Understanding Behavioral Diversity 

Behavior can be a form of communication or an involuntary action.

When a student is behaving in a way that is or seems disruptive or inappropriate, the first step is to THINK ABOUT WHY.

o   What sensory issues do they have?

o   Does the student have a medical reason?

o   What skill do they not possess at this time?

o   What need(s) are not being met?

o   Does the student have a history of trauma or something similar that could be having an impact?

It is important to remember that the terms “BEHAVIOR” and “CONSEQUENCE” are not negative.

·   Behavior is ANYTHING a [person says or does.

·   Consequences are anything that happens directly after a given behavior. EXAMPLE: A child is crying and you give them a hug. The hug is the consequence to the behavior (crying).

Behavior may not even be in a student’s control, and we CAN NOT assume that it is.

It is important that we focus on using neurodiversity-affirming approaches to behaviors, because we must understand that maladaptive behaviors may be communicating an unmet need or the lack of a certain needed skill. We have to teach our students to self-regulate and communicate!

A neurodiversity-affirming approach to behavior changes HOW we think of the behavior itself. Instead of ASSUMING that we know the cause, we take an even deeper dive into the WHY. This is important because while behavior may look like it is the student’s control, it may not be at all.

Here are the key classroom management strategies I like to focus on: 


Apraxia frequently goes unrecognized and can be misconstrued as intentional behavior. Apraxia/Dyspraxia can cause difficulties with speech, walking/balance, organizing one's thoughts, sequencing, identifying one's emotions, handwriting and any other coordination of movement.

Sensory Differences

Students who have disabilities commonly have sensory differences. Students could be under or over stimulated. UNDER stimulated is usually referred to as HYPO stimulated, while OVER stimulated is referred to as HYPER stimulated. 


Stimming is those repetitive behaviors/movements/sounds that you may see in a student that may or may not be able to be controlled. Stimming is a form of self-regulation and you will often see stimming increase when a student is over or under stimulated. Stimming should not be stopped unless the behavior is harmful; if the stimming is harmful then you should try to replace it with something similiar. 

Maladaptive behaviors are actions or responses that are ineffective or counterproductive in helping individuals cope with their environment, manage stress, or achieve their goals. These behaviors often interfere with daily functioning and can contribute to emotional distress or difficulty in relationships. 

These behaviors may provide temporary relief or distraction from distressing emotions, but in the long run, they often exacerbate problems and prevent individuals from effectively addressing underlying issues. Therapy and other interventions can help individuals recognize and change maladaptive behaviors, replacing them with healthier coping strategies.