Which Is More Important? Happiness or Achievement

         
           As we enter the new year, it is a good time for reflection.  As parents, we should think about what we are doing well and what things we should change.  Raising children is not easy and requires work and constant adjustment.  We want our kids to be happy.  We also want our kids to be successful and achieve great things.  My question to parents in the new year is…..Which is more important — Happiness or Achievement?  I say HAPPINESS!
         Christine Carter, a sociologist from the University of California, says, “When our children are happy and their brains are filled with positive emotions like enagagement, confidence, and gratitude, they are more likely to be successful and fulfill their potential.” It seems the underlying American assumption is, if our kids get into a great college, they’ll get a great job, then they’ll be happy.  This is backwards.  It should be happiness first, then achievement.  In every corner of our great country, parents are pushing their children to do more, learn more, and get a “leg up.”  I believe as a result, children are robbed of their childhood and have more stress and anxiety.  Instead of over scheduling our children which most certainly will cause unhappiness, let’s slow down a little.  Let’s reflect on what makes our kids happiest and make some changes before it’s too late.
        Carter also reported, “studies are finding that achievement does not necessarily lead to happiness, but that happiness is what fosters achievement. She points to an analysis of 225 studies on achievement, success and happiness by three psychologists that found that happy people are more likely to have fulfilling marriages and relationships, high incomes, superior work performance, community involvement, robust health, and a long life.
       Please vote and I will share the results!

Acceptance and Love

Author Andrew Solomon just published a new book, Far From The Tree: Parenting, Children, And A Search For Identity.  He writes about parents coping with autism, Down Syndrome, schizophrenia, severe disabilities, with children conceived in rape,  who became criminals, or who are transgender.  This book demonstrates how sometimes the proverbial apple does fall far from the tree.  We all have hopes and dreams for our children.  As they grow and develop we learn that maybe our hopes and dreams aren’t theres or can’t be.  We experience disappointment. We grieve. We feel saddened.

Solomon interviewed over 300 families and had forty thousand pages of transcripts to draw from.  Most of the stories seem sad on the surface.  A child born from rape.  The parents of the boy responsible for the Columbine shooting. The list goes on and on.  He uncovered a universal theme among very different circumstances.   Parents never stop loving their children, but in some cases they have to learn how to accept them.  For each circumstance the process of acceptance, tolerance, and compassion occurred, but at different times.

If you are parent of a child with special needs, you probably have stopped ready this blog so you can order his book right now!  Nobody talks about acceptance because as parents this seems heartless.  Why would a parent have to learn how to accept their child?  Doesn’t this happen automatically?  No!  Andrew Solomon highlights this idea over and over in his book.   Whether your child has physical disabilities, ADHD, autism, or Down Syndrome parenting presents a crucial question. To what extent should parents accept their children for who they are, and to what extent they should help them become better.

Where are you in this process of acceptance?  I want to hear your stories!

Katherine Price coaches parents on everything from behavior modification plans to IEP goals.  She helps DC area parents get the ADHD help and resources they need by guiding them through the options available to them, connecting with the right people, and making a workable, affordable plan for the whole family.  For more information about ADHDC, go to www.ADHDC.com.

Behavior Plans: How to Create One and Improve Life at Home

Children have been back to school for over a month and the dreaded phone calls from school have started.  You are distraught and totally emotional.  You are overwhelmed because you know it’s hard to control your child’s emotions and actions.  Especially when they are away from you at school.  Perhaps home life isn’t any better.  Schedules have become increasingly more demanding with homework, projects, and after school activities.  Everyone is a little more stressed.  Behavior plans are a great way to improve your child’s behavior.

Every child would behave appropriately — if they could. Because misbehavior is symptomatic of an underlying disability that’s intensified by situational triggers, behavior plans should more aptly be thought of as teaching plans.  Good Behavior Plans reward children for appropriate behavior and prevent undesirable behavior.  They can be simple and target 1-2 behaviors for preschoolers or they can be used for teens that are highly motivated by rewards like access to a car or money.

Here are some common causes of behavior problems in children:

  • Difficulty regulating their emotions (staying calm when frustrated);
  • Flexible thinking (only one way to do something); and
  • Taking another person’s perspective (it’s my way or the highway).

Behavior plans work.  As a parent you need patience, consistency and the ability to follow through.  You might also need a coach to help guide the way.  A qualified coach can create the appropriate behavior plan and improve your life at home!

