Do You Ever Assume?

When was the last time you sat back and simply watched your child/student as he was working or playing? Did you ask yourself why he did a step in his action the way he did? Or did you simply assume he did it for “X” reason because he was trying to make it harder, or make more of a mess?

As a society, we have spent a great deal of time “assuming” intentions which were not even on a child’s radar. Therapists have dealt with adults still suffering from those past “assumptions.”

Be the adult your child/student needs. Learn to Never Assume with my book,

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Never Assume: Getting To Know Children Before Labeling Them.

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.

why is communicating so difficult with special needs children and youth?

I spend most of my days helping parents, teachers, and school administrators understand about the need for effective communication when dealing with children/youth experiencing developmental and behavioral challenges. Adults in general find it hard to wrap their minds about the numerous steps that are involved in the communication act. But it is this lack of awareness that creates many if not most of the behavioral meltdowns that occur at home or in the classroom.
Mr. Whipple’s latest blog post is an excellent reference when looking at your communication attempts with children with special needs. I know you will find it as enlightening as I have.

Most of us have played the campfire game where a bunch of kids sit around the fire and pass a message from one to the other. It never fails that the message coming out at the end bears little resemblance to what was started.

The same kind of phenomenon is going on when two people try to communicate. There are many steps in the communication process, each of which might be pictured as an individual cub scout sitting around the fire. Here are ten steps that happen each time we say something to someone else:

1. I have a thought that I want to convey to you.

2. I decide how I am going to convey that message to you with my choice of words.

3. I send the message according to my interpretation of how my words will translate my true intent. (I will discuss tone and body language…

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Remembering to encourage creativity

This article about creativity is an important read for both parents and teachers as well as those in the business world for whom it was written. Too many times we demand that our children perform in a precise manner that only stumps their creativity. We also need to realize that we can’t dictate creativity. Let’s take the wisdom of this article and use it with our children and students.

I read a quotation in a student paper a while ago that was interesting, “Demanding creativity is like yanking on a seed to pull out the flower” (by the famous author “unknown”). The optics in this quote really work for me. I have been referred to as a creative person at times, and I even won an award for it once, yet if you stand over me with a scowl on your face, my creativity will dry up faster than a drop of water in a red hot frying pan. Most people have a creative side that can be brought out if properly nurtured.

The benefits of creativity and innovation are well documented. Unfortunately, while all leaders yearn for higher creativity, their behaviors often squash it. This analysis provides some pathways to encourage more creativity that are simple and powerful. Here is a list of seven ways this can be…

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Understanding the Acting Out Student in the Classroom

The hardest thing for a teacher to deal with in the classroom is a student acting out.  She has 20+ other students to teach and disruptions don’t allow for learning.  Unfortunately, many if not most teachers were not given training on effective classroom management.  Those who did were introduced to assertive discipline. This relies on letting the student know immediately when he has violated a rule.  The teacher was taught less about setting up positive supports for behavior.

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Two areas of great importance, however, are rarely taught to teachers.  These areas would provide teachers with the tools needed to assist all students in managing their own behavior while increasing their learning.

The first area deals with child development, most importantly in terms of temperament. Temperament is the hows of behavior.  We are born with nine traits of temperament, such as activity level, basic mood, and intensity of response. These traits interact with any developmental, learning, and mental health issues we have, and our environment to help mold our personalities.  The more that a teacher understands how to respond to a student through his/her temperament profile, the more successful the child will be in managing his behavior in the classroom.

Looking at the first trait mentioned, activity level, some students need to use energy to be comfortable in their environment. If a teacher understands that her student needs to expend energy in order to be engaged, she can have him doing things during the lesson. He also requires recess in order to use up his energy. Taking away his recess due to misbehaviors will only make matters worse.  He can’t keep his energy level down and also concentrate on the lesson.

The second trait, basic mood, refers to his first impression to whatever is suggested, presented, etc. A student, who is more negative in basic mood, will start out noting the problems with what was presented.  It may be stating that he can’t do it, that it is dumb, or some similar response. The teacher will never win by trying to convince him otherwise or telling him that he is wrong. She has to connect with his feelings. She can then problem solve with him on how to get it done despite how unappealing it appears, or how hard it seems to be.

Intensity of response is a hard one for most teachers to tolerate, when it’s the high intensity level. The student will always be at 100% of whatever emotion he is experiencing.  The school counselor or social worker can help the student learn about degrees of expression and practice them based on a hierarchy of situations. The teacher than can positively reinforce variations in level of intensity during the class day.

The other area where regular education teachers are taught little if anything at all deals with recognizing and providing interventions for learning struggles.  One child in seven has one or more issue in learning that is developmental in nature. This may be problems with vocabulary or language knowledge. It may be in visual or auditory processing, which can affect reading, learning to write letters, spelling, and connecting the sounds with the letters of the alphabet.  When a child is acting out, this has to be looked at.  Academic supports are needed to close the gap before it becomes too much for the child to handle.  If this same child is also having the temperament trait problems mentioned above, it is even more important, so that peace can return to the classroom.

Colleges and school districts need to provide more training and support to teachers in these areas.  By doing so, they will also be helping many more of the struggling students. In the end, everyone will win.