Children with special needs present a unique set of challenges for parents and caregivers, often including difficult-to-manage behaviors like hyperactivity. The ability to understand why a child is acting out puts caregivers in control and improves the experience of children.
The Province of Ontario lists reasons that compel all children, including some with special needs, to act out:
● Obtaining a desired outcome
● Escaping a situation
● Garnering attention
● Self stimulation to remain calm
● Blocking some annoying source of stimulation
● As an attempt to gain control
How a caregiver manages a hyperactive child with special needs who is being irritated by an unusual sound would be different than how a caregiver manages one who is attempting unfairly to gain control of a situation.
Metro has reported on the United Kingdom's National Autistic Society's recommendation that parents and caregivers keep a journal of a child's behavior to spot possible connections between certain stimulus and hyperactive behavior. In some cases, it may be best to avoid problematic activities for children who development hyperactive behavior in connection with them.
It is recommended that caregivers ask questions about hyperactive behavior in all children:
● Is the child trying to communicate something?
● Did the hyperactivity begin suddenly? Why?
● Is there a connection to something else in the child's life?
● Are people in the child's life intentionally or unintentionally giving them positive reinforcement when they engage in the behavior?
Divert Hyperactive Children's Attention
The Women's and Children's Health Network recommends that caregivers stay with children when they act out or become hyperactive in an effort to make them feel secure, to build trust, and to let them know that their feelings are understood and of value.
Children with autism may become hyperactive and then lose control altogether. This could cause them to experience a meltdown. Caregivers of children with autism can learn to recognize signs that a meltdown may be imminent and take steps to circumvent it, including distracting the child, diverting the child's attention, calming the child with music or toys and removing triggering stimuli.
The A.D.D. Resource Center writes that children with attention deficit order and associated conditions can overcome many of the challenges they face if presented with proper motivation. It is likely not mere coincidence that diverting, distracting, and otherwise motivating children with other special needs, such as autism, are recommended courses of action when attempting to cease or manage outbursts of hyperactivity.
What Doesn't Work
Reasoning with a hyperactive child, or worse, one who has lost control, is likely a futile endeavor. "They can't 'hear' you when their feelings are so big," writes the Women's and Children's Health network.
Likewise, the health group advises that children suffering from hyperactivity are not being "naughty" and do not deserve to be punished. Instead children acting out should be viewed as "not able to control themselves when overwhelmed."
Though it may be commonly given as advice, ignoring a temper tantrum is never a good idea. Remember, you are the adult. A child who has lost control can become increasingly frightened without the calm guidance of a trustworthy figure of reason.
Even worse than ignoring a temper tantrum or meltdown, is belittling the child, or even laughing at them, which can escalate already painful situations even further.
Autism and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Rates Continue to Increase
According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Autism Speaks, rates at which children are being diagnosed with ADHD and autism continue to rise. In 2003, the percentage of children diagnosed with ADHD stood at 7.8 percent. By 2012, close to 11 percent of children were diagnosed. As of 2015, close to 1 in 45 children were reported as having been diagnosed with autism.
With the seemingly increasing prevalence of conditions like autism and ADHD, parents and caregivers will likely be faced with a growing number of bouts of hyperactivity in children. Each has a number of tools and options available to help with understanding causes of and effective response to hyperactivity.
Author Bio:Michael Monheit, Esq is one of the founding lawyers of Monheit Law, P.C. where they are dedicated to the protection of individual rights. The firm specializes in birth injury, brain damage, brachial plexus injuries, negligence and malpractice lawsuits.