For the last few years it seems, in amongst all my other CPV posts, I have thought, discussed, and posted a lot about the experiences of adoptive parents experiencing violence or abuse from their children, but this year feels already like there’s going to be a lot of attention – rightly so – given to those struggling with the behaviour of their children with learning difficulties or disabilities. With the treatment of children and young people in assessment units very much in the news, expect to hear even more! For many, the conflation of this type of behaviour – identified as a response to anxiety and stress in the face of unreasonable (and often very reasonable) expectations – with deliberate, manipulative acts of violence and control from some neuro-typical children does not sit easily. Indeed, Yvonne Newbold has coined the term Violent Challenging Behaviour to make this distinction.
This post, Time to breathe out, from a mum blogging about Life with Aine, starts us off.
It’s the first day of school after the Christmas break. The anxiety that has been simmering for the last two weeks, for me at least, becomes reality.
When faced with doing something that she doesn’t want to do, Aine can become physically violent. This is something that she has displayed at various levels over her life. It started as self-injurious, biting her arm during physio sessions. We bought bangles and chewy items to prevent the injury but nothing seemed to satisfy her the same as hurting herself. She would bite the therapist if they weren’t quick enough, but it was mainly herself. This progressed to head hitting and elbow banging, bending her arm and smashing her elbow hard onto a surface; table, wall, door. Less often she would bang her head on surfaces and also bend forward into a most envious forward fold yoga pose to bite hard on her knees.
It was easier to dodge when she was little and it was far easier to distract her. A game made her forget that she was being dressed or being made to take foul-tasting medicine or being made to contort her tight muscles into painful stretches, As she has grown, she has become more savvy. “This uniform means school and I don’t want to go there!” “This spoon means medicine and it tastes like feet!” And also the realisation that certain behaviours and words push certain buttons in care givers has developed. If I am failing to respond to a pinch or a scratch, a swift slap around the face gives the eye contact she wants.
For the remainder of the post, and for others by Kate McDonagh, please do visit the website: If you jump in muddy puddles …
Many differences indeed, but also some similarities, which reminds us in fact that every situation, every family and every child is unique, with their own situation, anxieties and response. Above all, we need compassion; and we look this year for a more kind, hopeful and person-centred response to those families in need.There is a long debate to be had about how we understand different aspects of violent or challenging behaviour from children, what we call it too. Its a puzzle we’ve been trying to untangle on this site, and we hope you’ll join in this year as we carry on fighting for awareness, understanding, and a thoughtful and supportive response for families.