10 Easy SLP Tips: Choices for Difficult Teens

choices, SLPs, difficult students
As children grow older, the choices they need to make expand in
frequency since they are spending more time away from you and with their peers. Their choices also become bigger, having more impact on their lives at the same time that their peers’ attitudes have a larger role in their lives.

The good news is that parents, teachers and trusted adults still have an important role to play in the lives of pre-teens and teenagers. We can be their sounding boards for decision making, pointing out consequences of decisions that they may not have thought about. We can offer advice, but older students do not welcome being told what to do. I believe that it is important to offer advice as options that students can make, delineating both positive and negative possible consequences related to the choices. By discussing these factors and letting our youngsters make the decision, we are empowering them on their paths to become independent adults.

10 Tips for SLPs: Working with Difficult Students

1) Avoid confrontations over behaviors. Stay calm and point out the negative consequences of the behaviors that the student is choosing to exhibit. (These hints apply to behaviors that are not dangerous or injurious.)
2) Repeat the request or direction and give the student time and space to make a different choice.
3) If the student chooses to continue the inappropriate behavior, make sure to follow up with the negative consequence that was stated.
4) If the student chooses to make a more appropriate choice, continue from wherever you were, unobtrusively helping them to catch up. I also like to find a quiet way to thank the student for making a better choice.
5) Consider whether the student’s inappropriate behaviors were due to internal factors or if it could be a reflection of the difficulty level of the work that was being done at the time. Often students will act out rather than admit that something is difficult or that they need help.
6) Have choices in the work available for students.  When students are having a difficult day, they may respond better to working on their goals via a game or a video clip rather than a worksheet.
7) Communicate that you are aware that something is wrong when your difficult student walks in the door looking upset. Ask the student if they would like to talk about it or get the work done.
8) Be willing to barter on difficult days. Getting a smaller amount of responses than you hoped for is better use of a session than having the student lose it and not accomplish anything at all.
9) Try to put a fun spin on some review work. Often students are willing to use a skill in a role play situation, be the SLP anfd give you the directions, or engage in an online activity on days when they would refuse to complete more typical or harder work.
10) Spend time getting yourself ready for difficult days with ideas related to each of the goal areas on your IEPs. I have a few, fun back up games for general language skills, YouTube clips that can be used for a variety of language skills, and websites for making your own stories or comic strips ready to go at any time. Putting the links to these websites on one document can be helpful for finding them quickly on days when attention spans and tempers are short.

SLPs, games, choices, problems, difficult students
In the picture are some fun games I like to have around for those difficult days.

What are your go-to games or tips for
getting through difficult sessions?
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