Autistic Spectrum Disorder

Challenging behaviour in children with an ASD

This page covers some of the challenging behaviours that children with autism often display. It also gives possible reasons for these behaviours, and suggestions for different ways of dealing with them.

Coping with a child who has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can be very difficult; particularly when they display challenging behaviour. It can be even more difficult to cope if your child is non-verbal. Challenging behaviour includes what would typically be considered physically aggressive behaviour, but can also include behaviours like pica (putting inedible items in the mouth) and hand flapping if they are having a negative impact on your child or your family. This information sheet focuses on coping with challenging behaviour and can be used alongside our information sheets on ‘Understanding behaviours’ and ‘Behaviour guidelines.’

It is important to bear in mind that behaviour has a function and that there could be a number of reasons for it. These may include difficulty in processing information, unstructured time, over-sensitivity (hyper) or under-sensitivity (hypo) to something, a change in routine or physical reasons like feeling unwell, tired or hungry. Not being able to communicate these difficulties can lead to anxiety, anger and frustration, and then to an outburst of challenging behaviour.

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