Young Child Who Refuses to Talk/Participate in Therapy

Age Group:
Resouce Types:

Bring Parents in if Possible

Sometimes parents can help ease the transition and break down some of that resistance for reluctant kiddos.  See if having a parent in therapy helps the child open up.  Ask the parents what else they do at home to get the child to talk.

Bring in Friends or Siblings if Possible

Same as above, if the child feels more comfortable, he may be more willing to talk

Spend a Session in Silence

The next time the child comes in, have a few fun toys out that the child can access.  Don’t say anything, just play silently next to the child.  Imitate what the child does and try to get some good non-verbal interaction.   During the session, continue to bring out new, novel, fun toys that the child enjoys so he associates you with fun.  Observe the child closely during these interactions to see if you can find the root cause of the silence.  Is it anxiety?  Is it stubbornness?  If the child will interact with you this way, gradually start modeling language while he’s interacting with you and SLOWLY move toward more direct therapy.

Offer Communication Temptations for Highly Preferred Objects

Figure out what the child is highly motivated by and then set up a situation where the child can’t get it unless you help him.  You could put a preferred toy up high, in a tightly sealed jar, etc.  Or, take out the batteries so a favorite toy won’t activate.  Wind-up toys are good for this as well because most young children can’t wind them up alone.  Then, make sure there is a non-verbal opportunity for the child to ask for help, like an AAC button or pointing to a picture of the word “help”.  Model the use of the AAC or have a friend/sibling/parent model the use of it to get more of whatever the child wants.