Saturday, January 5, 2013

Behavior Management 101: Topic 5

Topic 5: Behavior Management: Give the Child Some Decision-Making Power

We all know that anytime we are "invested" in something, we work harder at it.  I use this principle in my private practice.  If I have a family who cannot afford services/copayments, I rarely waive them completely.  I realize that if the family is having to pay $5-10 dollars per visit, they have an investment in the process and will work harder to follow through on practice and recommendations.  If I invest my time, energy, or money in a project, I will take a greater interest in it.  And so on...

Well, the same is true of our clients/students.  If we give them ownership in the process, they will be more engaged in it.  If they are engaged in it, they will work for success; although their definition of success may not match ours.  We want achievement of goals, they may also want this but they will most likely have shorter goals such as earning a reward or play activity.

There are many ways you can increase their investment into the process. Here are a few ideas (pick one to use, not all; that would be too much "power"):
  • Allow them to pick their reward; this is best done before the session begins so they know what they are working toward (the carrot and stick approach).  I don't use a "reward" system often, only as needed.  For my clients, if a game or toy is not used during therapy, I will generally let them play briefly at the end. 
  • Allow them to decide on the rules for earning the reward (within reason and based on already established rules; i.e. do this only after they understand "how things work" in therapy).
  • Allow them to choose their desired activity or game to be used throughout the therapy session.  I usually give them a closed set of choices 2-4. Otherwise you may spend the whole session "shopping" the room.
  • Allow them to judge your performance: They play "speech teacher" and you play a client.  You produce their targets and throw in a few mistakes so they can judge your performance. (This also helps them practice Auditory Discrimination/Processing).  They love correcting you for a change.
  • Allow them to judge their own performance on targets (remember: the behavioral issues can also be important targets). This is especially helpful for older clients and those working on carryover skills.  You can even let them record data, with your supervision.
  • Allow them to decide on what homework they need to do.
Giving them some decision making power can go a long way towards making them be engaged in the therapy process. If they are engaged, they tend to behave appropriately.

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