Sometimes developmentally delayed children will exhibit behaviors which are hard to understand. That’s because the behavior is occurring at an age when we typically wouldn’t see it happening in ordinary kids. For example, if a two-year-old hits another child, as a parent we might say “Let’s not hit,” but we don’t become tremendously concerned. A two-year-old hitting another toddler is normal behavior. But if an eight-year-old hits his peer, it’s more troubling. Most eight-year-olds have learned that hitting someone else is wrong.
It’s important to remember that in the special needs child, inappropriate behaviors may have a purpose. The child is trying to move through normal phases of development, but is going at a slower rate. As parents, if we can avoid becoming frustrated, and try to understand the behavior, we can help redirect it to actions which are more appropriate.
For example, look at the following ways a typical child behaves as he is trying to grow up:
- Behavior: Pull hair, grab glasses and earrings, poke, pinch, study faces.
What they are trying to do: See where their bodies end and another person’s begins, feel physically separate, become independent.
- Behavior: Cry for everything they want, babble, smile, wave arms, kick legs.
What they are trying to do: Express themselves without using language. They are attempting to communicate in various ways.
- Behavior: Throw toys or cups on the floor.
What they are trying to do: Learn about cause-and-effect.
- Behavior: Ask questions endlessly, like, “What’s that?”
What they are trying to do: Get attention, learn words, understand the world around them.
- Behavior: Constantly getting into trouble, i.e. emptying drawers, dumping out purses, making messes, jumping on beds.
What they are trying to do: Develop large and small muscle groups, receive sensory input, gain muscle control.
- Behavior: “Copying” parents by using their make-up, wallets, shoes, etc.
What they are trying to do: Become more like a grown-up.
- Behavior: Refuse their parents’ help, put clothes on backwards or inside out.
What they are trying to do: Learn how to dress and take care of themselves.
- Behavior: Hit, threaten, call names, take toys, refuse to share, exclude other children.
What they are trying to do: Play with others but still feel that they have control over their environment and can be “in charge” of themselves.
- Behavior: Move furniture, make forts, roll up in blankets, stack pillows, etc.
What they are trying to do: Interpret symbols in pretend play to have them stand for real objects or people.
THE SPECIAL NEEDS CHILD
He or she may exhibit what would be understandable behaviors for a baby, toddler, or preschooler, but at an older age. The behavior can start to make sense when put in the proper context.
What you can do:
See where the behavior fits on this list, or whether you can make sense of it. If a younger child were doing the very same thing, would the action be more understandable? Try to redirect the behavior based upon what the child is trying to accomplish. If he desires more sensory input, try involving him in activities which will utilize large and small muscle groups. Provide time for structured physical activity. If she wants to be more independent, try teaching her simple skills she can do herself to help at home. Most of all, be patient, and be a guide and example as your child develops at his or her own pace.
Kristyn Crow is the author of this blog. Visit her website by clicking here. Some links on this blog may have been generated by outside sources are not necessarily endorsed by Kristyn Crow.