Book Review: Achieving Best Behavior for Children with Developmental Disabilities


One of the most difficult aspects of caring or working with children is that some of them behave in ways which caregivers, parents, as well as other children and adults find challenging.

Some children, for example, seem to be always screaming. Others will pinch, kick, hit and throw things at anyone who is anywhere near them. Another set of children will rub things on their faces, put anything and everything in their mouths, pull, play with or smell other people’s hair. Some parents dare not leave their children unattended for even a single minute because the children are attracted to fires or to things that are moving.

While a lot of children exhibit some of these behaviours at one time in their lives, they tend to outgrow them. However, for children with autism or other forms of developmental disabilities or special needs, these and other equally disturbing behaviours tend to last longer.

Achieving Best Behavior for Children with Developmental Disabilities (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London and Philadelphia, 2006) aims to help parents and caregivers understand challenging behaviour and develop strategies for dealing with it.

Written by psychologist Pamela Lewis, the workbook is informative and practical.

It is easy to read and carries a lot of activities, exercises and checklists designed to help parents understand their children’s behaviour and how to manage or change it.

The interactive nature of the book allows the reader to move towards this goal in small but concrete steps.

Pamela Lewis writes: “The book is based on the premise that achieving skill is a developmental process. It is important to understand the individual’s levels of development, to start at that point and move ahead slowly, with frequent success and encouragement all along the way. This is true whether we are talking about developing your child’s skills or your own.”

The workbook is designed in a manner that allows the reader to acquire the skills needed and to build on them.

It covers how readers can understand their child’s developmental levels and how to define behaviour. It also discusses the many functions of behaviour as well as how to develop a plan for dealing with a specific behaviour and it shows how this process can be repeated with additional behaviours.

Each of the six parts that make up the book discusses an aspect of the steps that need to be taken when dealing with challenging behaviour. This discussion is then followed up with exercises designed to help the reader relate what they are reading to the child they are working with.

Pamela Lewis does not pretend that the helping children improve the way they behave is easy. She makes it clear from the onset that parenting is a demanding enterprise and that parenting children with developmental disabilities can be even more demanding.

She explains that the principles that inform Achieving Best Behavior for Children with Developmental Disabilities are drawn from the best general advice available and that they can be used with most, if not all, children and adults with developmental disabilities.

Teachers, school psychologists, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, social workers and residential staff in group homes for adults with developmental disabilities will all find Achieving Best Behaviour for Children with Developmental Disabilities useful for the information and the practical guidance that it offers.

Professionals can also use the book when working together with parents or caregivers in drawing up plans for dealing with challenging behaviour in a child or adult with developmental disability.

The workbook also comes with two very valuable appendices: one which gives readers more ideas on things that can be used reinforce positive behaviour and another which lists resources parents and caregivers can draw on in the form of organisations, websites, basic books about autism, intellectual disabilities, social skills and behaviour.

Reviewed by Ambrose Musiyiwa

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