All Challenging Behaviour is a Communication

All challenging behaviour is a communication   – by Trish O’Hara  Jan 2015

Whilst I realise that everything we do is a behaviour from a scientific perspective, I find the term behaviour really just conjures up negativity.
Challenging behaviour is personal and circumstantial. To describe a person with challenging behaviour only serves to press buttons in us that challenge us.

We communication with ourselves,  others and the environment – it’s a constant.

If I were to tell you a man of 6ft 2 were coming to meet you and he has challenging behaviour, I would defy you to think anything but negative thoughts. In fact, I suspect you would be scared of him. And yet, the thing that challenges me most in a person is teeth grinding. So whilst you were wondering how to keep yourself safe from the scary man, I would be trying to remain out of ear shot in order not to have my senses challenged.

There are things that challenge the individual and are entirely personal to them – Things that challenge the service and may mean a person makes repeated unwise decisions which challenge the tradition of care – Things that challenge the community. A man may make a growling noise which indicates he is happy and content, but if he were to do that in a supermarket – this may ‘upset’ the community.

Using the term challenging behaviour does nothing to describe a person, nor does it encourage those around them to try to understand, it merely blames the person for doing something we don’t want them to do, or not doing something we want them to do.

Changing the term challenging behaviour to behaviour that challenges – is pointless and does not encourage us to do anything different.
If we replace the word behaviour with the word communication each and every time we use it in the work place – then everything changes.
If I were to tell you a man of 6ft 2 were coming to meet you and he has challenging communication – I suspect you would ask me more about him, or presume he may need you to concentrate extremely hard in order to understand him. It would share the responsibility of challenge and respect the persons right to feel and emote. The word communication suggests we also need to work hard to engage and supports positive interaction.

Words are powerful – and the word behaviour has long since been only used in the care setting. I may be described in many ways both negative and positive, but never would someone say I had challenging behaviour – unless of course, I move into the care setting.

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