Is it a Behavior Disorder

Is it a Behavior Disorder?

by Judy Waitley, past HECOA Special Needs Advisory Board Member

Who hasn't heard the high pitched whining wails of a child as you are strolling through your local grocery store grabbing dinner for the next few nights? I have often wondered, as I hear these children using tones that only canines should be able to hear, is this a behavior disorder or just a lack of discipline?  According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as many as one in five children may have a behavior disorder but the symptoms for a behavior disorder overlap with other issues such as Autism or Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) thus making it hard to give a concrete number.

Behavior disorder is a very broad term that encompasses many different symptoms and reactions and not every reaction a child has is going to be considered a symptom of something greater.  Maybe little Johnny's tantrum about doing that second page of math is nothing more than an immature reaction to a situation that he wasn't sure how to handle.  Consider the three types of basic behavior as stated by the American Academy of Pediatrics:

  1. Some kinds of behavior are wanted and approved. They might include doing homework, being polite, and doing chores. These actions receive compliments freely and easily.
  2. Other behavior is not sanctioned but is tolerated under certain conditions, such as during times of illness (of a parent or a child) or stress (a move, for instance, or the birth of a new sibling). These kinds of behavior might include not doing chores, regressive behavior (such as baby talk), or being excessively self-centered.
  3. Still other kinds of behavior cannot and should not be tolerated or reinforced. They include actions that are harmful to the physical, emotional, or social well-being of the child, the family members, and others. They may interfere with the child's intellectual development. They may be forbidden by law, ethics, religion, or social mores. They might include very aggressive or destructive behavior, overt racism or prejudice, stealing, truancy, smoking or substance abuse, school failure, or an intense sibling rivalry.

1Every child is different and every child matures at a different rate.  "Normal" behavior for one child may not be your child's "normal".  The above guidelines on behavior give parents a good starting place for looking deeper into behavior issues that may actually be considered disorders.  If you see your child exhibiting behaviors that fall into the unwanted behavior category for more than six months, you should consider seeking help for your child.

Homeschooling a child with a behavior disorder can be a challenge.  As a parent of a child that deals with behavior issues related to SPD, there have been days when I felt as if I must be insane to want to homeschool as I just needed a break from the behavior and at times, a break from my child.  After doing hours of reading and research, dragging out all of my psychology texts from college and seeking help from those that have walked this rocky road ahead of me, I felt encouraged and empowered as all of those sources just confirmed the fact that my child was in the exact place he needed to be.  Without love, the safety of being in his own environment, and the security he felt from being accepted just as he was, he wouldn't have made the progress he had made.  He would not have begun to overcome the issues he was faced and he certainly would not have been getting the self-esteem boosts that he so desperately needed with each little success he experienced.  Don't lose heart; you truly are your child's greatest asset!

PLEASE NOTE:  HECOA is not able to diagnosis children with behavior disorders but we will be more than happy to point you to resources that can help you in your journey.  Just contact us!

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