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Bad Behavior: Special Needs or Attention Seeking?

by C. Finkbeiner | June 30th, 2015 | Preschool, Special Needs

childs face (400x400)When a young child is learning to do something new and possibly challenging, they will also begin to learn how to refuse with excuse. This is usually manifested through a built up temper-tantrum full of crying, spouting of hysterical sentence fragments and possibly wild, violent body movements.

Intentional refusing begins upon learning the word “No.” Once your kid knows what “No” means, they will use it against you. Constantly. You have to pick your battles carefully when your child says no, and let them get away with a few little things, to be fair. But, never give in on things that will absolve them from their expected responsibilities such as age appropriate chores or adhering to structured play and sleep schedules. Preschool activities can help children maintain routine through teamwork and learning among peers.

Keep in mind, temper-tantrums are a normal part of growing up. They can build up and happen at the drop of a dime the minute a child does not get his way. But in most cases, they only last a few minutes and can be resolved rationally.

Children cry for just about any reason it seems. However for children who have special needs, it can be a sign of more than an uncomfortable feeling or resistance to change.

Meltdowns are extreme temper-tantrums which last for a long time and may/not have a specific reason for beginning or an easy answer to solve.

For example, when my son was in preschool, he had not yet been diagnosed with autism, as Asperger’s Syndrome was still “new”. He would consistently act out for irrational reasons and in the most inappropriate ways. Once, he was inconsolably angry because the school changed the lunch menu at the last minute and they replaced serving chicken nuggets with hot dogs.

“But, Sonny, you LIKE hot dogs!” the teachers reminded him.

It didn’t matter. He refused to eat anything else because he was expecting chicken nuggets and that is what he was determined to have. He crawled under his desk and refused to come out for 3 hours. He declined eating lunch, and did not speak again until the end of the day when it was time to go home.

Now, that was a hardcore protest.

Children with communication disabilities do not instinctively understand how to properly express emotion and may over (or under) exaggerate their feelings. In Sonny’s case, he was unable to process the disappointment of the unannounced change, and when confronted with the realization that he had no control over his options, he reacted self defensively as though it were a punishment.

Raising a toddler can be nerve testing. As children reach preschool age, they start to push limits, cross lines and develop boundaries. Personality traits are also being defined per child based on their response or reactions to circumstances and obstacles. For parents, this can be very hard to decipher as a child’s cry for help, or a cry for attention. And, for some, the difference between the two is a diagnosis.

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