Building Bridges for Autistic Children"The child is not GIVING you a hard time, - he is HAVING a hard time!" Prof. Stuart Shanker

Reframing Behaviour

  • Do you worry about challenging behaviours like screaming, running away, aggression, self-injuring or socially inappropriate behaviour?
  • Do you wish, someone could show you how you can help your child to behave differently and learn more socially acceptable behaviours?
  • Are you looking for alternative more playful ways instead of the traditional behavioral approaches (like ABA, Applied Behaviour Analysis)?

Challenging behaviours are never just a problem ‘in the child’, but always a social problem between people. Often it’s the adult who has the problem. For the child the behaviour in question usually isn’t a problem, but an attempt at solving his problem. He doesn’t understand, what our problem ist. And THAT is in fact our problem! Verbal explanations don’t tend to help the child to understand our problem better, but make things worse. Especially when the child does not (yet) understand how to understand (which is NOT automatic!), he needs other, non-verbal responses from us and his environment. 


The same behaviour can have different meanings

The same behaviour can have very different reasons and meanings. Screaming can be an expression of despair, of being anxious or angry or frustrated. The child may feel misunderstood (and therefore frustrated) or overwhelmed, and in need of support or recognition. Or he may find it funny, when the adults start screaming themselves every time he screams. A child may hit because he is angry or to defend himself, or as invitation to play, or because the child needs some strong sensory input in order to feel himself better.

When confronted with challenging behaviours, we can become stress detectives trying to discover the underlying reasons and meanings of the behaviour. We can then think creatively how to remove possible obstacles and stress factors in order to better manage the situation. If we want to achieve lasting changes, rather than just scratching the surface, then we need to attend to the child’s inner world of feelings with genuine interest and a reflective attitude with a focus on relationships.

Every Behaviour is a communication

The root of all challenging behaviours are to be found in difficult feelings, that want and need to be understood, because all behaviour is a form of non/verbal communication, - and communication is always emotional. Something new can only develop, when we respond appropriately to the emotional situation and pay attention to its emotional complexity. Then things can change. But the child cannot do this by himself. He needs our sensitive support in order to develop his own capacities for self-regulation and managing his feelings.

Autistischen Kindern Bruecken BauenThe child isn’t deliberately GIVING you a hard time, – he is HAVING a hard time and needs our help!


When you see a child differently, you see a different child

Building Bridges for Autistic Children „Finally we can see light at the end of the tunnel“

"„So many people and therapies have failed with our son. It is really a huge challenge. For many years he had behaviour therapy without any success. We were completely stuck and had almost given up all hope. Now we are so glad to have finally found someone who really listens and works with us in order to see the situation from a relationship-based perspective, which is new to us but opens so many new doors. Finally we can see the light at the end of the tunnel and the possibility that even entrenched behaviours can change. We now see Walter with very different eyes. That in itself has already made huge changes in our family life and how we relate to him. And we have changed ourselves as a result of working with Sibylle. Of course, we wish we could move faster. But we understand that rushing was part of our problem, and that patience, perseverance, flexibility and our own inner work on ourselves is necessary for real lasting behavioral changes. Please don’t abandon us until we are on firmer ground!”"

Walter’s parents (13 Jahre)

When HIS storm meets OUR calm, co-regulation occurs .

Self-Regulation develops through Co-Regulation

The adult needs to become a stress detective and

  1. learn to recognise the signs, that the child is stressed
  2. identify the stressors
  3. reduce the stressors
  4. help the child to recognise and to differentiate, what it feels like to be calm or agitated
  5. help the child to find strategies to return to a calm state, when he feels stressed

Infographics on this page by Kristin Wiens of North Star Paths


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