Treatment Strategies for Developmentally Disabled Children

 

 

Strategy

Purpose

Examples

Goals

Provide structure, create routines.

Children with developmental delays will often have difficulty and discomfort with change.

 

Have a consistent meeting day/ time
 
 

Create a routine for sessions with opening and closing rituals

 

Help family and caregivers create schedules/ routines in the home and school, e.g. set times for meals, homework, bed

 

Creates consistency and expectation

 

Enhances predictability and comfort.
 

 

Increases capacity for autonomy

 

Increase opportunity for repetition

Shorten sessions.

Children with developmental delays will often have shorter attention spans and can be easily agitated

Adjust session time according to attention span

 

 

Adjust dosage and pacing of gradual exposure

 

Increases sense of competence and success

 

Increases capacity for self control and affect regulation

 

Slow down.

Children with developmental delays have difficulty breaking down tasks and interpreting complex and compound messages.

Slow down speech

 

 

Give simple messages

 

 

Present one topic at a time

 

Be specific

 

Increases comprehension and competence

Use art/ visuals.

Children with developmental disabilities are often visual thinkers and "think in pictures"

Provide images to illustrate directions and tasks.

 

Utilize visual aids when teaching skills

 

 

Encourage children to draw, paint, sculpt their thoughts and feelings

 

Increases comprehension

 

 

Increases ability to communicate

 

Use play.

Children with developmental disabilities are visual thinkers and require movement and activation to remain focused.

Use puppets, figurines, sand play, and dollhouses to create stories and metaphor

 

Increases comprehension

 

 

 

 

Increases ability to communicate

Provide repetition.

Children with developmental disabilities have cognitive limitations including, poor comprehension and retention and decreased capacity for generalization.

Repeat skills and concepts in session

 

Assign homework to practice skills taught in session

 

Use consistent praise and rewards as reinforcement of positive behavior

 

Creates consistency and expectation

 

Enhances predictability and comfort.

 

Increases capacity for autonomy

Use interests and fixations.

Children with developmental disabilities often have fixations or special interests.

Ask, discover what special interests client may have

 

Use fixation on favorite character, person, place, thing to teach skill

 

Use shared interests to increase socialization

 

Increases engagement in treatment

 

Increases communication

 

Increases retention of skill
 

Increases socialization

Grosso, C. (2012) Children with developmental disabilities. In J.A. Cohen, A.P. Mannarino, E. Deblinger (Eds.), Trauma focused cbt for children and adolescents (pp. 149-174). NY: Guildford.