Blog Archive

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Managing Difficult Behavior with Routines

create routines in speech therapy
This is the second part of a 5 part series for managing difficult behaviors in language impaired children. You can link here to read the introductory post. 

How is your day structured? Do you have a morning routine that involves drinking coffee or hot tea? It is widely known that students thrive on routines. If we consider our busy lifestyles, we can admit that we all feel more successful when we work with a routine. For students with communication impairments time concepts are often very difficult to understand. Knowing what is coming next may decrease anxiety and increases focus and endurance for longer periods of work time.
If you search the internet for visual schedules or visual strategies, many different schedules will pop up. There are also many fantastic free schedules available from speech-language pathologists that you can download and print to use with your students. 

By creating a structured visual learning environment for your students, you are establishing a familiar routine which may decrease difficult behaviors.

Here are 3 Tips to creating visual routines in your speech therapy sessions.

Write down session goals. 

students track their progress in speech therapyOlder students need to take responsibility for their speech and language goals. By age 7 (second grade), students in general education receiving speech therapy services should be able to tell someone what they are working on in speech therapy. Difficult behavior often occurs when students don't value your time together or attach meaning to why they attend speech once a week and miss their class time. Older students should also be able to monitor and track their progress and know how far away they are from meeting their goal.  Use a line graph, bar graph or clip chart with students at different skill levels.

Provide a visual session schedule.
use picture symbols for routinesVisual Schedules are set up from top-to-bottom and left-to-right. I've included images of a top-to-bottom session schedule as well as a left-to-right session schedule. My students are eager to check their schedule at the beginning of each session. My kindergarten students follow a ROUTINE each session. Thy typically rush in the room and grab the schedule. They ask, "What are we going to do today?" A visual session schedule sets a purpose for learning and gives you the opportunity to grab their focus early in the session. As we complete an activity, One student pulls off a picture and then tell his or her peers what is next. Transition is smooth and expectations are clear.  I think about a visual schedule as being similar to my "to do" list. It allows students to feel in charge of their routine and their schedule. Visual session schedules are a proactive strategy to managing difficult behaviors in speech therapy.

Provide a Visual "IF...THEN" Chart.
If...Then Statements and Routines"If...Then" visuals provide structure for students who struggle with wanting to work. It sets up a ROUTINE of "work first then play." Students with language impairments often comprehend only what is happening NOW. An "If...Then" chart is based on behavioral contingencies and cause/effect.  "If...Then" charts are easy to set up, manipulate and modify based on student needs. 

  • How do you use visuals and routines to proactively manage behaviors? 
  • Do your older students know why they attend speech therapy and take an active role in monitoring their progress?
  • Are your transitions between activities smooth?
  • Do you struggle to get your students started and focused.

If you have a visual strategy that works for you, I'd love to hear about it. Send me an email. Don't forget to sign up to receive my blog posts directly to your email in the sidebar.

Lisa, SLP

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