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Identifying and Diagnosing a Behavioural Disorder

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 4 Apr 2017 | comments*Discuss
Behavioural Disorder behavioural

A behavioural disorder is not like a short illness that has noticeable symptoms and can be easily diagnosed with a laboratory test or two. On the contrary a behavioural disorder is an underlying condition that generates a whole range of challenging behaviours, but each child affected by a behavioural disorder does not necessarily engage in the same behaviours or engage in the same behaviours in the same way. These differences make the identification of a behavioural disorder a challenge, one that should be left up to a qualified mental health professional to correctly diagnose and treat.

Identifying a Behavioural Disorder
For parents, identifying a behavioural disorder really means identifying challenging and inappropriate behaviours that their child engages in. Many parents feel uncomfortable with this role of observer and this is only natural. After all, every child engages in naughty behaviour every now and then and it can be very hard to differentiate between natural aggression and aggressive behaviours that go too far. The good news is that making this differentiation is the job of a trained professional, not a parent. If parents are concerned that their child is acting inappropriately, or acting inappropriately too often, then they should begin to track these behaviours and visit their GP, their child’s teacher or counsellor or a private counsellor or therapist. Behaviours to look out for in children include:
  • Losing their tempers or engaging in temper tantrums.
  • Blatantly disobeying and disregarding household or classroom rules.
  • Knowingly attempting to irritate or annoy others.
  • Knowingly attempting to steal or destroy property.
  • Blaming others for their own failures or shortcomings.
  • Lying.
  • Running away from home.
  • Playing truant from school.
  • Assaulting others, either physically or sexually.
  • Bullying, both physical and emotionally/mentally.
  • General anger that doesn’t seem to go away.
Diagnosing a Behavioural Disorder
Again, only trained professionals can diagnose a behavioural disorder and a diagnosis will depend not simply on the behaviours that the child engages in but also on how often a child engages in challenging behaviour (consistency of the behaviour, particularly in the last year) and how extreme the challenging behaviour is (the intensity of the behaviour). The child’s age will also be taken into account since behavioural disorders depend in part upon the challenging behaviour being inappropriate for the age of the child.

If a clinical diagnosis is made, the professional will then devise a method, or combination of methods, to treat the disorder. Medicines, therapies and behaviour modification techniques are all used to treat behavioural disorders, but regardless of what a specialist prescribes it is important that the child’s whole family remains loving and supportive. Children with behavioural disorders often feel poorly enough about themselves and their behaviours that having a block of support behind them is crucial to the success of the treatment.

Identifying and diagnosing behavioural disorders can be a long, confusing and sometimes painful process. Parents should understand that it is not their job to diagnose or “fix” a child with a behavioural disorder, but rather to love and support their child enough to involve professionals who can make a diagnosis and design a specific type of treatment.

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bad grandpa - Your Question:
My son who is aged 8 is constantly pinching, hitting, or smacking, or kicking other children in his playgroup. He is repeatedly told not to do this but still does. He is also very aggressive towards his mother. If sitting with her, he can squeeze her, or even pinch or pull her hair. When passing him, say, in a corridoor, he will strike out at anyone passing him. Is this a Sensory Disorder Symptom? We think he is borderline Autistic.

Our Response:
We can't say whether he is or not - have your spoken to his GP about it?
KidsBehaviour - 6-Apr-17 @ 10:57 AM
my son who is aged 8 is constantly pinching, hitting, or smacking, or kicking other children in his playgroup. He is repeatedly told not to do this but still does. He is also very aggressive towards his mother. If sitting with her, he can squeeze her, or even pinch or pull her hair. When passing him, say, in a corridoor, he will strike out at anyone passing him. Is this a Sensory Disorder Symptom? We think he is borderline Autistic.
bad grandpa - 4-Apr-17 @ 5:11 PM
my 12 yr old daughter started big school in september 2 of her couisons were also at the same school they have since moved to another school my daughters yr head called me to say there is a meeting on monday because of her behavior she really wants to b a midwife and has the ability to do so she has just been diagnosed with dyslexia and has the reading age of a 7 yr old she lives with myself her step dad and 10 yr old twin brother and sister she is concerned about me telling her dad who is currently serving 10 yrs in prison im starting to feel like a failure i also have 3 older daughters who have left home with kids of their own have i gone wrong and how
ray - 29-Nov-15 @ 11:39 AM
my four year old refuses to listen in class, at daycare and at home. he does things to get attention all the time such as run around in the classroom, stick tongue out at teachers, say no to the teachers and seem to think that everything is a joke. the teachers raised concerns that they worry about his safety if he continues not to listen. am afraid that if he continues with these behaviour they wil throw him out of school. HELP!!
kite - 10-Nov-15 @ 2:58 PM
@mammabee. Gosh that must be difficult to cope with. It sounds like he feels under pressure to do extremely well - is that something that has happened since he started school (peer pressure)? What's he like at non competitive games? Anything with a sense of humour etc - lots of activites along those lines may help him believe that he doesn't have to be perfect at everything (or anything). Can you talk to his teacher about this? It's bound to be something that someone in the staff as come across before. How much as the school helped in terms of the intervention policy? Can you get a referral to a behavioural specialist?
KidsBehaviour - 14-Jan-15 @ 2:43 PM
at wits end.... My son is nearly 8 years old.He has been behind in school since reception And been on intervention every single year.His behaviour is somewhat concerning.If he thinks he is failing his attempt to do it things 100 % he would rather not have a go. He never wants to get in trouble at school and will never say anything back at his classmates even if they being nasty to him.He day dreams at school and hardly in the now. I find this very challenging as i dont know how to deal with the situation to help him.I thought getting him to play an instrument might help.After a year of private tutoring I am screaming from inside at every session.when he makes a mistake he refuses to cooperate for the entire session. Even though we tell him its ok to make mistakes.any advice would be most welcome..
mammabee - 12-Jan-15 @ 9:38 PM
My 12 yr old son has slight concentration issues, still waiting for tests. But high school are saying hes disabled? How can this be? Who do I contact to help me fight against the school?
raghed - 29-May-14 @ 3:51 PM
I tjink my 9yr old has a behavioural problem. She gets angry easily,shouts,swears,and hit me when adked to do something she will not do it ,she wont listen ,disrespectfulto me but noticed that she doesnt do this to her sisters and her dadwho doesnt live with us.she gets do laxy in doing anything in the house ,will not clear the mess ,will leave her clothes lying everywhere including underwears even if you tell her to do what is right she will be so arrogant and start telling me i dont love her ,i shout at her and she start telling lies and denies things she has done intentionally .will be so violent,distructiveand call me all the bad names .will sometimes say i hit her and show me the old marks most of the times nothing will be showing ..
MERCY - 5-Feb-14 @ 2:51 AM
I think my little brother might have ADD but im not sure? he is 9 he gets very angry very easily and throughs tantrums over the smallest of things. I have two other brothers, one 4 and one 1, he annoys the younger two intentionaly and sometimes the younger two will through accidently hit him and he lashes out at them. no matter how many people tell him to behave, we wont listen he will go straight back to doing it. please help, it is making things very stressful at home and I want to be able to know what we can do to help him
Dee - 12-Feb-12 @ 7:09 PM
my son has a very bad angry problem like he hit me and my daugher cant sit still.get bored knowingly attempting or irrate or annoy us. fidget/cant wait his turn in games please help is it adh
bana - 5-Aug-11 @ 6:47 AM
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