Christmas Planning

Why I Prefer to Say 'Challenging Behaviors'

In the context of having dealt quite often with a teenage boy in crisis and liable to self-harm and to other difficult things stemming from what appears to be a combination of extreme anxiety, very little verbal language and what is shaping up to be a chronic gastroinestinal issue, I am thinking of why I prefer, have preferred, shall use, the term 'challenging behavior.'

The terrible events in Connecticut have brought the words 'autism' and 'violent' together very often. The premeditated, social violence under discussion has nothing to do with autism.

Many others have already said what needs to be said; here's my take.

The challenging behaviors' that Charlie has had, can have -- head-banging, biting, grabbing, pounding heavy objects into the wall, smashing glass -- are of the sort that are called 'violent.' Another word professionals, experts, etc., often use is 'aggressive.'

Last week makes it clear to me, I'm sticking with 'challenging.' Charlie's difficult, difficultest times are a maelstrom of distress and physicality. Much of his challenging behavior is directed on himself, resulting in the carbunclish excrescence in the middle of his forehead.

It is the case, after a period a few years ago in which he routinely swiped dishes from cabinets and the dishrack from the kitchen counter, I got rid of the big Chinese cleaver and the chef's knife and stowed away the paring knives. Plastic remains.

It's not that anything with a sharp edge was ever thrown but it's just better to exercise 'safety first.' Truly, Charlie does not know that a knife can be used for anything but cutting gluten-free waffles (because he was eating a lot of those at the time we tried to show him how to use a knife; it was too much of a fine motor challenge) and vegetables and fruit. 

Charlie is not able to read any of the 20 'sight' words and the 100 'snap' words on this list of what first graders know.

Charlie does not know how to get onto the internet and if he did, he'd want me to tell him what to look at (I'd choose photos of a place we've been, like Liberty State Park in Jersey City; he might request the usual Teletubbies, Wiggles, Barney).

Charlie does not know what a gun is or what it is used for.


Melanie Harper

I was thinking the same thing last week about my boy - he's still so innocent and direct in his thoughts and actions. "Insult" was one of his vocabulary words the other day and he just didn't comprehend the concept of saying something mean, and he doesn't notice if mean things are said to him (thankfully.) He can have challenging behaviors sometimes, but *behavior is communication*. So many people don't get that, and it's really frustrating.

Kristina Chew

Absolutely, 'behavior is communication.'

I hadn't thought about it but I would be surprised if Charlie knew what 'insult' meant. It's not that no one has said anything mean to him -- he and Jim encountered drunk drivers on a bike ride this evening -- but I _know_ Charlie has not, would not, say anything to anyone with hurtful intent. Thankfully, yes!

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