Anyone who is a parent, guardian, or a caregiver for someone knows that it is practically impossible to set up a home that mirrors school. If you are someone like me who is working a full-time job outside of the home, follow-through within the home on teaching academics, keeping up with homework, playing and engaging with your child, and implementing behavioral strategies to help the structure of the entire household can be overwhelming. If you are a teacher or a service provider, one of the barriers I find is the lack of follow-through on skills and strategies within the home. Families are busy and a home is a home, not a classroom. In this blog, I will share some strategies that helped me structure our home to have a consistent learning environment and strategies we use to help my child as he grows and learns the world.
Using a token board for delayed reinforcement may help shape negative behaviors that we see in the home. Many, if not all, children engage in tantrum behaviors such as whining, crying, screaming, throwing toys, dropping, kicking, etc. Even if they are keeping it together at school and are a typical student in the classroom, I don’t know any child who hasn’t displayed negative behaviors while they were growing up. All behavior is communication, and once we know why our children are engaging in these negative behaviors, we can reinforce the positive behaviors by giving them a token. In order to make it useful and functional within the home, this can be used while the child is asked to play alone while parents tend to the baby. It can be used when families are working on sharing and taking turns. The token board can be used daily when asked to do their chores. Just like in the classroom, this should be individualized to the child and realistic to the family.
Using visuals within the home will help increase independence within a child. This strategy will also support predictability. Often times, I have families come to be about concerns that the school or therapy environment is structured and has the ability to keep a learner calm in knowing what is coming next an including any needed sensory or functional supports. My response is that the home can be that way too!
- Tolerance to waiting is a skill that I believe all children need to work on. Whether families are trained on implementing Greg Hanley’s functional communication program or just increasing the amount of time a child needs to wait for something after a request, this is something all children and families benefit from.
- Independent work: We have used a mini-independent workstation in my home. I have also created materials for many of the learners that I work with. Using an independent workstation in the home has helped increase the structure for times when a family needs to unload the dishwasher, do laundry, cook dinner, or even take a shower. The materials within the workstation have clear beginnings and ends and should be appropriate for the child. The time it takes to complete the tasks should also be appropriate. I have seen more compliance when a child is set up to work on independent work skills in the home than when they are asked to “play alone” for a few minutes.