentration and organization and require specific medications to increase the efficiency of treatment.
On the other hand, the autism-specific interventions such as applied behaviour analysis are focused on reduction of repetitive behaviour and communication skills improvement. Understandably, the misapplication of these treatments will result in poor outcomes and, in some scenarios, may increase harm done to the child. The same can be said of the educational approaches to children with these conditions, as some of the important components of individual programs may be missing whereas others will not produce any effect and increase redundancy. Adjustment disorder is characterised by abnormal reactions to ordinary things or events.
A child cannot cope with stress and deal with personal emotions. The outcomes are the loss of interest or sleeping disorder. Obsessive compulsive disorder is characterised by uncontrollable repetitive thoughts. Children may experience fears of ordinary things and face problems while communicating, playing, or learning. Oppositional defiant disorder is observed in children of preschool age. Anger, irritation, and constant demands are its main symptoms. Children with ODD can easily change their mood and use aggressive methods to solve problems.
Role of Observation
Any behaviour that occurs as a part of a development process or other issues has its reasons and effects. As soon as the pattern of such behaviour is defined, it is possible to understand how to stop or improve it. Observations are the best options to clarify the causes.
Children behaviours may be determined by different factors, and observations help to create special circumstances and investigate the ways of how a child may act. Different disorders have similar reasons, and only timing observations are used to differentiate signs and diagnose a child. Observations are important due to their non-interference and the possibility to observe children from different perspectives without informing them.
The main purpose of observations is to identify and understand the causes of actions. Any observational process focuses on behaviour of a child alone and in a company, reactions to human actions and outside factors, and the abilities to make solutions and assist each other. Observations should be approved by parents and noted so that they can use as evidence of further decisions.
During observations, disruptive behaviour may frequently be identified. This disorder includes temper tantrums, fights, aggression, because of ADHD or ODD. In addition, children with these conditions often exhibit defiant and disobedient behaviours that are impulsive and are unreasonable from the parents’ point of view. The easiest example is the disruption of daily routines that is not justified by reasonable causes, such as the refusal to get dressed for school.
On some occasions, the adverse reaction occurs in response to the unplanned modification of a usual action, such as the change in a route to school. Other forms of deviant behaviour include argumentativeness, in which the disobedience and defiance is accompanied by the attempts to negotiate the desired conditions. Finally, the described deviant behaviours are often impulsive, which decreases the effectiveness of communication.
The level of severity depends on children’s emotions, families, and other outside factors. Some children may steal, and some children prefer to use power. In some instances, the power may be manifested physically, as some of the more aggressive children resort to violence against their parents and peers. However, it is also possible to observe oppositional behaviour and argumentativeness, where a child would aggressively confront the requests made by the adults and demonstrate hostility verbally in an attempt to negotiate the desired conditions. When such behaviour is expected, an educator has to be around, control the events, stop activities if necessary, and provide clear explanations.
Information during Observation
The peculiar feature of observations is to gather information about child’s mood, communicative skills, and reaction. Observations help to create a picture and investigate how children may cope with tasks. Finally, information about the dependence on other people and the environment can be gathered.
To succeed in observing children with challenging behaviours, it is necessary to develop a good plan. It consists of the identification of the focus (children and challenging behaviours), the preparation of special observational forms (points to which attention should be paid), the selection of the setting (a classroom or a yard) and the participants (the number should be appropriate), and the establishment of deadlines (time and dates). Parents have to be informed about observations and their expectations, and no-interference method has to be followed.
Details of Observation
Observers have to identify the audience for observation. It is better to look at a child and the way of interacting with others to gather as many signs and symptoms as possible. The choice of the environment is integral because children have to feel safe. Family homes and play-yards are preferable. Still, classroom observations can also help. The observation should take place at different periods of time to consider child’s mood, readiness to work and play, desire to communicate, sleep demand, and health conditions.
The examples of changes in mood expected to occur during the observation include the tendency to ignore requests made by the parents, frequent arguments (often unsubstantiated), aggressive reactions to neutral causes, and frequent engagement in behaviour that is known to be annoying to peers. It is also possible to expect manifestations of physical violence, which may range from shouting to engaging in fights and attempts to harm the adults. It is hard to observe several children all day long. Therefore, one-hour observations four times per day can be appropriate.
Assessment and Diagnosis
Assessment and diagnosis of challenging behaviour is a complex and important task because it helps to investigate children and their learning abilities. Mental and physical health, communication, and social qualities have to be identified. Adverse effects and outcomes need to be taken into consideration.
The assessment process of challenging behaviour includes such steps as team formation, behaviour (or child) identification as the assessment target, gathering of information, and formulation of a final hypothesis. The clarification of expectations is an important aspect of assessment (Carr 2015). Finally, overall comparison and evaluations have to be developed to clarify if a child meets the demands or have certain challenges.
Causes of Behavioural Problems
Assessment can be used to clarify the causes of behavioural problems. Hereditary factors and brain damage cannot be identified at the initial stage of assessment and have to be proved with the help of special tests. Malnutrition and poor parental support can be identified in a short period. Finally, physical disabilities can be the main reasons for problems of children with challenging behaviour, and assessment is used to diagnose them.
