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  • Teagan Pease

Behaviour and Communication Difficulties


What is the relationship between communication skills and behaviour?


Did you know that 46% of juvenile offenders have a language impairment? There is a direct correlation between communication and behaviour, and we communicate through our behaviour, even if we are not aware of it! A baby will cry when hungry, and an adult may yawn during a long meeting. Children with language delay can find it challenging to communicate verbally, and will often express themselves through their behaviour, acting out their feelings and needs.


We need to consider the following question:

What is your child communicating through their behaviour?


There may be many reasons behind a behaviour. Children presenting with adverse behaviours are sending a message that their needs are not being met or they dislike something. It may be that the child does not know how to explain that they are upset or angry, so they may act out and get into trouble. It may be sensory seeking, when the behaviour seems destructive. It may be to gain control, when the child feels like they have no voice or control in their environment.

Even though we may consider the behaviour or method of communication as inappropriate, understanding where it is coming from can help us to address the underlying issues, to then reduce the behaviours. Addressing the underlying issues, or the cause, means we can equip the children with more appropriate methods of communicating that same message.



Take an example, it’s a Monday morning and Max is sitting at his desk and his teacher is explaining the activity. Max is swinging back and forth on his chair, fiddling with his pencil, and looking around the room. His teacher comes up to him and tells him to pay attention. Max swears at his teacher and storms out of the room. Lets look at Max’s behaviour- maybe he was fidgeting and swinging on the chair for sensory feedback, perhaps he was looking around the room because he didn’t know what to do, maybe he swore because he didn’t have the vocabulary to explain.


Remember to consider challenging behaviour as a communication attempt, and to decipher what the root of the behaviour is, and what the child is trying to communicate in order to reduce the need for the behaviour to occur again.


Speech pathologists work with individuals who have challenging behaviours by focusing on the cause of the behaviour, and changing the behaviour through developing effective communication skills.



- Kate Guilieri, Speech Pathologist at Talk Time.




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