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  4. Stereotyped behaviour: resistance by people with profound learning difficulties

Stereotyped behaviour: resistance by people with profound learning difficulties

Melanie Nind

A lot has been written about the stereotyped behaviour of people with learning difficulties, that is, behaviours such as rocking, hand-flapping and twiddling string. The behaviours are often seen as meaningless or harmful. Various ways of stopping the behaviours have been explored.

In this paper I ask whether we can think of some stereotyped behaviours as a kind of resistance.

  • Are people with profound learning difficulties using the behaviours to gain some control and to reject unwelcome demands and situations?
  • Does thinking about the behaviours in this way help us to think about people with profound learning difficulties as resistors rather than as passive and helpless?
  • Lastly, I ask what this would mean for the way we respond to the behaviours and the people who do them.

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Liz Tilley 
Chair of the Social History of Learning Disability (SHLD) Research Group
School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care
Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies
The Open University
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