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Turning a Bad Day Into An Opportunity

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How many parents dread the “he’s had a really tough day” comment from the teacher at pick up time?  And what does that comment really mean?  If a child with special needs has “behaviors”—especially disruptive behaviors—most often the conversation addresses the need to decrease those behaviors as soon as possible.  This is understandable, but what can be missed is a golden opportunity to understand the child better.  Behaviors have meaning, and according to Ricki Robinson, MD, pediatrician and international autism expert, it is up to the adults in the child’s life to decipher the meaning of behaviors.  So the next time your child’s staff reports on a bad day, let them see that this is an opportunity to get to know your child better and create a better day tomorrow.

Responding to “he’s had a bad day”

  • Remain calm and try to partner with the teacher or staff member while becoming “behavior detectives” together.
  • Ask about the circumstances around the behavior (what happened before, during and after) as well as how long it took the child to recover and become calm again.
  • Remind the teacher that your child’s behaviors have meaning and that you appreciate her letting you know about them.
  • Look into how the behaviors may be a reaction to stress by your child, especially if he/she has difficulties with communication, or sensory processing.
  • Circle the wagons of the team members, such as speech and occupational therapists, to weigh in on potential upstream causes of the stress, and how to give your child tools to cope and reduce the numbers of “he’s had a bad day” reports in the first place!
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