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Using the “Just Right Challenge”

By Elyse, Occupational Therapist, Clinical Education Lead
KidsCare Home Health, Pediatric Therapy

As therapists, we are constantly challenging our clients so that we can help them learn and grow. Doing this can also sometimes mean that we are met with resistance and refusal to participate. When children respond with these refusal behaviors, our minds may not always go to the “just right challenge” as playing a role; but it just might.

Clients refusing to participate in an activity may be feeling overwhelmed by a challenge that is too great for them. As the therapist, we have selected activities to help the child improve their skills; so it can be confusing and frustrating when we can’t get them to engage.

Setting them up for success

When we use the “just right challenge” we set the client (and ourselves) up for success. We can do this by making sure we are aware of what the child’s mastered level in the activity is and take them just one step above that. This is where we find the “just right challenge”. The activity should feel challenging enough that it’s engaging, but not so challenging that it is discouraging.

When a child is presented with a “just right challenge”, they are likely going to be successful with the activity and feel motivated to continue.

Adjusting our activities to make it the “just right challenge”

How exactly do we take our planned activity and adjust it so that we present the “just right challenge”? There are a variety of ways to do this.

There is no one way to reach a “just right challenge” as it will be unique to the child and to the activity you are using. Next time you encounter a client refusing to participate, give it a try!

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