About Challenging Behaviour

What do we mean by ‘challenging behaviour’?


Some children and adults with severe learning disabilities typically display behaviour which may put themselves or others at risk, or which may prevent the use of ordinary community facilities or a normal home life. This behaviour may include aggression, self injury, stereotyped behaviour or disruptive and destructive behaviours. These behaviours are not under the control of the individual concerned and are largely due to their lack of ability to communicate.

Challenging behaviour is defined as:

“Culturally abnormal behaviour(s) of such an intensity, frequency or duration that the physical safety of the person or others is likely to be placed in serious jeopardy, or behaviour which is likely to seriously limit use of, or result in the person being denied access to, ordinary community facilities.”

Ref: Emerson, 1995, cited in Emerson, E (2001, 2nd edition): Challenging Behaviour: Analysis and intervention in people with learning disabilities. Cambridge University Press

Note: While anyone with a learning disability may at times display challenging behaviour, the work of the CBF is primarily aimed at helping those with severe learning disabilities.

What do we mean by ‘severe learning disabilities’?

Severe learning disability is a developmental disability and refers to individuals who have either no speech or limited communication, a significantly reduced ability to learn new skills and who require support with daily living skills such as dressing and eating.

Information about challenging behaviour

We believe that all parents and carers should have access to the information they need to understand and manage challenging behaviour, therefore all our information sheets are available to download free of charge from this website.

Alternatively you can order individual sheets or a full information pack from us using our resource order form.

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