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“Bad” Behavior in Kids Could Signal Need for Occupational & Speech Therapy

Staff Report, FOCUS Therapy

At some point, most parents have been on the receiving end of judgmental looks due to a child’s behavior. Tantrums in the cereal aisle are practically an official rite of passage for all toddlers. But “bad” behavior could be a sign of a deeper issue. Occupational therapists and speech therapists in Fort Myers know that sometimes, “bad” behavior goes hand-in-hand with a clinical condition with symptoms that can be mitigated with prompt and proper treatment.

For instance, a child grappling with a speech delay may find the most effective form of communication is behavior some find socially unacceptable. These behaviors can include tantrums and aggression, but also non-compliance, running away or resistance. Understandably, parents may feel unprepared or unequipped, and respond ineffectually with tactics like yelling, repeated admonition or just giving in. Both parent and child remain trapped in a frustrating cycle.

According to one study published by researchers with Western Michigan University, a significant portion of children with language disorders also have co-occurring emotional or behavior disorders. Despite this, most children diagnosed with an emotional or behavior disorder have not been evaluated for speech-language problems. When a child has receptive and expressive delays or disorders, it can directly impact their social functioning – and in turn, their behavior.

When these problems aren’t treated, they become patterns. When they become patterns, they can become ingrained. The longer you wait, the harder it may be to address the underlying issues.  That’s why our speech  therapists and occupational therapists always advocate for early intervention – even if you aren’t sure your child may have a behavior problem or disorder.

Speech therapy focuses on building and strengthening appropriate communication and language, while occupational therapy helps children master the skills they need for everyday living. For children with behavior disorders, speech and occupational therapy can be the first step in helping to modify problem behaviors.

Some children who come to FOCUS Therapy in Fort Myers may have just a single target goal. However, many times, the approach is multi-faceted. That’s why we assess each child from the “whole child” perspective. Our evaluations will take into account behavioral disorders or conditions. Our sessions help reinforce the ongoing work of applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapists, as well as address some of the underlying issues and frustrations that may be manifesting in “bad” behavior.

This is not to say anyone should be stressed about the occasional (or even semi-regular) tantrum. Studies show approximately 75 percent of 2-year-olds regularly throw tantrums or show agression. But when these behaviors involve severe defiance or great disruption, it could be time to discuss these issues with a pediatrician, neurologist or behavioral specialist. They may in turn recommend speech and/ or occupational therapy, but you can always make the first move. If you suspect your child may struggle with language and communication or has difficulty carrying out the tasks of everyday living, our speech and occupational therapists offer free consultations.

FOCUS offers pediatric speech therapy and occupational therapy in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.

Additional Resources:

Conduct and Behavior Problems: Intervention and Resources for School Aged Youth, 2015,  Center for Mental Health in Schools at UCLA

More Blog Entries:

Study: Speech Delay May be Caused, Worsened By Excess Screen Time, June 19, 2017, Fort Myers Speech Therapy Blog

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