The Homework Debate

difficult school homework

A few times in my career, I wrote medical excuses to keep students from doing homework. I know it sounds ridiculous, but what I saw were students who were in great mental pain, as were their families, from homework that was way beyond their means, especially due to significant mental health disorders that affected their ability to learn and their ability to even engage in the process of learning or wanting to be in a learning environment. When they got home all they wanted to do was crawl under their blankets, but instead their parents felt that they must drag them to the kitchen table and make them do homework. There were a number of times that the student would go off the deep end and the police were called.

Removing homework stabilized the families. The schools had to find a different means of working with the student. In the end, the students didn’t fail – although they would have if they hadn’t turned in their homework. The students did learn.

Here is a link to an article on homework I wrote on LinkedIn.

Now if your student does have to do homework and has ADHD, I have also written an ebook on Amazon entitled The Pediatric Profiler’s Guide to ADHD & Homework.  This may help you understand why your student struggles and how to help.

Why are we burning out all the professionals who help our kids?

pediatric profiler pictureBelow is the link to an article written by a relatively new teacher (about 5 years in the classroom) who lists all the things that she has done for her students and all the struggles they have experienced during her tenure.  She is strongly considering quitting the profession but wants the policy makers to understand why.

This burnout is not just occurring in the schools.  If you ask any of the professionals whose passion is helping children and adolescents, you will year the same issues, the same frustrations, and the same hopelessness about how we, as a society, are letting down our youth.

Love, Teach: What I Wish I Could Tell Them About Teaching in a Title I School

Please start a conversation here or among your colleagues about what she has said and what we can do, both at the grassroots level and at the policy level to turn this around. One thing is certain, we need our “in the trenches” professionals to be part of the conversation and solution, not just the ones who have to live with the “wisdom” of others.

Where did creativity go?

pediatric profiler pictureAs a child I spent a great deal of time considering the possibilities of the world. I asked “what if” and then followed up with trial and error to achieve what I was working for.

My children and I played “what if” frequently when they were small.  It helped them to think of the world as a place of adventures and creations waiting to be developed.

My grandchildren experience that with their mother, who has a degree in art.

But in my practice, I see too many children who don’t know how to ask “what if” except for fearfully.  They don’t know how to ask with curiosity and anticipation. In school they are presented with worksheet after worksheet.  They are losing recess time to complete these worksheets, sometimes because they can’t get them done fast enough and other times because they need to reach a certain goal of materials covered.

This article on creativity is a major red flag about how the current focus on teaching to the test is causing our children to lose their creativity.  Creativity is so important for innovation and problem solving.  Let’s begin a conversation with “what if” looking at ways to bring creativity back into the classroom and see what that does for test scores.  I am sure it will improve useful life scores when they go to get jobs and start careers.

Need a reason not to spank? I have 10!

pediatric profiler pictureI have just found an article that provides 10 reasons why spanking is not effective. The reasons are all well thought out and are backed by the latest research on child development, especially brain development. I would like to hear what you think about the article and also about my insights.

I have it on my curated site of Scoop It.

Why positive behavioral supports work better

pediatric profiler picture

It is refreshing to see that schools are now recognizing that zero tolerance and negative responses to all actions does not allow the student to develop a sense or mastery over their own behaviors.  Students need to know that they are meeting expectations, not to just assume that if they are not being criticized or punished they are doing what the teacher or principal wants.

As a society we need to remember that children and teens don’t have all the answers.  They need to hear often that they are making progress and developing mastery skills.  They are not choosing to do it wrong or to make things worse.  They need us to help them learn the steps to success.

Check out this article about how well positive behavioral supports work.

Rebranding How We See Children and Adolescents

pediatric profiler pictureI just returned from the National Speakers Association (NSA) and they announced that they are re-branding themselves to reflect how the speakers industry has changed since it was founded 40 years ago.  We will now go by Platform (with the o looking like a microphone). This is very important because the membership has expanded beyond keynote speakers to trainers, online course providers, teachers who go beyond the classroom and most importantly to the many speakers internationally who call us their family, their community. At this last convention 20+ countries were represented.  What we all have in common is that we use the spoken word (and many of us also us the written word) to share our messages. Some speak on diversity. Some on leadership. Some on sales.

And then there is me – The Pediatric Profiler.  I help people understand challenging children and adolescents.  I have realized that what I am doing is working to re-brand these children and adolescents to realize more of their strengths, understanding where they struggle, and how to help them to succeed in life.

