There may be many reasons why a child refuses food, acts aggressively or won’t comply with parent or teacher requests, but according to Kimberley Zonneveld, there is one common root issue that caregivers should keep in mind.
“Children often exhibit these behaviours to communicate something,” says the Associate Professor in Brock’s Department of Applied Disability Studies.
On Thursday, March 25 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., Zonneveld will present “Assessment and Treatment of Problem Behaviour in Children and Youth,” a free, public webinar hosted by the Lifespan Institute’s Speaker Series.
She plans to share suggestions and strategies for addressing problem behaviours such as picky eating and non-compliance, and show how using an effective strategy consistently can change patterns of behaviour. She will also share the results of a case of food refusal in which a child progressed from eating only three foods to eating widely.
Zonneveld says there are functions of behaviour that can help parents and teachers understand why children behave in certain ways, whether it’s related to avoiding tasks they don’t want to do or gaining access to something they want.
“Even negative attention can be reinforcing,” she says. “If your parents are busy and not able to pay much attention to you all day and the only way you can get their attention is to do something bad, many kids will.”
Zonneveld emphasizes that in order to change a child’s behaviour, caregivers also have to change their own behaviour, and to be consistent.
“Parents may be trying several different strategies rather than sticking to one,” she says. “In those uncertain conditions, you would expect that a child would continue to engage in problematic behaviour, because they don’t know what the expectations are.”
Zonneveld will also talk about when it is time to seek out the help of a professional, as the most informative assessment available requires professional training.
“Fortunately, we have a lot of behaviour analysts in the province at this point, given that we in our department have trained so many of them,” she says.
In addition to the webinar, parents concerned about picky eating have an opportunity to participate in one of the current studies underway in Zonneveld’s lab.
Parents of children who are aged two to 17 years, with or without a developmental disability, who eat a variety of foods but show a low preference for other foods such as fruits and vegetables, can participate in remote training via videoconferencing to learn how to implement a feeding treatment to help improve their child’s diet. For more information or to sign up, please contact Arezu Alami, the principal student investigator, or Kimberley Zonneveld.
Thursday’s webinar is free and open to the public but requires advance registration. Please sign up if you are interested in attending.