Happy Halloween everyone! I pray your Halloween is fun and safe for everyone. My topic this week is regarding difficult behaviors in students and telepractice. How do we handle students when they become a ‘little monster’? Honestly, this was my biggest concern when I started teletherapy 7 years ago. I knew how to handle students and their behaviors in a face to face setting, but I just wasn’t sure how that would translate into an online setting where I was not physically present to deal with students’ behaviors.
As it turned out, my fears were unwarranted. My philosophy with students has always been to get to know them first and tailor their therapy around the things they like and are interested in. This allowed me to get them engaged and participating effectively in their therapy sessions. Does this mean I never had behaviors in my session? No, I just kept some behaviors from developing because most of the students wanted to be there and many times they were more upset when they couldn’t come to a session.
OK, so what do we do when we do see and experience behaviors in our students. First thing I do, especially if this is unusual for the student, is see if I can figure out what is causing the behavior. Talk to the child and see if they can put into words why they are upset. The session isn’t going anywhere with them behaving badly, so I work with them to see if we can sort through why they are having a bad day. Secondly, I reach out to the support person in a brick and mortar setting and the parent in a virtual setting. Getting insight into the issue from their perspective is essential to resolving behaviors.
There will always be students that are more difficult to work with than others. Getting a plan in place designed with a specific student in mind is essential. Then you must be consistent and stick with the plan you have implemented. Make sure your rules and expectations are clear. Give lots of reassuring and positive feedback. Students may not act like they appreciate your words, but they are hearing you. Any positive reinforcement you can provide, whether encouraging words, giving them time to play a favorite game at the end of the session, or earning a reward within the designs of the school are helpful as well.
Does that mean that ALL students are appropriate for teletherapy? No, they are not. However, in the 7 years, I have been providing speech-language therapy online, I have only had 2 students that I absolutely knew I could not provide effective services because of their behavior. One student was a severely autistic student who hated the computer and needed parallel play. The other student was so violent, he required institutional help shortly after I made the referral to face to face services. The final essential piece is buy-in from the schools/families. If a parent doesn’t want their child in teletherapy, that attitude can poison any chance of a positive online session.
I have attached several resources for you to consider. I added a board from Pinterest (Managing Behaviors in Teletherapy) that has many links you can use to get resources from Teachers Pay Teachers for your sessions. There are also some nicely laid out recommendations in the other attachments. Good luck with all your students!