Suggestions for Decreasing Challenging Behavior and Maximizing Learning in Young Children and Children with Special Needs
- Use simple language to communicate your message. Refrain from using pronouns such as “over there” or “that” until the child’s language reaches a 2 1/2 to 3 year developmental level.
- Communicate expectations so that the child knows what is required of them. This sets them up for success rather than failure.
- Capitalize on the child learning style or interest and develop activities accordingly. Children may act out in response to being under challenged.
- Consider minimizing the amount of stimuli present to avoid distraction
- If the tasks is large and the child make statements such as, “I can’t do it” or expresses frustration, break the tasks down into smaller portion sizes. For example, cleaning up all the toys taken out from the toy box may be overwhelming for a child, so you may want to break the task down by having them pick up three items at a time until they are finished.
- Reward the child for completion of tasks, preferred behavior or accomplishments. Verbal and gestural praise are strongly recommended on a continuous basis as children work towards accomplishing goals and skills.
- Speak to the child at their level. This means that the adult should kneel down when speaking to the child so that the child has the opportunity to make eye contact and view the adult’s facial expressions. Providing a child with the opportunity to see the face during communication assist the child with developing the ability to interpret non-verbal language, thus expounding on language development. It also shows the child respect.
- Give the child choices, but only allow for them to make a choice that will be acceptable for what the environment allows. For example, it is appropriate to give a 3 year old child in a school program during a group activity the option to make the choice to choose a puzzle among the puzzle options provided, but not appropriate for them to be given the choice to completely opt out because part of the learning task is to participate in group activities to develop social communication skills.
- Be careful to allow the child to make decisions that they are not developmentally ready to make. Remember children depend on help to navigate the world appropriately.