Module 9 - Challenging Behaviours

What is Challenging Behaviour?

In the Disability field a widely accepted definition for challenging behaviour is ‘Behaviour of such intensity, frequency or duration that the physical safety of the person or others is placed in serious jeopardy, or behaviour which is likely to seriously limit or deny access to the use of ordinary community facilities’. It is important to clarify that the concept of challenging behaviours does not include behaviours that are simply unusual and odd (as long as these are not harmful) and that this definition of challenging behaviour frames the behavioural problems in a way that justifies therapeutic interventions designed to prevent disability, distress, injury and the restriction of a person’s rights.  The behaviours need to be of a significant frequency, severity or chronicity so as to require clinical assessment and special interventions or support. The term was originally developed in relation to people with severe cognitive impairments who were unable to explain their behaviour. However, the term is now more widely used and includes people with less severe cognitive impairment.  Challenging behaviours are also common in the general population - and not only seen in people who are mentally ill; however the term is not usually used for people without cognitive impairment. In people with intellectual disability, problem behaviours are often attributed to the person’s intellectual disability (this is an example of diagnostic overshadowing). This differs from the general population where the problem may be attributed to a range of factors including personality, temperament, mental illness, drug and alcohol use, dementia, delirium, and criminal behaviour. The same range of factors can be used to help understand the challenging behaviour in people with intellectual disability.
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