Creating Behavior Supports

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Creating Behavior support for children with Down syndrome Green Cross

Using behavior support strategies is critical to managing challenging behaviors across various settings. Doing so requires that you are honest with yourself and have a more complete understanding of your child's needs and not just their behavior. The work of behavior management is emotionally demanding, often tiresome work that requires you to "detach" yourself from some of these feelings in order to improve the situation. Learning to trust yourself, your observations and interpretation of your child's behavior will help you to be successful.

Learn to trust yourself

  • Recognize and understand that your child is unique, different and more complex than others
  • Recognize that multiple factors determine how your child develops and behaves
  • Medical, developmental and environmental factors all play a role
  • Recognize behaviors that are specific to a particular setting or person
  • Ask someone you trust to help you observe
  • Work with a friend, therapist, teacher or behavioral professional to accomplish your goals

The challenge of working on behavior as a parent

  • Emotionally demanding work
  • Challenges you to become a therapist
  • Requires an understanding of some “non-intuitive” behavior principles
  • May require you or others to collect data and follow a rigid behavior protocol
  • Require a team approach at school and at home

Learn to trust and interpret your observations

  • Recognize the meaning of the child's behavior if you can
  • Here are some common themes frequently observed in children with Down syndrome

Difficult disruptive behavior may occur

  • To get social attention
  • To protest or communicate disapproval
  • To express fear, apprehension, discomfort or pain
  • To escape or avoid a particular situation or request
  • To obtain a desired object or favor

Isolative, repetitive behavior may occur

  • To obtain “automatic reinforcement” or sensory stimulation
  • To entertain oneself when bored
  • To express anxiety when overwhelmed

Self-injury may occur

  • To obtain sensory stimulation or in response to distressing stimuli (pain, discomfort, noise).
  • Note the bodily location of the self-injury--this could be a clue to a medical condition

Resources for Parents & Educators

Behavior Planning

Intensive Inpatient Behavioral Management & Support
Autism and Developmental Disability Inpatient Research Collaborative


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