How to handle challenging behaviour from kids during teletherapy?

by
Bhairavi KS
June 5, 2021

Over the past year, the adoption of teletherapy has presented a wide range of challenges for therapists. One among them is to handle challenging behaviour from kids during teletherapy. When a session doesn’t go as planned, it is important to understand the reasons behind the child’s difficult behaviour. It could be possible that the child is tired or hungry and is acting out her emotions. Or perhaps she is learning how she could leverage her behaviour to drive favourable outcomes. Some children act fussy when they are bored or frustrated with the activity and try to gain control of the situation. Whatever the reason, such behaviours tend to negatively impact the productivity of the online therapy session. It is therefore imperative to have a plan B in place,so you’re always equipped to handle the surprises that come your way.

Tip #1

Ask the caregiver to be around

It’s always better to have a family member accompany the child during the initial sessions, as it could help her get comfortable. The caregiver could help the child focus on her activities, use the computer and provide feedback about the child’s progress with the tasks. You could use these insights to customize your teletherapy for kids.

Tip #2

Check with the caregiver

During your initial evaluation, ask the child’s caregiver these questions:

·        How comfortable is the child with meeting new people?

·        How does the child express her frustration?

·        What is the child’s attention span?

Knowing beforehand the answers to the questions listed above can prepare you to be ready with an effective response that can lead to a healthier and more productive session.

Tip #3

Position the child

Identify how the child would like to be located on your screen. Though some children may be comfortable sitting through the online therapy session,others might have difficulty being seated due to health issues or lack of attention. It is important to be flexible with them and let the family member know that you and the child need to be able to see and hear each other.

Tip #4

Build rapport with the child

The success of your teletherapy is greatly determined by the kind of rapport you share with the child. If a child tends to disrupt therapy sessions,it is all the more important to invest your time and effort into building rapport. With time, the child will start responding to you and the frequency of her challenging behaviour might reduce too.

Tip #5

Divert the child’s attention

When the child has an outburst, remember that it is nothing personal. Getting carried away by the disruptive behaviour of the child can damage your relationship with her. You must be sensitive to the child’s emotions, and yet not contribute to it. Acknowledge the child’s feelings, reassure her that you understand her frustration,and then distract her with other things.

Tip #6

Reinforce and show appreciation

Positive reinforcement could be a better strategy to handle the child’s difficult behaviour than distracting her. According to research, positive reinforcementis far more effective than punishments for negative behaviour. Praising little accomplishments such as being attentive to instructions and composing one’s self after a tantrum are critical to steering the therapy in the right direction.

Tip #7

Choose the right challenge

It is natural for kids to give up on tasks that seem too difficult. They could also get bored easily with activities that are too easy for them. Either scenario might result in a frenzy! To keep them engaged, find the right teletherapy activities for kids that are achievable and yet, challenging.  

Remember, difficult behaviours don’t disappear by themselves. As a therapist, you need to be proactive with every child and make an effort to understand their tendencies and trigger points in advance. Being prepared with plans of action and teletherapy games for kids to deftly handle their tantrums can enhance your effectiveness as a therapist and also greatly improves treatment outcomes.

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