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The unspoken language of behavior

Behavior is a powerful form of communication, especially in individuals who may have difficulty expressing themselves through words. However, sometimes challenging behavior can leave us scratching our heads as to why the behavior is occurring.

Behavior is a language worth decoding. Let’s look at the four most common functions of behavior:


Positive or negative, attention is attention. If you notice your child acting out when they’re not getting enough one-on-one time or putting on a show to impress you or their teacher, they might be craving more of that spotlight.


In this case, a behavior is occurring in order to escape a demand. Your child might suddenly develop some impressive ninja skills when you ask them to tackle dreaded tasks like tooth-brushing or chores, all in a heroic effort to dodge those less-than-thrilling demands.


Simply put, the function of tangible behavior is seen when a child wants an item or response. Picture your child’s face and actions when they want more screen time or they’re on a quest for that irresistible sugary snack.


Some behaviors just feel good for our little ones; it’s their body’s way of giving them a little pick-me-up. For some kids, it might look like stimming, where a physical movement calms their nerves and brings comfort.

Behavior of all kinds is used to convey thoughts, emotions and needs. Taking a step back to examine behaviors can help give caregivers and parents the insight needed to provide alternatives, flexibility or skill-building opportunities to get needs met. It’s worth the work, as a deepening of understanding goes a long way in connecting to a child.


Brought to you by:

Kids NW

922 NW Circle Blvd, Ste 160-112

Corvallis, OR 97330 | 1.888.360.0360

Audrey Benson Behavior Supervisor

KIDS NW connects families with compassionate caregivers, specially trained in serving individuals with disabilities.


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