Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Bad Behaviour!

There is a myth that people with Down's Syndrome are stubborn and difficult to deal with. This can be true but there is always a reason - it may not be a sensible reason or one that you can understand, but there will be a reason.

A change in routine is a prime offender - I knew that Mondays would always be difficult for my daughter's LSA as she had just spent the weekend (or school holiday) at home and it would take a while to get back into the school routine. If, God forbid, the LSA was off sick or there was a substitute teacher and my daughter didn't know about it in advance, this could cause total shutdown. Very frustrating for all concerned, but it was because she didn't know what was going on and no-one had told her. I see exactly the same with the children I have worked with over the years - any significant change to the daily routine will invariably cause some kind of behavioural reaction. If possible, keep your child informed of any changes coming up - it will save everyone a lot of grief, especially your child

Difficulty in communication is another factor. If you really want a nice glass of milk and you keep getting fobbed off with orange juice with bits in it but you can't tell the person forcing it on you that you don't like it, wouldn't you get angry too? If you don't have the means to communicate, then you use what you have which can be rough gestures, harsh noises or 'bad' behaviour. By the same token, if someone is telling you to sit down but instead of just saying 'sit down please' they are saying 'I wonder if you could possibly go over to that chair over there and seat yourself' and you really don't understand what you are being told because of all those extra confusing words...well, of course you are going to ignore the request! A good reason to learn basic Makaton and teach it to your child until they are able to understand/vocalise successfully. Learn to cut down the amount of unnecessary words you use too - it's a very British thing, using ten words when two will do! Bear in mind that your child will probably only have registered the last word you used - that goes for all children. I have learned that shouting 'don't RUN' never works because 'run' is the word heard - far better to say 'please WALK'.

New people........only today I discovered that the lovely lady who takes the little boy I teach for speech sessions has been having great difficulty in getting him to cooperate. His new speech therapist also had him hiding under the table and refusing to cooperate - as soon as the class teacher walked in the room, he leapt up and behaved impeccably! New people mean a challenge - let's see what I can get away with and how little work I have to do! A lot of adults are 'scared' of being strict with a child with Downs - I try and point out that firstly, they need to be treated the same as any other child if they misbehave. I would have hated my daughter to get away with being naughty because she hadn't been told off. Also, tone of voice plays a huge part - it is no good when the child is small and still learning language to tell them off in a gentle monotone. You have to get across by the tone of your voice your displeasure - a short, sharp 'NO!' works far better than 'I'm really unhappy that you did that, it wasn't very nice' spoken in the same tone you would use to ask if he wants a biscuit. This works the other way too - be effusive in your praise, lots of clapping, hoorays and high fives work a treat!

Rough play - I have seen many times children I have worked with getting into trouble for hitting or pushing other children on the playground. On investigation, this has almost never been with the intent to hurt the other child. It is either them wanting to play but not having the way of asking or imitation of something they have seen other children do. An awful lot of behaviour is learnt by watching and imitating other children - this is a major reason why sending your child to mainstream school can be such a bonus. However, you have to keep an eye out for it working with unwanted behaviour too. When my daughter was a toddler, I had a friend who's little boy used to scream at the top of his voice if he didn't get his own way. My daughter thought this was a pretty cool noise and decided to use it too...at every opportunity. It took me a good six months to break that pattern!

I'm sure there is an awful lot more that could be written about this subject. I will be writing about it again at a future date - any contributions gladly welcomed!

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