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Discuss about the Student with Challenging Behavior for Learning Disability.


The challenging behavior of students with disabilities leads to learning disability becoming a significant barrier to their academic and social inclusion. A learning definition can be defined by three main requisites, those are, impairment of adaptive and social functioning and beginning in childhood. The disabilities that are associated with learning are variant from specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia, which, do not influence the intellectual capability. The term learning disability is the most accepted term all over the world. The amount of support that a person with learning disability needs depends on the seriousness of the disability. It is therefore important that each student be treated as a separate individual having certain strengths and weaknesses and needs (Chandler & Dahlquist, 2014). This report discusses the development and maintenance of challenging behavior along with the strategies that is to be used by teachers and schools to prevent challenging behaviors. Additionally, the report shall also consist of a comparison between school wide positive behavior and positive behavior supports that are planned for individual students.

The Development and Maintenance of Challenging Behavior:

Emerson et al. developed the definition of challenging behavior, and the definition has become widely used in the perspective of learning disabilities. According to him, “behavior of such intensity, frequency and duration that the physical safety of the person or others is likely to be placed in serious jeopardy or behavior which is likely to seriously limit or delay access to, and use of ordinary facilities.”

According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), children with learning disabilities display behavior that are challenging. Children possessing behavior that are challenging is an indication that such kind of behavior is a challenge to their family, services and take carers. Some of the typical behavior that students with challenging behavior have are attracting attention of other people, avoiding demands of peer group and lack of communication (Friend, 2013). This kind of behavior is an outcome of personal and environmental interaction including aggression, stereotypic behavior and self-injury, destructive behavior and withdrawal. Sometimes, it also includes sexual abuse, arson and violence and children may encounter the criminal justice system. Thus, it is easy for children with learning disabilities to encounter behavior that are challenging. The behavior becomes more challenging if students have severe disabilities (McLeskey et al., 2012). 

However, according to Janes et al., (2013) the prevalence rate of challenging behavior is between 5 to 15 percent in social care, health and educational services. The rates go higher in teenagers, especially children in their early twenties. For example, 30 to 45 percent in health care setting. People who have disabilities in learning also have specific communication problems, sensory impairments, physical or mental problems, dementia, autism, and other behavioral challenges. The behavior is visible only in certain kind of environment and the same behavior may be deemed as challenging in some other social or cultural setting. The behavior is an outcome of sensory impairment or avoiding demands. Typically care environments that in which there is lack of social interaction and significant occupation, lack of sensory input and lack of choice and sometimes too much noise. Moreover, it also included care environments that are unresponsive, unpredictable and crowded characterized by abuse and avoidance.

To be able to identify the behavior that are challenging in nature proper risk assessments should be conducted, keeping in mind their biological and environmental need along with assessment of their functions. The interventions differ from child to child depending on the triggers that may be set at multiple levels of treatment. The aim should always be to protect the quality of life of the children.

Effective Strategies that can be used by Schools and Teachers to Prevent or Reduce Challenging Behaviors:

It was held by Cortiella & Horowitz, 2014, that one of the most effective ways of managing challenging behavior that is developed by teachers is to attempt to prevent it from happening in the first place. Many schools have come up with many strategies that develop and promote positive behavior. This idea is an evolution that is based on the assumption that all kind of behavior whether negative or positive is learned and hence, acceptable behavior can be learned. Behavior is circumstantial so students can be taught to behave in a certain way in the context of school. Acceptable behavior of children should be reinforced by the school that should be supported with positive behavior.

According to Bryant et al., 2016, many mainstream schools have become inclusive in their approach for managing children with disabilities. Mainstream schools, almost every day, encounter situations in which they have to manage children with challenging behaviors. Schools should have Code of Behavior that regulates the behavior of children with learning disabilities. 

Children are born with an inherent need for safe and secure environment. The classrooms of children can be one of the safest and stable environments for children. Children learn many behavioral aspects from their classrooms.  Teachers have the obligation of modeling positive behavior with students by having a more positive approach towards them. According Matson et al., 2014, children are responsive to attention and react positively to behaviors that are reinforced. Teachers often catch children that are being good and reward them positively, and praise them for such actions. When children are reinforced with a positive attitude towards them, it enables them to cope up with behavioral issues easily. Many teachers have developed a formalized manner of praise and approach where children can earn points, stickers and rewards for positive behavior.


