Behavior and Communication

Behavior IS Communication

People’s actions are expressing something. They could be using many forms to communicate a message.

“I can remember the frustration of not being able to talk.I knew what I wanted to say, but I could not get the words out,so I would just scream.”
-Temple Grandin-
Consider how each of the following could tell you: “I want to stop”

  • Verbal words “I want to stop”
  • Throwing body on floor and kicking
  • Gesturing “STOP” (as a police officer does when directing traffic)
  • Sitting down and crossing arms
  • Yelling loudly while pushing away nearby people or items
  • Walking out of the room
  • Pressing a button on a communication device that plays a recorded “I want to stop” message
  • Using American Sign Language to sign “all done” or “I want to stop”
  • Crying and hitting self in head with palm of hand

Some of the above means of expression are acceptable in our culture. Others are labeled as “inappropriate behavior.” But ALL are spreading the message “I want to stop.”

  • “Careful attention to communication reveals that behaviors that on the surface appear to be random, maladaptive, or challenging, are purposeful…”
    • Olney, M. F. (2001). Communication strategies of adults with severe disabilities: Supporting self-determination. Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin, 44, 87-95.

Leave a Reply