An ASHA-approved course on behavior management highlighted some useful tips on how to manage behaviors that inhibit a child’s success in learning. Amy Chambers, a special education teacher, and Marisa McGrorty, M.S. CCC-SLP, discussed ways to trouble-shoot disruptive behaviors, and work towards solutions.

As stated by Ross Green, a behavioral specialist, Amy Chambers mentioned how he believes “all disruptive behaviors are either a result of lacking skills or unsolved problems”. It helps one remember to observe behaviors with empathy, instead of labeling a child as “disruptive”. It is important to be mindful that disruptive behaviors are not conducted on purpose.

Below are some strategies and tools discussed by Amy Chambers. They may be implemented in therapeutic settings, school settings, and home settings. They center around three concepts: Mindfulness, Growth-Mindset Language, and Alternative Seating.

1) Mindfulness:
It is essential to pay attention to what’s happening at the moment. Much of what the child demonstrates is what’s happening at home.
Implement self-rating systems (For example, “0” is the worst day, “10” is the best day) to check in with the child. Amy Chambers calls this a “temperature check”, as it can allow the therapist and/or caregiver to understand how the child is feeling, even if the child does not want to talk about details.

Having an agenda and/or routine gives the child consistency, which reduces pressures and increases motivation

Having a “calm-spot” to represent a safe spot is helpful for children to self-regulate. This “calm-spot” can be a specific area in the therapy room and/or home, that is comfortable (e.g., bean bag, calm lighting) and allows the child to re-group, when needed.

2) Growth Mindset Language:

The book The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander is mentioned. It mentions praising effort rather than ability. It talks about celebrating mistakes, as that is how we learn. When a child makes a mistake, we can use a phrase like “how fascinating! Now we can figure out the right way”. Using positive language is very helpful.

For the older child (e.g., middle school age), it may be helpful to utilize a “professional in training” mentality. It is discussed that instead of teaching “respectful” behaviors, since everyone may have a different definition of what is “respectful”, use the word “professional”. If a child is displaying behaviors that inhibit their success, say “we need to remember to be professional; that is what is expected and what will be expected in your profession”.

“2 by 10 Strategy ” – The “2 by 10” strategy revolves around the idea that for 2 min per day, everyday for 10 days in a row, you and the child spend 2 minutes talking about things unrelated to specific goals. It is an allocated time to connect with the child as a person, and show him/her that you care. Feeling that compassion from an adult is essential.

3) Alternative Seating:
In the same way that adults sometimes prefer completing work on the couches, it is important to remember that children may have a preference too. It is a good idea to offer different seating to improve work comfort and concentration. Alternative seating may include standing desks, yoga ball chairs with solid legs, and floor-seating. By allowing alternative seating, the child is also learning to use different things, responsibly.

Keep in mind that it may take approximately two weeks to note whether these strategies are helpful. Additionally, what works for one child, may not work for another. It is key to create individualized plans, based on every child’s unique wants and needs. It is also essential to remember that the majority of time, disruptive behaviors are not done purposefully. Treating all children with empathy, understanding, compassion, and patience will also allow the therapist/caregiver to puzzle-piece an effective plan.

For any questions or support, please reach out to Exceptional Speech Therapy, as we will also be happy to listen to any questions/concerns.

-Andrea Scola, M.S., CCC-SLP, Exceptional Speech Therapy Blog Writer

Chambers, A. (n.d.). A Crash Course in Behavior Management (M. McGrorty, Interviewer). The SLP Now Podcast.