Part of re-branding is to understand the hows and whys of their behaviors. Looking at temperament, the children/adolescents who are slow to adapt to change are literal, concrete, explicit and rule bound (frequently as they interpret the rules). They will be compliant as long as they understand “why” they are being asked/told to do something, why at that exact moment rather than a little bit later when they finish what they are doing, and why you want it done a certain way, if another way appears to make more sense to them. When adults deal with these “why” questions, however, they label (brand) these children/adolescents as argumentative, oppositional, and/or disrespectful.

If we were to re-brand these behaviors we may want to try “conscientious” because they want to be sure that they are doing the task at the most appropriate time.  Or “respectful” since they want to be sure that they are the correct person to do the task.  And then there is “competent” by making sure that they can complete the task to the best of their ability.

My goal is to create a groundswell of change in terms of how we approach and label children and adolescents.  To do this we have to understand the 3 layers of people (which starts in childhood).  These layers are temperament profile, any neurodevelopmental disorders that they may have (of which one person in 6 has one of the 6), and the role of any mental health problems and the interactions that they experience in their homes, schools, and communities.

I invite you to join me in this change. As you consider a label for a child, determine if it is a negative/derogatory label or a neutral/positive label.  If you are not sure, check it out in a thesaurus under antonyms.  If you are not sure how to do this and you or your organization would like to learn how and more strategies to help challenging children, just contact me at info@allchildrenarespecial.com.

The 5 S’s to Enhance Your Child’s Processing Skills

ImageIt is great to be back home after a week on the road doing seminars.  At the end of the day I always ask my audience what is a take away that they feel they will use right away.  What comes up over and over again is the idea of the 5 S’s.

What are the 5 S’s you ask?  Great question.  They are steps that we, as parents, teachers, bosses, spouses, etc. should all do to allow others, and especially children who struggle on a daily basis with social and behavioral skills, need to incorporate into our interactions.

I did not develop these S’s (and I hate to say I am not sure who did) but they are powerful.  The more you can make them into a part of your daily routine of interaction, the better you will allow others to be their best.

So, with no further ado, here they are;

1) Stay Calm

Now that was extremely hard for me to learn.  I am at my foundation a Screaming Irish Mother.  You know the type. She has 3 phrases that are used frequently. “You do it because I said so”.  ” If you are going to cry, I will give you a reason to cry.” and “Don’t come to me looking for pity if you hurt yourself ‘cuz I told you not to do it.”  This is not helpful for developing processing skills in children. It definitely didn’t work with my first child (the Mother’s curse by my mother to me).  I had to learn more about her and myself in order to change my style of parenting.  It was hard but it worked.  And the biggest part was learning how to be calm, rather than immediately reactive.

2) Slow Down

This is so important! Most challenging children have problems with processing. The faster we present information to them, the farther behind they get. And when they start getting behind, they get stressed. Stress further slows down processing speed.  That is why when you begin to yell at a child, it appears as if they are intentionally trying to defy you.  They look like chickens with their heads cut off as they dart around trying to comply. Or they begin to shut down, either in an argue mode, or a emotional meltdown of crying.

3) Speak Less

This is also so essential. Choose your words carefully. An individual with processing problems gets lost quickly with a large amount of information presented all at once. Chunk your message into a series of smaller messages. And then after each check for comprehension, not just the ability to repeat what they heard.

4) Simplify

Too many times we make requests, or provide information that is very complex, either in vocabulary, or in the level of subtext that needs to be assumed in order to be fully compliant.  We see that all the time with children labeled as ODD. We say, “Pick up your coat.”  The child picks up his coat only to dump it on the couch or on a door handle. This is not what we wanted – but we DIDN’T state what to do with it. When we call the child on this we get the response “But you didn’t tell me to do that!”. Most challenging children are very literal and concrete in their interpretation of language, so their brains by default go to “This is what she wants. If she wants anything more she would have told me.”  Now when asked, they can come up with possible scenarios of what may have been wanted, but they don’t know which one was expected, so they naively believe that what is said is all that is wanted.

5) Stop and Wait

This goes back to the concept of processing.  It may take the child several seconds to go through mental gymnastics in order to make sense of information provided to them, questions asked of them, or sensory information received. Too many times we get after them in 1-3 seconds after telling them to do something, assuming that they are being noncompliant or lazy. We then get a response from the child that is based on anxiety, but is interpreted as being defiant and after that all “h..ll” breaks loose.

Take time to think about these 5 S’s.  How do you do with them?  Is there room for improvement?

If you would like help with this and other areas of parenting your challenging child, consider my Member site.  You can get information about it along with the video training on the distractible child by going to this link:  The Distractible Child.