Do you have trouble checking kids with behavioral challenges, sensory sensitivities or emotional regulation difficulties? Is it difficult to get a proper exam or get them on a table to get adjusted?
If a child is not making eye contact with you and you are having a difficult time with communication….Don’t make eye contact with them and try to force them to “look at you”. They are deflecting from using their central visual field for a specific reason and this is a window into their brain. They are basically telling you how to engage with them and how NOT to engage with them. I know, I know, this feels really out of the normal but just try this next time.
Sit next to them and a bit lower than them if possible (even if it means you are sitting below them on the floor). Look at them mostly with your peripheral vision, not central vision and with a lower tone in your voice play with them or engage with them. Maybe color next to them, maybe read them a book, maybe ask them about their shoes. Do all of this without expectation of some sort of “appropriate” response back. You are using their behavior as a window into their brain and a way to better understand where they are in development and how you can connect with them and help them feel safe. This may feel like a waste of time, it may feel like it’s not doing anything but trust me you have to do this work to engage and connect with these “difficult” children in order to start to build rapport and connection.
This has to be step one. THEN when they are feeling connected and safe you will start to see their gaze possibly change, body movement change and stress decrease. That is your cue to give them a CHOICE of what comes next. You can give them a choice of which room to get checked in, to get checked seated, face up, face down (wouldn’t recommend starting face down…). With kids with more severely deflected behavioral and learning patterns, you may find this takes a few visits or a bit longer at first. Communicate with the parent on what and why you are doing it. Please have these conversations with the parents without the child in earshot or in the room. Trust me, these parents will appreciate your understanding of the brain and behavior and the willingness you have to connect with their child in order to help them.
Follow these steps.
1.Lower sensory demand (think voice, body, vision)
4. Give choice
5.NOW perform check or adjustment
Now, all of this seems like it may take too long but you can do this in a very busy practice and it doesn’t have to take lots of time. You are going to change the life of these kids and be the hero to these parents because you will be connecting in a way that no one else can, especially other providers.
Give it a try and YOU will be the safe place for these families who NEED YOU!