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Raising children comes with a unique set of challenges. As parents, keeping your children safe, healthy and happy is paramount with their continual growth and development. Achieving this goal can be a learning curve for both parents and children, especially when it comes to dealing with emotional and behavioural difficulties.

Many young children have tantrums and exhibit a range of behaviours, both good and bad, as they navigate the world and learn what’s right and wrong. Inability to manage emotions, being disruptive and aggressive behaviour are all common in children under three. We all know that toddler who’s a biter!

It is when these tantrums persist into adolescence and more aggressive, anti-social behaviours prevail that it may be time to intervene.

Signs of a Problem

Emotional and behavioural difficulties come in many forms. However, they are often broken down into conditions such as ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Anxiety Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Response Ability, an initiative of the Australian Government Department of Health, advises that signs of emotional or behavioural difficulties include:

  • Significant changes in behaviour
  • Different behaviour to peers (similar age and stage)
  • Severe separation/attachment problems
  • Persistent withdrawn, scared, upset or anxious behaviour
  • Temper, aggression and inability to manage frustration/anger
  • Short attention span, unable to focus on tasks or follow instructions
  • Frequent defiance

What to do

It’s easy to become concerned when it comes to your child’s wellbeing. Determining whether your child’s behaviour is considered ‘normal’ for their age or stage of development is a good first step.

After considering this, if you are still concerned you should:

  • Observe your child at different times of the day, doing different tasks
  • Write down examples of the behaviour and when it occurs
  • Consult your GP – your GP is your first port of call and will perform an initial assessment to determine whether further assessment and treatment is needed


Although there is no sure-fire cure for emotional and behavioural difficulties, therapy for these issues is a treatment that delivers great results.

Local Townsville organisation, breakthru, offers a range of services to support individuals and families in the Far North. In addition to their disability and training services, breakthru offers a Family Mental Health Support Service (FMHSS). This service seeks to support children, young people, families and carers impacted by mental illness through intervention, family support, education and building community awareness.

Their Early Intervention Service (EIS) offers short-term intervention over a period of six weeks to support children from birth to 12 years of age who are at risk of developing a mental health issue. Their strength-based strategies encourage whole family involvement and their experienced Family Support Workers help to develop a Family Action Plan. This includes parenting support, strategy for managing challenging behaviours, family mediation, psycho-social activities and peer support and mentoring.

Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties vs Autism

The signs and symptoms of autism can be very similar to those of emotional and behavioural difficulties, so they’re sometimes confused as being the same thing. Children with one condition can also have the other, which makes it difficult to diagnose. However, there are some distinct differences between the two disorders. Autism has associated communication, social and learning problems, and is characterised by sensory issues, something not typical of emotional and behavioural disorders.

Just like emotional and behavioural difficulties, autism is diagnosed in much the same way. After parental or teacher monitoring, your GP will advise of the best course of action – and intervention is important, proven to make a huge difference in children’s development.

The AEIOU Foundation provide support in Townsville for children with autism and their families. For children aged from two-and-a-half to six years, their program includes high quality and consistent therapy for autistic children with monitored progress and tailored support.