Consider Frustration

a graphic of a person pulling out own hair

Is there a problem with the person’s level of frustration and/or challenging behavior? Sometimes, using a more robust system of communication can help. More effective ways to communicate can reduce frustration and build a stronger connection.

If someone cannot communicate, the world may ignore them. We observe this when someone speaks a different language than the larger community. The interpreter gets most of the attention and interaction. The same thing happens when someone has never had a robust communication system.

If someone talks but not clearly, frustration can mount. Not only does the speaker get frustrated, but the listener also gets frustrated. When frustration mounts, there is an interruption in connection and interaction. A better communication system can be helpful for everyone.

When the person shows frustration, we interpret it as “challenging behavior”. We work to stop or extinguish the behavior. We know that we don’t want to reward challenging behavior. What was the person trying to say? What was the message behind the challenging behavior? In the long run, a better way to communicate might help.

Is challenging behavior a reason not provide an AAC device? In a word – No.

Actually, behaviors can improve when someone learns a way to say what they need. If there is a concern that a device might get broken or destroyed, a military grade case might help. Maybe start with a light tech option. Maybe pair the device with a preferred person.

Moving to a more robust system is not a magic bullet, but can be part of a solution.


Print Materials

Alt image for concept handout

Related Videos

This 3-minute video shows how using language can reduce self injury in a young man with autism.

Deepen Your Understanding

Consequences of ineffective communication — fight, flight, and freeze

As stated earlier, ineffective communication causes conflict and worsens relationships. Common reactions to ineffective communication include the three “F”s: people are more likely to either fight an ineffective communicator; take flight from an ineffective communicator, or freeze emotionally (emotionally closed off/shut down) when dealing with an ineffective communicator. The three “F”s, of course, are significant barriers to the development and maintenance of healthy relationships, both at home and at work. They cause suffering to both the sender and recipient of ineffective communication.

from Preston Ni M.S.B.A., Psychology Today – May, 2012