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When behavior gets on the way

I haven't met a single therapist, teacher or parent that hasn't complained at least once about their students' or children's behavior! That's why in this blog, I will share two strategies I use when children are non-compliant.

1. Visual Schedules

Visual schedules are any type of visual tool made with pictures, words, numbers, or drawings, to help children understand what will happen and when. Visual schedules are great to help children with transitions. Having a sequence of events (or activities) clearly depicted visually, help children to anticipate changes. This reduces their anxiety (which often transforms into negative behavior), making the transition between activities easier.

I made this simple visual schedule using construction paper, pictures I found online, a laminator, and velcro. 

At the beginning of the session, I put together the visual schedule with the child, as I explain the activities that we'll be doing during the session. I often give the child a few options to choose from, that way he/she feels that he/she has some control over the session. Usually, the last picture is a reinforcer that the child chooses (an activity/game/sticker that he/she really likes). As we complete the activities, we take off the pictures from the visual schedule.

You can take pictures of the objects that you commonly use during therapy, and use those for your visual schedules. 

If you don't have the time, or the materials to create a visual schedule like the one previously shown, you can take a piece of paper and make simple drawings. And trust me... you don't have to be a good drawer. I'm a terrible drawer (as you can see), but somehow children get my pictures, and a visual schedule like this one does the trick! After we finish an activity, I let the child cross out the picture.

Visual schedules are not only useful for teachers and therapist, but they are also a great tool for parents to use at home. You can use visual schedules for your morning, after school or evening routine. Here is a PDF file with some examples, and pictures you can use to create your own visual schedule for daily routines. 

Also, click here to read how the use of visual schedules helps support children's language skills.

2. Token Systems

When we provide positive reinforcement to a child, by giving him/her tokens for completing tasks or behaving in desired ways, we are using a token system. (Also known as token economy).

A simple system like the one below does magic. I use it a lot, specially when working on articulation goals. The child knows that when he/she gets all the tokens, he/she can play with a toy he/she likes for a specific amount of time. Again, that special activity or toy is chosen by the child, before we start collecting the tokens. I often use the timer on my phone, to control the amount of time the child gets to play (usually 2-3minutes). Once the child obtains all the tokens, I show the timer to the child, and say something like "Good job! You get to play with x now. We are going to set the timer. Remember! When my phone rings is time to clean up!"

Here is another example of a token system. In this one you get to place a picture of the activity or toy that the child is working for.

Again, token systems are also a great way to reinforce positive behavior at home! You can create simple token systems like these ones:

Just remember to specify:

  • What behaviors/activities the child has to demonstrate/complete in order to get a token (I suggest starting with no more than 3 target behaviors).
  • How many tokens the child needs to get in order to receive the "big prize."
  • What the "big prize" is and the time and place when the child can get it.

     If you liked what you read, join us in our Facebook group: Resources for bilingual children with speech delays, where we will be sharing activities and materials to promote speech and language development.

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    Yael Herszkopf Mayer MS, CCC-SLP is a pediatric, bilingual (English/Spanish) Speech and Language Pathologist and the creator of Learning with Yaya. She received her Masters of Science degree in Speech and Language Pathology- Bilingual Extension from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Clinical Psychology from Universidad de Iberoamérica in Costa Rica. 


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