Helping children with behavioural changes

Chantel Doran, Taylor Jenkins, Lynn Jones, Dr. Rhonda Matters and Stephanie Connolly

Strengthening mental health services -

Dr. Rhonda Matters knows that parents of children with behavioural challenges might not want to join a group with other parents initially, but once they do attend, they really enjoy it and find it helpful.

The Behavioural Support Team is a team of professionals that includes a psychologist, two social workers, and a youth worker. They work together to help with children aged 4 to 12 who experience moderate to severe behavioural disorders.

The team runs concurrent skills groups for both children and parents. Parents bring their child to the children's group and then they attend a group with other parents in the same location at the same time.

“It is so rewarding to see the positive changes which have occurred in the children and families that we work with,” said Dr. Matters, the Behavioural Support Team lead and psychologist.“Our parents have made significant changes in their skills and major improvements in the strategies they use. 

"Although this can be difficult initially, parents support each other in their efforts and help each other celebrate when things start to improve."

The team has worked over the past year and a half with children, families, guardians, and child-care organizations across Prince Edward Island. They offer evidence-based interventions for children and parents to decrease the challenging behaviours that are present in a child with disruptive behavioural disorders.

The kinds of behaviours may include excessive arguing, fighting, yelling, property destruction, cursing, non-compliance, and verbal and physical aggression. The interventions can also help with excessive hyperactivity, impulsivity, distractibility, impaired socialization, and academic struggles.

Parents are instructed and coached in the use of practical strategies including planned ignoring, special time or specific praise such as 'I really like how you’re waiting patiently while I pay for groceries.'

The groups are the aptly named 'Coping Power' for ages 9 to 12 and 'Incredible Years Dinosaur School' for ages 5 to 8. Dr. Matters says children enjoy coming to group and learn skills that help with emotional regulation, rule following, and getting along with others. 

Groups for the younger children often teach the information using stories, videos and puppets, while the older children use art and games. All groups use practice, coaching, and role play so that parents and children know how to put the skills to use when they go home.

“Many parents find it makes a significant difference when they begin to use the strategies at home with their children and they are encouraged when they start to see a difference,” she said.“It is really quite amazing to see the difference in the skills and behaviour of the children from the first group session to the last.”


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