Managing Behavior... and attention issues?

March 14, 2012
Kira Wright, CCC-SLP

This is part of a continuing series of posts on therapy ideas to support assistants (SLPAs) and paraprofessionals in the schools in their work with students and their supervising SLPs.

Chances are good that you have students on your caseload who struggle with attention issues or have been diagnosed with AD/HD. Speech and language disorders occur in up to 17-38% of individuals with AD/HD.

Many of the same behavioral issues that come up in the classroom for these students, also make behavior management in the speech room difficult and can limit progress made on language goals.

Try some of these behavior modification techniques:

  • Positive reinforcement - be quick to reward what he's doing right, instead of punishing what he's doing wrong
  • Contracts - a written (and signed) document outlining in positive terms what you want the student to do and the rewards (and consequences) associated. 
  • Token program - the student receives a token (star, sticker, penny) immediately after demonstrating the desired behavior. Tokens are collected and later exchanged for a prize or privilege.   
  • Response cost - taking away previously earned 'tokens' or reinforcers - but make sure there are more opportunities for success than for failure!
  • Redirection - distract her from the inappropriate behavior and encourage her to focus on something that will help her behave correctly. Instead of punishing, give an opportunity for success!

Also, think about your therapy space - 

  • Can you de-junk and un-clutter the space so it is more free from distraction? 
  • What kinds of structure, routine, and repetition can you provide? 

Find more information in this ASHA Technical Report, at the Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder National Association, and at the National Resource Center for Attention Deficit.

SLPAs and paraprofessionals should always operate within the scope defined by state and national licensing organizations and should only conduct allowable tasks under the supervision of a speech-language pathologist.