Methods to Assess Behaviour
Various methods can be used to assess behaviour. The most frequent are the adaptive behaviour scale and the child behaviour checklist with the help of which it is possible to measure personal and social skills of children through communication, daily living skills, socialisation, and motor skills (Carr 2015). Each disorder has its own scale according to which educators may evaluate children and develop diagnoses for further cooperation.
The information obtained during the assessment is useful primarily for educators, who can then develop relevant interventions. However, cooperation with parents is expected to increase the efficiency of the results. The examples of cooperation include appropriate allocation of time for homework, actively participating in school activities, and communicating the expectations of educators to children. In the long term, it is also possible to engage in limited cooperation between educators and the impacted children in order to lay the foundation for cooperative communication with peers.
Management of Challenging Behaviours
Management of challenging behaviour is an outcome that has to be achieved in Irish schools. There are many interventions that can be offered to educators and families. Some of them will be discussed below.
How to Manage
Management of challenging behaviour should be based on training and practice. Caregivers have to listen to children and their families. Sometimes, it is necessary to help a person recognise a problem. Finally, it is expected to give clear explanations and recommendations intentionally or unintentionally depending on a child.
How to Response
There are three rules that have to be followed to respond to emotional outburst. It is necessary to stay calm and think before taking a step. Then, it is better to ask for help if no options are identified. It is possible to leave a child alone for a while to calm down.
Preventive strategies may be helpful in classroom. It is suggested to avoid surprises and other unexpected events that may influence a child. The examples of classroom activities that may trigger challenging behaviours include excessively challenging tasks, frequent changes in activities, disruption of classroom routines, and inappropriate placement of affected students (e.g. further from the teacher and closer to peers who serve as a source of distraction). Calm and similar activities are recommended to avoid stressful situations among children.
Guidelines for Corrective Discipline
Corrective discipline is used to avoid unacceptable behaviours and protect children against harmful actions. It includes communication with family members and the staff and frequent evaluations of children’s behaviours. These actions have to be regular and supported by special organisations.
Influence of Positive Discipline
Many schools follow a positive discipline approach. It is based on the idea that there are no bad children or bad/good behaviours. This model helps to avoid punishment and promote communication and rewards in classrooms.
Behavioural Management Guidelines
The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation develops guidelines to promote positive behaviour in classrooms. A code of behaviour is also supported in many UK schools. Educational facilities may also develop their own behavioural management strategies to support their children.
Behavioural Management Goals
One of the main goals of behavioural management is to avoid conflicts. These guidelines aim at promoting children with support and professional care. The purpose is to identify a challenge and improve behaviour.
Personal Learning Experience
Learning about challenging behaviour improves my knowledge in several ways. This experience promotes my personal growth, contribute to the development of attitudes, and improve my professional skills. The results of this work are impressive. Specifically, I have obtained better understanding of the underlying causes of the issue, which enables me to choose more effective responses. In addition, I have learned to differentiate between different sources of challenging behaviour and strategies that are expected to address each of these sources. Finally, I have systematized my understanding of the research process, which may be useful during the development of and participation in studies on challenging behaviours in the future.
I realise that challenging behaviour is not a personal problem. It is a social challenge, and different groups of people should be ready for it. Children may need different help, and society should be ready to offer it. Challenging behaviour is known to impair healthy social interactions and disrupt communication with peers. In many cases, these adverse impacts can be observed throughout the impacted individual’s life. In other words, addressing the issue is beneficial for many social institutions. Thus, the ability of the society to respond to the issue determines the well-being of its members in the long term. In other words, it is in our best interests to ensure that the individuals with challenging behaviour receive the necessary assistance and, by extension become functional participants of the society.
This study affects my knowledge. Throughout the course of the study, I have expanded my understanding of the issue of challenging behaviour. In addition, I am able to differentiate between different causes of the issue and identify factors responsible for its occurrence, and collect relevant data using observation methods. I want to participate in the development of guidelines and assessments of children to identify their problems and challenges.
Challenging behaviours may lead to major reductions in social and cultural well-being when left unattended. Thus, I expect that my participation will contribute to the improvement in the identified areas. By providing and analyzing data obtained during the observations, I will be able to further advance the understanding of the issue. Sometimes, a little bit of patience and time can solve a problem. Not all educators and parents recognise this importance. Thus, I expect that advanced knowledge will equip the stakeholders with effective preventive and mitigating techniques and, by extension, improve the consistency of the interventions applied to children with challenging behaviours.
Children Difficulties and Society
Children with challenging behaviours face multiple difficulties. They cannot express their emotions. My task is to think about some new methods to facilitate the lives of families with disabled or challenged children.
Role of Challenging Behaviour in Everyday Living
Challenging behaviour determines everyday living a lot. It changes the priorities and defines new requirements. It is not enough to identify mental problems. It is necessary to think about the steps to support children.
Promotion of special treatment and appropriate conditions for educating children with special needs is a global issue for discussion. In Ireland, much attention is paid to the development of an effective education system according to which any child with challenging behaviour can be assessed to school. Behavioural problems should be solved, and new methods of treatment have to be developed.
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