How to Handle Behavior Issues
Children with speech and language delays can mirror the same kinds of behavior issues that children without disabilities may struggle with; maintain focus, motivation, and acting appropriately in the classroom. Though children without speech and language issues can usually work out their emotions through communication, their speech challenged classmates may not be able to do the same. This may create frustrating therapy sessions or a lack of cooperation between you and your clients.
Keeping in mind that children with speech and language issues who lash out likely do so because they are unable to communicate effectively with you and/or their classmates.
Common Behavior Problems
There is a distinct link between children with behavior problems and the ability to communicate. These behavior problems can become a roadblock to a successful therapy session and get in the way of the work that needs to be done. Before you can help your student through behavior problems, it’s important to know some of the common struggles children with speech delays can experience:
- Anger, sadness, or frustration over communication struggles.
- Difficulty with transitions from one activity to another.
- Overstimulation or sensory overload.
- Physical and/or verbal outbursts or attention-seeking behavior due to poor communication and negotiating skills.
- Lack of motivation.
Any of the above functions can be a barrier to success for students. Before these issues take over therapy time, it’s important to find out if there are triggers that can lead to behavior struggles such as:
- Are there any issues with staying on task, do they distract easily?
- How well do they respond to a challenge, do they get frustrated easily?
- Do they shy away from new people?
Knowing the answers to these questions will allow you to prepare for potential behavior disruptions.
Alleviating the Behavior
Challenging behavior is inevitable. Sometimes the motive for the behavior is obvious but even when it’s not, having a plan in place and being consistent with the plan will not only help you keep control of the situation but also provide the child with the groundwork for what’s acceptable, what’s not, and the consequences of their poor behavior.
Positive reinforcement and praise go hand in hand when it comes to dealing with challenging behavior. These can be very effective tools when administered properly. Yes, it may seem unnatural to give positive reinforcement when faced with difficult behavior, but children often respond better to encouragement and praise over punishment. Shining a light on the child’s victories can reap better motivation and renewed focus.
Consistency in Challenging Behavior
It’s confusing for any child to have inconsistent rules or expectations. This is an important step in establishing trust and understanding with your student. Bending the rules can be tempting, like completing fewer tasks than normal, but it’s important to stay the course to prevent clients from refusing to cooperate or negotiate the terms of the session.
Preparing for transitions, practicing the wanted or expected behavior with the child, and providing other means of communication aren’t necessarily lessons in proper therapy behavior; they are also teaching opportunities for developing social language skills.
One thing for therapists keep in mind as you overcome times of behavior problems in therapy is not to take the behavior personally or seriously. Your reaction is just as important as the reason behind the behavior and can set the tone for the therapeutic connection with the child you’re working to establish.