Therapist Tips: Ideas for Supporting Resistant Students


resistant studentsAs a new school year gets underway, school-based therapists and students benefitting from their services are falling into their new routines. This means a new year of getting to know each other, finding out what works best for everyone, and overcoming any hurdles that are found along the way. In these first days, children are often resistant to working with therapists, especially if it is a new provider or their first time working with such services. While this can be stressful for you as their therapist, there are some steps that you can take to help resistant children warm up to the idea of therapy and adjust to the change in their normal routine.

Talk First

Try to break the ice and start a conversation to find out why they are not being compliant to the activities and therapy techniques you are trying to incorporate. You may find that it’s something simple to overcome, such as being upset to miss out on a specific classroom activity that takes place during therapy time. Sometimes schedules can be adjusted so that your student isn’t feeling left out. In other cases, the issue may be more complex, but the first step to solving the problem is getting to the root of it.

Be Flexible

Children are challenging, as a rule. What works for one won’t work for the next. And sometimes, the things they respond to change from day-to-day. Be flexible and persistent when trying therapy techniques and activities. While they may be resistant to something that you try today, in a week, they’ll be eager to participate. Always have a backup plan or two ready to go for each session and move to a new activity when something isn’t working well. Forcing them to comply rarely ends well for anyone.

Offer Choices

If you know that you are working with a child who shuts down when they feel as if they have no control, instead of telling them what you’re doing during a specific session, try offering them a couple of choices. When they feel like they have a say in their therapy, they are far more likely to participate willingly and even begin to enjoy the activities that are so beneficial to their success. You can even find some ways to present the activities that you would prefer, making them think that the choice was solely their own.

Take a Break

If there is still pushback no matter what techniques you try and what changes you make, talk with the student’s team of teachers, parents, and other service providers to see if taking a break for a few sessions might be an option. Sometimes that will give time to adjust their mindset and come back to their therapy sessions as willing participants or at least come in less combative than in previous sessions. This small “win” in getting out of something they don’t want to do can be all that it takes for some children.

Lesley Slaughter


Lesley Slaughter

Lesley has over 14 years of staffing experience and has helped grow our schools division at Soliant from 3 recruiters to over 100! She’s originally from Northwest Georgia, holds a degree in Broadcasting, and loves spending time with her husband and 2 daughters.