Turning the “Terrible Twos” into the “Terrific Twos”

May 14, 2013

Many parents of two year-olds comment about the difficulty of having a two year-old.  The phrase the “Terrible Twos” is frequently used to qualify the feelings of parents about their frustration with their children’s temper tantrums and mood swings.  Whether or not a child has special needs, this period of time can be challenging.  I suggest that as we understand this unique period of growth in our children and have strategies to navigate challenging situations, we can turn this time period into the “Terrific Twos.”

Understanding: From the Perspective of a Two Year-Old

Being two years-old is hard. Children who are two are caught between having new self-help skills, leading to increased independence, and the reality that most tasks still cannot be done completely on their own.  They may have acquired a few new words and with language comes power.  Children quickly discover that the word “No!” is especially powerful.  But with this new-found power of communication, there is also realization that it is limited.  Two year-olds have limited verbal ability which leads to frustration. For children with delayed language, feelings of frustration can be even more intense.  Overall, children who are two have some ability, the taste of power, but, in the end, are relatively powerless in their situations.  That’s a very frustrating scenario.

Understanding: From the Perspective of a Professional

There is phenomenal growth and development occurring between 24 and 36 months across all areas of development.  In neuro-typical children, this is the time period of an explosion of vocabulary and language.  For children who are delayed in language, there is often significant change in language ability during this year.  With all of this growth and development, mood swing and temper tantrums are typical during this time period.

Strategies for Parents

  • Stay engaged with your child by talking with and playing with your child.  This is true in your home as well as when going out in public (to the grocery store, the doctor’s office, a restaurant).  Additionally, bring along a bag of engaging activities when going out in public.  Using a combination of engaging activities and staying engaged with your child’s interaction can go a long way to prevent a break down for your child.
  • When a child is having a temper tantrum, either offer comfort or ignore the behavior.  If you choose to ignore the behavior, ignore for a while, then offer comfort.
  • Distraction is a beautiful tool to use when a two year-old is upset.  Do something unexpected, be silly, or use humor.  Tickling sometimes works, if it is a generally desirable and engaging activity for your child.
  • When engaging in distraction, distract with interaction (tickling, being silly, etc.) rather than with another object (food or a toy). Giving a desirable food or a desirable toy can be seen as a reward and you can inadvertently reward an undesirable behavior.
  • Don’t be afraid of saying “No” to your child but reserve the firm use of “No!” for serious (i.e. dangerous) situations.  In other situations, redirect your child’s behavior to another activity instead.

By staying engaged, being prepared, and knowing ahead of time how to pull out of melt downs can turn this exciting period of development into a terrific time for you and your child!

Jennifer M. Adams, MA, CCC-SLP


Communication: Just a Few Changes Make All the Difference……

January 25, 2012

By practicing the following changes in our style of communication, many children diagnosed with Autism and receptive/ expressive language delays may increase their language and social skills, peer interactions, expand play skills, and follow directions with greater confidence.

Eye level Contact: To increase social interaction and gain eye contact with your child, remember to kneel down to his/ her eye level. Face to face eye contact allows the child to see your whole face, imitate facial expressions, and respond to your verbal directions. This position also gives you an opportunity to put your arm around your child’s waist to face him toward you, touch his/her shoulders to gain attention, or model hand gestures with hand-over-hand assistance.

Tone of Voice: Your child might be sensitive to the pitch and tone of your voice. If your child covers his ears, winces, or looks away when you speak to him, practice lowering your tone of voice to a moderate level. When you are at your child’s eye level, speak slowly and clearly.  Use visual aids to enhance communication. For example; tap on the chair and say “Sit in the chair”, or show an item or a picture of where you want your child to go.

Exaggerated facial expressions/ hand gestures: If your child does not imitate your facial expressions and hand gestures, practice exaggerating your face and hand movements as a model. For example, when your child sees you from across the room, make a large happy face and big eyes. Wave your hands in a large swooping motion, as opposed to wiggling your fingers in tight/ small motions. A person standing next to your child can help him/ her respond by assisting to wave back in the same fashion.  Exaggerated facial expressions and hand gestures allows your child to feel the sensation of movement and encourage muscle memory, which promotes communication.

Body Proximity: Avoid speaking to your child when his back is to you. Often, children have difficulty filtering out the sounds in a room, and distinguishing a parent’s voice at the same time. Try moving close to your child and mirroring his position before speaking to him. For example if your child is on the floor playing with cars, join him on the floor. Gain his eye contact by bringing a toy to the side of your face, then speak to him/ her.

First____, Then_____…. When asking your child to follow directions, remember to keep your child’s motivation in mind. He/ she may not prefer to put on his shoes, for example. But if he/ she wants to go to the park, incorporate that as a reward in a two step direction. For example “First, put your shoes on. Then, we will go to the park.” A simpler version could be “First, shoes…Then, park.”

With a few adjustments, and a lot of practice, children diagnosed with Autism and receptive/ expressive language delays will learn new ways to respond to their environment, and expand their communication skills. Adults can offer the support a child needs by changing our communicative habits to meet the needs of children.

 

-April Kumlin, Speech and Language Pathologist Assistant