Managing Difficult Behaviors in Teenagers With Special Needs

special needs teenager
Learn effective strategies to help better manage difficult behaviors in teenagers with special needs.

Life as a teenager isn’t easy. Raging hormones, emotional and physical growth, and the increasing pressure and stress from school, extracurricular activities, relationships, and more are the perfect ingredients for a stormy demeanor.

Teenagers with special needs have additional considerations on top of all of these challenges. They may also find it difficult to regulate their emotions and behaviors, which can lead to frustration-laden explosions.

If you’re finding yourself overwhelmed with the behaviors of a special needs teenager, keep the following tips in mind.

How Can I Help My Special Needs Teenager Overcome Difficult Behaviors?

  1. Set the tone with your own actions. Anger, aggression, and frustration are contagious. If your teen sees you losing your cool, they are likely to follow suit. It isn’t always easy, but do your best to use a calm, quiet tone of voice, even if your teen is raging. Pay attention to your body language as well. Slow, precise movements exhibit control – something your special needs teen desperately needs.
  2. Identify the specifics of the episode. Keeping a journal is a great way to document triggers and their subsequent behaviors, as well as what worked and didn’t work. Include the time of day, the type of behavior exhibited, and any extenuating circumstances (such as whether they may have been hungry, thirsty, tired, bored, overstimulated, etc.).
  3. Understand what the teenager is trying to communicate. Challenging behaviors are always a means of communication. Your job is to figure out what the behavior is saying when the teen isn’t able to effectively express their needs verbally.
  4. Help the teen manage the challenging behavior. Once you understand the teen’s need, fear, or concern, there are a number of techniques that can help them work towards behavioral change. Applied behavior analysis is a therapeutic approach that involves replacement behavior strategies and positive reinforcement to obtain better coping skills. Work with your teen’s counselor to learn how to successfully implement these techniques.
  5. Take breaks for self-care. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and that’s especially true in the teen years for someone with special needs. It’s never a one-person endeavor, as it can quickly lead a parent or primary caregiver to burnout, depression, and other serious health risks. Make sure you have a strong network of support that allows you to take regular breaks away for calming, enjoyable activities. Spend time with other family members and friends apart from your teen. If you can’t step away during a particularly difficult time, take a moment to close your eyes and count to ten while taking deep breaths.

Help Your Special Needs Teenager Gain Independence at a Group Home

For older teens with special needs, challenging behaviors may arise in conjunction with a push for independence. Group home life can often be an incredibly beneficial environment, designed specifically to help IDD individuals learn and practice valuable skills that will last for a lifetime.

Abrio Living offers family-like group homes with trained and experienced staff members in the residence around the clock for individual care and support. We help older teens and adults with special needs to set and reach goals while ensuring safety, comfort, and well-being.

We would love to offer you a tour of one of our group homes in Phoenix, Peoria, and Glendale and to answer any questions you may have. Contact us any time at 623-289-2927 and let us know how we can help.