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Challenging behaviour often occurs because the child is unable to communicate their wants and needs for attention, medical care, preference for items/activities, dislike for people or activities, need for assistance or how sensory stimuli are affecting them. Behaviours that are repeated will have a function.
Identifying the function of a behaviour means investigating why that behaviour is occurring.
There are 4 main functions of behaviour, or reasons why behaviour might be occurring. They are:
To get something (access to tangibles)
Children may engage in challenging behaviour in order to get access to an item or activity. It may be anything they want, like a favourite toy or snack.
To avoid something (escape)
Any behaviour that enables the child to leave an unwanted task, environment or a person. Some examples include walking or leaning away, or it may occur after you place a demand and ask them to do something.
Access to attention
Any behaviour that results in the child interacting with the other person. It may look like walking towards a person, talking to the person and even looking at the person.
Because it feels good (sensory stimulation)
Any movement or action that pleases one’s own senses. It may feel good such as scratching an itch. Some signs to look for include occurrence across lots of different situations and even when the child is alone.