DDWA believe that people with disability who behave in challenging ways, are trying to communicate to the people around them that their needs are not being met and that their behaviour is trying to tell us that something in their world is not right.


People with intellectual and other developmental disabilities can sometimes be labelled as having "challenging behaviour". We recognise that it can be really hard to work out what is underlying in a person’s behaviour (e.g. pain, sensory overload, boredom) and to change what is causing the distress, frustration, anger etc.

When people view challenging behaviour as a form of communication, they are less likely to see the person with disability as ‘being naughty’ and more likely to focus on what they themselves might be doing or not doing to meet the person’s real needs eg. such as supporting the person to communicate their needs.

The information below is designed to help understand and better respond to people who can sometimes behave in challenging ways.


What is your child's challenging behaviour trying to tell you?

I Am Trying to Tell You Something!

Supporting School-age Children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Online Learning

Foundations to understanding behaviour

This free learning package of five video modules was developed to help you enhance your knowledge and skills around supporting people with disability and complex communication needs.



All About Me Book (What is important to and for me)

By DDWA Team
This is an information booklet to share with your teachers, support workers, family and friends, about the person with disability and their support needs and interests. You can ask your therapy team to help you create this or make it…
boy smiling

How do I let my child’s teacher know about their interests and stressors?

By DDWA Team
All about me – books One idea is to create an All About Me book with or for your child and share this with your child’s teacher. An All About Me book should include all the most important, relevant information…
young girl lying on grass smiling

Behaviour Support Plans, Management Plans & Supports

By DDWA Team
What is the difference between a Behaviour Support Plan and an Individual Education Plan? A behaviour support plan is written by a behaviour practitioner and is to be implemented across all settings, including home and other environments. A behaviour support…
Woman on the phone

What if I don’t have a behaviour support plan or funding, but I need help to support behaviour and aggression at home and school?

By DDWA Team
Even if you do not have funding for behaviour support there are lots of options to help you. DDWA You can access peer support through the DDWA peer support program called Side by Side. Side by Side also has a…

How do I find a behaviour support practitioner?

By DDWA Team
Support Suggestions Here are a few suggestions about how you can find a behaviour support practitioner that is right for you and your family. You can ask other parents for suggestions from their own experiences with behaviour support providers. You…
young woman with her hands on her head looking stressed

What is behaviour support & Why do we need it?

By DDWA Team
Behaviour support is a way of thinking through why someone behaves in ways that may be seen as challenging. Usually, this relates back to unmet needs that the person has. Behaviour support is about focussing on the environment and the…

What is challenging behaviour?

By DDWA Team
Challenging behaviour also known as behaviours which challenge, is defined as: culturally abnormal behaviour(s) of such intensity, frequency or duration that the physical safety of the person or others is placed in serious jeopardy, or behaviour which is likely to seriously limit or deny access…


Side by Side

Side by Side began as a project in 2012, for families experiencing behaviour which could be seen as challenging. The project connects families experiencing challenging behaviour with other families though a supported peer group which provides a safe place to share experiences, receive support and help each other.

Side by Side’s vision is for families experiencing challenging behaviour to be better supported and to develop family leaders. This peer support is vital as these families are often isolated and overwhelmed. Side by Side can work with families and support them to develop their own capacity and build the strength of the Side by Side peer group collectively.

Further Reading

Pain - A Guide for Parents