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Identifying the Purpose of the Challenging Behaviour

Behaviour has a purpose. It can be a way of communicating needs and feelings

  1. Rule out any medical / dental causes, particularly if the behaviour started suddenly and has become more intense. The person may feel unwell, tired, hungry, thirsty or uncomfortable. Biting may be due to pain in the mouth, teeth or jaw. Spitting may be related to a difficulty with swallowing or to producing too much saliva. Ear slapping or head banging may be a way of coping with pain or communicating discomfort. Aggression may be due to adolescent hormonal changes.

  2. If medical issues have been ruled out, then everyone involved in the person's care can work on completing a behaviour diary. This should include:
  • date, time, place,
  • what was happening before the behaviour occurred (eg triggers, signs of distress or environmental information)
  • what was happening during the incident (what the behaviour looked like)
  • what happened immediately after the behaviour (how the person was feeling and how people responded to the behaviour).

3. A diary may be completed over a couple of weeks or longer if needed. Consider whether any changes, however small, have occurred in the person's routine or timetable which could affect their behaviour.


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