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Behaviors Often Seen in Children with Communication Problems

When children have a difficult time communicating their needs or how they are feeling, they often communicate with body language. Body language includes non-verbal messages through the child’s body movements, physical behaviors, facial expressions, and voice tone that convey information. A child might throw himself on the floor and cry if he is frustrated or stomp his feet to show disapproval in something. Other behaviors that are often seen in children with communication problems include but are not limited to:

  • Poor attention. A child might have issues with understanding language (receptive communication) or auditory processing difficulties and can come off as ignoring adults or looking for other ways to entertain oneself.

  • Aggression. When a child is unable to communicate how she’s feeling (using words), she might become aggressive when someone takes her toy. Instead of saying, “that’s mine,” she might pinch, spit, push, hit, kick, throw objects at, or bite her communication partner.

  • Impulsivity. If a child has difficulty understanding adults when they tell him to “wait,” he might have a hard time controlling himself. He might grab at things or touch everything in sight.

  • Self-Injury. Some children engage in aggression towards self by hitting or pinching self; or sometimes head banging if his needs are not immediately met.

  • Difficulty following instructions. When a child has poor attention, and might show deficits in receptive communication, he might exhibit behaviors consistent with noncompliance.

  • Difficulty with transitions. Children with communication deficits often have difficulty with transitions, especially if they do not understand that a transition is about to take place or if they have a hard time expressing that they are not done or negotiating for more time.

  • Destructive and disruptive behaviors. When a child becomes aggressive and communicates using nonverbal cues, she might break things, push things off shelves, or overturn boxes and small furniture.

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