Special Needs Parenting: 12 Tips for Managing Challenging Behavior

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, these tips may give you some ideas to try – but remember to be consistent before you say, ‘this doesn’t work for me.

  1. Keep a journal

Keeping a journal and recording incidents can help you to look back and see if there are any patterns or contributing factors. It can also be a good thing to look through with your child, talking about both the positives and negatives.

  1. Use a break card

A ‘break card’ can be useful for averting meltdowns.  It gives a child the means to communicate their wish to leave an unpleasant situation. They simply need to hand the card over.  Useful in school or out and about.

  1. Exercise as an outlet

Children’s behavior can become more difficult when they enter puberty. Lots of scheduled exercise will help to get rid of some of the overload of stress and anger – build it into the child’s daily home-from-school routine.

  1. Be calm but assertive

Calm but assertive instructions and body language are important assets when dealing with challenging behavior.  Adding emotion to an already emotional situation can only cloud judgments and cause greater confusion.

  1. Lower the volume

When your child is being aggressive and shouting, keep your face neutral and lower the volume and pitch of your own voice. Nine times out of ten, they will quieten down to hear what you are saying.

  1. A good night’s sleep

Sleep can make a big difference to behavior. The right amount of sleep is very important – ideally we need a minimum of 7/8 hours quality sleep every day.

  1. Encourage friendships

Loneliness is one of the main causes of challenging behavior in children with special needs. Try to encourage opportunities for socialising and making friends.

  1. Independence helps

It’s easy to fall into the trap of doing everything for your child, including making decisions for them. But giving your child the chance to do more for themselves and make some decisions, can improve their behaviour.

  1. Monitor medications

Don’t forget that medications can have side effects – some can cause grogginess or hunger – not being able to communicate this can add to your child’s frustration.

  1. Remove all distractions

When your child throws something or throws himself on the floor – turn off the TV/ iPod – take all distractions away and say “OK nothing is happening , no one is talking about anything until you stand up, pick up that toy/cup/shoe, and then we can carry on”.

  1. Early intervention

Learn to recognise the warning signs, and intervene early when you see them.  A range of distraction techniques can be useful.

  1. Take care of yourself

Children are very sensitive and can easily pick up on their parent’s moods. If you are stressed or feeling down, your child’s behavior may get worse. Take care of yourself as well – if you put just a little bit of energy and time into yourself it will help both of you.

The Sunshine team is here to provide expertise and advice for parents coping with a special needs child.