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Challenging Case Blog

Viewpoints from the interdisciplinary leaders in optimal developmental and behavioral health for all children.

Monday, November 5, 2018

A Young Man with Trisomy 21 and Sudden Behavioral Changes
Grant is a 13-year-old boy with trisomy 21 who presents with his mother for concerns regarding the emergence of several new disruptive behaviors. While he is verbal, he also communicates through an augmentative communication device. He currently attends a residential school. Over the past 2 months, he has begun spitting at the staff, engaging in self-injurious behaviors, placing his hands in his pants, and frequently talking about “pee and poop.” Notably, Grant has undergone several changes to his educational placement and medical health over the past several months. He recently transferred to his current residential school from another placement to be closer to his family, although this has meant that Grant was unable to work with his long-time aide. Additionally, most of the students at Grant's current school are significantly lower functioning than him, such that Grant is one of the few verbal children.

Approximately 3 months ago, Grant underwent significant dental work under anesthesia. Grant had previously taken an alpha-agonist for behavioral management, although he was weaned off this 4 months ago because of increasing somnolence increasing somnolence. Grant's recent behavioral challenges make performing community and home activities more challenging.

Grant's behavioral history is notable for a previous episode of behavioral and emotional challenges 18 months ago. This occurred in the setting of transitioning to a new classroom with higher academic and behavioral expectations and decreased time spent with his family. These behaviors had consisted of self-injurious behaviors and tantrums consisting of crying and social withdrawal. This was managed by increased behavioral and academic supports via trained teachers and aides, medication management, and optimizing his augmentative communication. After these interventions, Grant's behavioral and emotional functioning improved and remained stable until this current episode.

Grant's mother is concerned about what may be causing these emerging behaviors and wondering if any of the recent educational and medical stressors could be contributing. What do you do next?