Written By: Lori Podany, OTD, OTR/L
To all our amazing parents and caregivers that have jumped into teletherapy with us – we are so grateful for you! We could not do this without you, and we know that you have likely found yourself in many new roles between working from home, assisting with therapy, and homeschooling, just to name a few. We want to support your family in any way we can, and we recognize that some kids might be struggling with the adjustment to these busy and long days at home. We have put together some strategies that might help therapy sessions run more smoothly, but these are also ideas that can work in many other situations. We could all use a little extra motivation, reinforcement and incentive these days, right?
- Playful parents are great motivators! When your child is completing a difficult task, you can close your eyes and say, “surprise me.” Kids love to do something well and make their parents excited and proud. This calls for an exaggerated surprised reaction and celebration! There are many ways you can make a playful reward for completing a task…you can spin your child in the air, tickle, cheer, or any other fun activity or interaction that your kiddo loves. These are just a couple of examples of how parents can be great, playful motivators!
- Motivation Star Charts- Gain initial compliance with simple, low demand directions (i.e. touch your nose, jump 10 times). This way your child feels success. By doing this, motivation also increases regarding the star chart! When they earn 3-5 stars, they can have access to a motivating item or activity.
- A child’s favorite big motivators are awesome reinforcers for working hard in a therapy session! (i.e. tablets, TV time, favorite toys, favorite activities with parents). In general, providing these activities prior to therapy can make the transition to our sessions difficult and unmotivating because the children are leaving their favorite activity. Think of these big motivators or reinforcements as a paycheck for your child. Big reinforcers (i.e. tablets, TV. favorite toys) will remain valuable reinforcement if your child only receives these items after completing all adult-directed activities (therapy, schoolwork, chores, etc.)
- Toys and activities are most valuable when access is limited and these favorites can be used as rewards for following directions, participating, and/or behaving appropriately. If there is an item or activity your child loves, save it to be used when it means the most to both of you. Your child will feel successful and you can maintain your strongest reinforcers and motivators for when you need them most!
Additional Behavioral Strategies
- Try using directive phrases: Say, “Put the sock on.” Avoid saying “Can you put the sock on?” or “Will you put the sock on?” By doing this it is clear to your child that the activity is a direction, not a choice.
- It is important for children to follow and complete adult directed instructions. When given a therapist directed task, it is best for parents to follow through with an unfinished direction even after the teletherapy session has ended. When parents follow-through with completion of the task children learn that refusing or any other unwanted behaviors don’t get them out of doing the work just because our therapy time is up.
- It is beneficial for children to be given wait time when avoiding the completion of an adult directed instruction. Give them extra time to make a choice, complete a task, or follow a command. Sometimes this extra time is all a child needs to be successful.
- Children thrive with FIRST,THEN schedules. (i.e. Try saying “First we will have OT, then we will play trains.”)
These are just a few general ideas that we hope might be helpful to some. We know that every child and family is unique. Do what works best for you. You are doing a great job! We have been so impressed with the creative reinforcement and behavioral strategies we have seen while getting to work with you and your child through teletherapy. If you have any questions about behaviors and behavioral strategies, telehealth offers a great opportunity to work through behaviors and offer specific strategies in your home. We’ll look forward to virtually seeing you soon!