Sadly, it took us long time to understand that Mitra’s explosive behaviors were exhibited on purpose. With no more energy left and with the lack of experience, we thought she used behavior to avoid a difficult situation, to gain attention, to harass us or just to be stubborn. It is true that sometimes it was correct, but they were very rarely the reason for the behavior. Using a lot of time with Mitra and by becoming more observant we now realize that her unusual behavior is due to decidedly more complicated causes.
Mitra has trouble communicating because she is not able to verbally describe the problem or know what to do in a situation. This means that she may act out her feelings or needs. The purpose may be getting our attention? Stopping an activity she doesn’t like? Or just satisfying her sensory needs? No matter what the answer is, there should always be a reason behind the behavior.
The biggest problem is that we who try to interpret her behaviors as communication would also be wrong. We would say she doesn’t want to do something or go somewhere but maybe she really do want to do the thing or go where she was asked but she is just stuck! What if her behavior is a reaction to incorrect sensory information?
Really horrible behavior sometimes can be caused by pain. We are sure that the way she shows pain is not the same way other people would. She can’t tell where the pain is so she just reacts to it. With experience, we have learnt much more about Mitra. Now it became easier for us to feel if she has pain or not. We try to embrace her and touch gently different parts of her body and observe her reaction. Sometimes it works and we see that it affects Mitra too.
Since she often uses her behavior to tell us what she needs, we can help her by figuring out the meaning behind her behavior. She (like all children) needs the consistency of reliable and caring adults who will provide support and guidance, especially during difficult times. We are always there to support her even it gets really hard from time to time.
There is only one way to answer the question of what function her behavior is serving or what its cause is. That is to ask her! We are using AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) with pictographs, photos, signs and movements. She started using AAC more effective both at home and in kindergarten and we observe that her behavior is much more stable. When she gets help to find positive ways to communicate her needs to others, she learns important social and problem-solving skills that may help her throughout her life.
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