Supporting a learner with difficult behaviour – Part One

Understanding that individuals on the autistic spectrum, or with cognitive difficulty, may possibly be interpreting their environment in an entirely different way to those supporting them, is an important first step in responding to difficult behaviour. Accepting that, for these individuals, the levels of anxiety caused by sensory regulation issues is a major trigger. 

Then managing the triggers and consequences of such challenging behaviour becomes the keystone in supporting individuals with such a seemingly deep-seated behaviour pattern. How does this knowledge help us in working with learners who present with this form of difficult behaviour? Essentially, if we can predict the causes, we can plan to reduce them, and we can help the individual develop the skills necessary to manage their situation themselves. 

In this series of blogs, we will consider understanding the needs of the individuals, assessing their strengths and the elements they struggle with. We

will look at how we can improve their environment to reduce sensory impact. We will examine strategies that are thought to help in regulating responses to environmental stimuli. We will look at how we can train life skills such as focusing, relaxation and also help individuals to communicate their needs. 


Planning has to include assessment – we need to know what the triggers are to an outburst. Noisy environments? Close proximity of other individuals? Smells? Touch? The list is extensive. Don’t forget too that we may constantly be placing demands upon individuals that are not matched to their abilities. Accepting challenge and the frustration that goes along with not meeting your target is part of life’s learning process. Working with those whom

we support means finding ways to help them meet challenges and deal with frustration without increasing anxiety.   

Next blog in the Difficult Behaviour series: Environmental factors.

Need to know more about managing difficult behaviour? Take a look at ‘Mind that Meltdown’ with Chris Barson, Carol Allen & Richard Hirstwood in November/December 2019!

Introducing Catchbox!

Many people don’t like speaking into microphone so Catchbox has a different angle… it’s a box with a microphone in it, that you can actually throw. It also could be on a tray of a wheelchair to encourage our learners to vocalise. Its built a really tough and great quality. It’s available from Clarity.