Chung et al., 2012, provides advice to teachers and schools for the use of rewards for positive behavior:

  • Reward properly for positive behavior as soon as possible
  • The pay offs should be made small and easily achievable
  • The rewards should be made cumulative
  • The pay offs should be made cooperative
  • A reward should not be taken back
  • The element of surprise should always be made a part of rewards

However, many disruptive behaviors are also a part of classroom activities at times especially when moving from one activity to the other activity. Thus, it is advisable for teachers and schools to plan their daily routines accordingly. It is also advisable for teachers and schools to give clear instructions to students and clarify their doubts with love and affection. Teachers give many set of instructions to students hence, it is important for teachers to ensure that children understand their instructions carefully.

A Comparison Between School Wide Positive Behavior Supports and Positive Behavior Supports that are Planned and Implemented for Individual Students:

Many strategies have been developed by schools as part of whole school approach for the promotion of positive behavior. Schools have reported that such a kind of approach has been more effective for children with challenging behavior. Many advantages are related with wide school approach.

According to Bethune & Wood, 2013, a common belief that schools that focus on care, respect and responsibility can be both a commencing point as well as an outcome of positive behavior. Some of the examples of ethos include assemblies where success of students is celebrated, positive attitude of parents and helping children with special educational needs. The keystone of such a belief is that is shared by the whole school community including children, parents, teacher and board of management.

Whereas, the positive behavior approach (PBS) is variant from the wide school approach having less number of inclusions for controlling challenging behavior. According to Gebbie et al., 2012, challenging behaviors are learned and acquired and therefore they can be easily changed. According to the believers of the PBS approach, there is no wrong in wanting attention or escaping from a difficult situation. The PBS approach helps the children in attaining the life they need and this they do by increasing the ways of achieving the things children look for or rather hunt.

The PBS approach helps people in acquiring new skills. The reason why they focus on children in acquiring new skills is that it shall help them in overcome difficult situations (Snell & Brown, 2014). The PBS plan focuses on the development of two major strategies those are:

Proactive Strategies: The proactive strategies allows children to get what they want on a daily basis and also teach them the appropriate skills for communication

Reactive Strategies: The reactive strategies help the children to be safe and protected in an environment where they have no sense of fear. The PBS notes the reaction of children when they are placed in such a kind of environment and note their behavior accordingly.

Therefore, it may be said that the wide school approach focuses more on reinforcement and having a positive attitude towards children whereas the PBS focuses more on the development of the adaptive skills of children.


Teachers in isolation cannot meet the needs of children; there is a need of support of the whole community to address the issues related with challenging behavior. The support of wide school community in promotion of positive behavior is essential. This report has focused on the wide school approach as against the PBS approach for managing children with challenging behavior. Additionally, the report has also discussed appropriate strategies for managing children with challenging behavior. 


Bethune, K. S., & Wood, C. L. (2013). Effects of coaching on teachers’ use of function-based interventions for students with severe disabilities. Teacher Education and Special Education: The Journal of the Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children, 36(2), 97-114.

Bryant, D. P., Bryant, B. R., & Smith, D. D. (2016). Teaching students with special needs in inclusive classrooms. SAGE Publications.

Bulgren, J. A., Sampson Graner, P., & Deshler, D. D. (2013). Literacy challenges and opportunities for students with learning disabilities in social studies and history. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 28(1), 17-27.

Chandler, L. K., & Dahlquist, C. M. (2014). Functional assessment: Strategies to prevent and remediate challenging behavior in school settings. Pearson Higher Ed.

Chung, Y. C., Carter, E. W., & Sisco, L. G. (2012). Social interactions of students with disabilities who use augmentative and alternative communication in inclusive classrooms. American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 117(5), 349-367.

Cortiella, C., & Horowitz, S. H. (2014). The state of learning disabilities: Facts, trends and emerging issues. New York: National Center for Learning Disabilities.

Friend, M. (2013). Special education: Contemporary perspectives for school professionals. Pearson Higher Ed.

Gebbie, D. H., Ceglowski, D., Taylor, L. K., & Miels, J. (2012). The role of teacher efficacy in strengthening classroom support for preschool children with disabilities who exhibit challenging behaviors. Early Childhood Education Journal, 40(1), 35-46.

Matson, J. L., Hess, J. A., & Mahan, S. (2013). Moderating effects of challenging behaviors and communication deficits on social skills in children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 7(1), 23-28.

McLeskey, J. M., Rosenberg, M. S., & Westling, D. L. (2012). Inclusion: Effective practices for all students. Pearson Higher Ed.

Rispoli, M., Ninci, J., Neely, L., & Zaini, S. (2014). A systematic review of trial-based functional analysis of challenging behavior. Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities, 26(3), 271-283.

Snell, M. E., & Brown, F. E. (2014). Instruction of students with severe disabilities. Pearson Higher Ed.

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