Challenging behaviour

Challenging behaviour

A girl pulling another girl's hair.

What is challenging behaviour?

Challenging behaviour is when someone hurts themselves, or other people, or objects.

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Someone with challenging behaviour might:

  • hit other people or objects like a wall
  • kick other people or objects like a door
  • get very upset
  • scream, shout, or cry
  • throw things
  • hurt themselves.
2 girls holding hands and making a heart shape with their other hands.

Challenging behaviour can make it difficult for someone to do every day things like making friends, going to the park, or learning at school.

A boy sitting on a chair leaning forwards with his arms folded and looking as if he is in pain.

Challenging behaviour can be caused by lots of different things.  For example:

  • feeling upset because you can not do something
  • having a pain
  • the people around you
  • the room or space around you.
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Challenging behaviour and learning disability

Challenging behaviour is not a learning disability .

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People with a learning disability are more likely to show challenging behaviour.

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This is because people with a learning disability can find it hard to let other people know what they want, need or feel.

A woman holding a small girl who has Downs syndrome

What should I do if my child has challenging behaviour?

If your child has challenging behaviour, it is a good idea to get help for them as soon as possible.

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Talk to your doctor if you are worried because your child has challenging behaviour.

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 Your doctor might refer you to someone else for help.

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Some things you can do to try to help your child if they have challenging behaviour:

  • Try to work out if the challenging behaviour often happens when they go to a certain place, like a supermarket.
Someone wearing a hoody kicking someone lying on the ground.
  • Try to work out if the challenging behaviour often happens when they are with a certain person.
A woman using a communication aid that sits on a desk
  • Find ways to help your child tell people how they feel, or what they want.
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  • Help your child to feel happy, and spend time doing things they like.
A lady standing with her eyes closed and one hand on her chest with an arrow pointing away from her mouth to show she is breathing out.
  • Help your child to find ways to cope when things do not go well.  For example slowly breathing in and out, or counting before they do anything. 
A boy sitting at a table with a book and holding a pen.  A lady is standing behind him and leaning over pointing at something in the book.
  • Try to work out when your child might find things difficult and see if you can do something before they get upset.
A woman with Down's Syndrome stands in front of a team of people who can support her

It is good to have people who you can ask for help and support.  For example, family, friends and professionals.

The Challenging Behaviour Foundation logo

The Challenging Behaviour Foundation has lots of information and support.

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You can also contact the Learning Disability helpline for more information: