By Mike Hipple
You think as a person who writes about behaviors, I don’t have behaviors myself anymore. I got to be a fantastic person and I am happy all of the time. Well, that is a false sentence. I still have behaviors. When I get overwhelmed with things, frustrated about things, or afraid of upcoming events I go back to communicating through my behaviors. I believe this is because when I was a kid I only had behaviors to communicate with and I go back to using them any time I feel the need to. I hate that this happens and I believe people who have behaviors to communicate don’t like to use them either. I think this because we can see how it can hurt the people that we care for and love. I have watched my parents, school team, and community team cry and ask themselves why do we help Mike, it looks like he doesn’t care about us. This hurt me, because I did and do care about them and your kid or students do care and love you!!
What my behavior was like as a kid
When I was in early elementary school (kindergarten to third grade), I used my behaviors to communicate that I didn’t want to do something. One day I think I was in kindergarten. I showed some negative behaviors and my aide took me out of the classroom. I thought “hey this worked, why don’t I show this any time I am bored”. So I did it any time I was bored and it worked. I used to laugh after because to me I was winning, but really I was losing. It wasn’t long until my aide and my special education teachers caught on to what I was doing. They were smart cookies, they started asking me to do some problems before I would go back to join my class to see if I was ready to join. This helped me to think about going back to class and face my friends who saw me acting out.
What my behaviors are like now
When I have behaviors now, I do think about why I acted out and what I can do to try to quit the behavior before it starts. Lately, I have been having some behaviors on Friday afternoon around 4 o’clock and I couldn’t figure out why until today when I was on my bedroom’s floor. I think it is my way to get out my frustration that I had built up throughout the week. We all have frustration, but we can find a different way to get it out like going to the gym which I am going to try. My behaviors now come from worrying about things and frustration. Will I get a job or will I need to live off money from my brother and the state? Will I find love? And where will I live? My thoughts are different, but my behaviors are the same, and that is what my family members, community workers, and friends are seeing. I am so sad about this because they don’t see what I am having trouble with, they only see my behaviors of slipping out of my power chair, kicking things, and hitting people.
I wanted to write this blog so people can understand why some adults who have a communication disability might still have behaviors. My hope is the next time you see someone having behaviors, you might understand them a little bit better.
Now, I know there will be a parent of the five years old kid from Utah, a speech therapist from Idaho, and the special education teacher from Rhode Island reading this, the next few sentences are for you.
Yesterday might have been hard for you. For teachers and therapists, your kid/student might have kicked you, cried and yelled, ran away, or pulled your hair. You might think that I could call in sick today or the parents, you might think, I just need to get my child out of the house and then I will have six or seven hours to myself. This is the worst way to start the day, because what happened yesterday is in the past. You need to look at every day as a new day. I understand that sometimes this is hard to do, but you need to think like this especially with children who have behaviors. Children likely go by day-by-day and may not remember what happened yesterday. I know when I was in grade school, I didn’t remember what happened yesterday, but my aide and teachers remember. My teachers and aide didn’t ask me, “Are we going to have a good day today?”, they just said “good morning Mike, are you ready for a new day.”
We all have behaviors, some positive/good and some negative/bad. As adults, we need to understand that students can show behaviors and this is fine. We always need to talk about what happened and ask them what they think they need to do instead of the behavior before they feel a need to use a behavior. I don’t know if I will ever have no behaviors in my lifetime, but I am getting better than I was five years ago and I believe it will get better. One of my favorite country songs is “It won’t be like this for long” by Darius Ruckuer. The song’s message is “yes you’re going through some hard times right now, but it won’t be like this for long.”
I hope you have hope because I do.
About the Author
Mike Hipple is a young man with a physical disability. He has been using assistive technology and AAC since 1998 to communicate with his family and to move around in the community. He is an active member of the AAC community and his local community. He started Wisconsin AAC Network in 2015 to give everybody a voice in WI AAC AT communities. When he is working on his writings you bet he will have on the TV or when he is relaxing. When he was in the third grade, he had 3000 minutes in time out, and that is not a joke