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a Child With Special Needs and Complex Disabilities Surfaces with Behaviour
children present with an abundance of challenges involving academic functioning,
communication and physical difficulties. Combined
these children face a remarkable struggle keeping up with their peers.
of these children are faced with juggling the competing presenting needs of the
child and are often entwined with a variety of service providers including
psychologists, speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, special
educators, medical specialists and the like. When behaviour issues arise, the
parent may be caught cycling through the service providers seeking the most
appropriate remedy to the problem. For many, the behavioural issues escalate
when the child is between six and eight years of age.
to eight year olds are typically in grades one, two and three. At some point through this time, these children are likely
enjoying increasing integration with their peers. The theory here is that
integration de-stigmatizes their disabilities and normalizes disabilities for
the mainstream children. Establishing
these children with the mainstream children also provides them with role models
in terms of normal development and provides an opportunity to keep up with their
missed or poorly appreciated it the amount of energy a child with complex
disabilities must expend to keep up mentally and physically with mainstream
children. Hence these children, owing to the extra energy required will fatigue
sooner than most other children. It is then that some will surface with
view of the broad array of service providers, the behavioural difficulties will
likely be met with behavioural approaches to management. The parents and
teachers will be instructed on various reward regimens and then if that fails,
punishments may be suggested as deterrence to problematic behaviour. Sadly
though, behavioural issues often continue. The next line of intervention usually
involves therapy for the parents to ascertain and treat any issues presumed to
arise therein. The thinking may be that parental guilt or marital issues are
intruding on the child and their care.
it may be advisable to hark back to the amount of energy required for these
children to keep up with their peers. It is likely in view of fatigue, many of
these children just cannot hold themselves together behaviourally. In other
words, their fatigue surfaces as problematic behaviour. It is often the case
that these children cannot express themselves well, let alone when they are
tired. Further, to admit to fatigue could take them away from their activities.
whose children with special needs and complex disabilities are surfacing with
behavioural problems are advised to structure a nap or rest period in the early
afternoon each day at school. Many parents will think this an odd strategy
having long since dispensed with naps for children of this age. However, now in
the school context with an increased expenditure of energy, many of these
children need extra rest to recharge themselves. It is likely that after such a
rest, the child will return with a renewed vigour and problematic behaviour will
early afternoon nap is a benign intervention and a good place to start when
working with a young child with special needs and complex disabilities who
presents with behavioural issues.
While they’re at it, it might just do the parent, teacher or caregiver a world of good to join them!
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
For information on Direnfeld's book, Raising Kids Without Raising Cane, click here.
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