I learn a lot from the Moms and Dads that I work with. Yesterday, I was talking with a Mom whose child I have been working with for about three months. When I first began working with her two year-old, his behavior was difficult during our sessions. When asked to comply by sitting in his seat, or attempting a verbalization, he often turned his head away and screamed when he didn’t want to do it. Together, Mom and I followed a plan of ignoring this behavior and helping him be successful at communicating whether through signs or sounds. Gradually, the screaming has subsided and we have a significantly happier fellow playing with us.
I have shared with Moms that when I was working at the public school special education preschool, when I started with children with speech and language delays, they often displayed behaviors reflecting their frustration in not being able to communicate–tantrums, screaming, noncompliance etc. But, as they gradually realized that they could be understood, as I would vocalize what they wanted or needed, they seemed to breathe a sigh of relief and many of the negative behaviors subsided.
This current Mom made an astute point. She said when your child is delayed in language you do anything to try to understand what they want—many times speaking for them, offering many options to get them to stop screaming or an unwanted behavior. But when they start to communicate, “parents have to switch, and stop giving in to that.” Now they need to model a sound, phrase or sign that their child can imitate and wait for a response. Often this involves ignoring the former inappropriate behavior which takes some time to extinguish. In this case, Mom and I are a united front in turning our heads and stopping play as we ignore and give consequences for negative behavior. This Mom is great at sharing our therapy successes with her husband and cluing him him in on how to respond to his son to best encourage his language and maintain consistency while interacting with him.