Katherine Price coaches parents on everything from behavior modification plans to IEP goals.  She helps DC area parents get the ADHD help and resources they need by guiding them through the options available to them, connecting with the right people, and making a workable, affordable plan for the whole family.  For more information about ADHDC, go to www.ADHDC.com.

Doing the Dance

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As our children go back to school, I think about what my relationship will be like with the teacher.  My oldest child is at a new school.  No relationships are formed.  The teachers have no preconceived notions. They don’t know my son.  We don’t know which teachers are a great match for my son.  This makes me feel happy and nervous.  For the last 6 years, the teachers knew my son or me.  They knew he had some “issues.”  I advocated each and every year for what my son needed.  In the last 6 years I never had a problem communicating and advocating.  How, you ask?  No matter how emotional I got, I always treated the teacher with respect and appreciation.  I gave the teacher the benefit of the doubt.  I never tried to do their job.  Being this way pays dividends later!  To me, managing the relationship between yourself and the teacher is like dancing.  Ideally, you and the teacher are on the same “dance floor” moving towards the same goals and communicating in a fluid way.  Don’t ruin the dance by “stepping on the teacher’s toes.”  They may not want to dance with you again.

Katherine Price coaches parents on everything from behavior modification plans to IEP goals.  She helps DC area parents get the ADHD help and resources they need by guiding them through the options available to them, connecting with the right people, and making a workable, affordable plan for the whole family.  For more information about ADHDC, go to www.ADHDC.com.

Top 10 Accommodations for Children with ADHD

I asked some local parents in Arlington, VA to share IEP goals and accommodations they found to be most effective.  Below is a list of ten that I think are most reasonable for teachers to implement. Of course, by law teachers are required to provide all the accommodations set forth in an IEP, but sadly this is not always the case.  It’s important to note that each child with ADHD has different weaknesses and therefore different goals.   For every weakness a child has, an IEP should have a corresponding “SMART” goal.  Accommodations can be used in a 504 Plan or in an IEP (Individualized Education Plan).

10 Useful Classroom Accommodations/Goals

1.  For distractibility, the teacher uses a private signal to cue the student to stay on task.  Sometimes all a student needs is a subtle redirection…not “Joey, pay attention!!!”

2.  For a child who can’t keep up with notes, the teacher provides notes.  The student should still try to take notes, but will have a complete set given by the teacher in case they didn’t get it all.

3.  The teacher checks with student for understanding.  This doesn’t mean asking the child if they understand the assignment!  Of course the student will say, “yes.”  The teacher should ask the student to repeat what was asked to be certain the student knows the assignment.

4.  For a self advocacy, the student will ask for help/clarification/direction when he doesn’t understand what is being asked within 2 minutes in 4 out of 5 opportunities with fading prompts.  While I realize this is a hard goal to measure because the teacher won’t know when the student didn’t understand and didn’t ask, but it’s worth putting in the IEP.

5.  For organization, the teacher should sign the child’s agenda or assignment notebook daily.  Ideally, this book also serves as a communication tool for parents and teachers.

6.  An IEP goal for organization, would be the student will accurately write assignment details in their agenda 80% of the time in 8 out of 10 assignments.

7.  For behavior, the teacher can fill out a daily chart reflecting the student’s behavior at school that goes home. This chart ties into the parents behavior plan.  This can be done discreetly between the student and teacher so they don’t feel self conscious.  Good behavior at school translates to points on the “at home” chart and ultimately a reward.  This also provides good communication between the teacher and parents.

8. For fidgeting, the teacher will allow a fidget toy to be used by the student during all classwork.  Sometimes this might be gum.  Sometimes this might be a sensory cushion.  Each child seeks different sensory input.

9.  For homework, the teacher modifies the amount of homework.  A student can demonstrate understanding of a new math concept without doing 20 math problems.  The student can do only the even-numbered problems.

10.  For reading, many kids don’t have the attention or stamina to complete all the reading homework that is required (social studies, reading, science, etc…).  At home, try buying audio books that accompany the print version.  They hear the book while they are following it in print.  Also, many textbooks have audio capability.  Inquire if your school offers text books in audio.

Katherine Price coaches parents on everything from behavior modification plans to IEP goals.  She helps parents figure out the services their child needs in school, helps draft accommodations and goals, and can attend 504/IEP meetings as an advocate.  Katherine is also familiar with the local resources and can provide referrals to doctors, therapists, tutors, etc….  For more information about ADHDC, go to www.ADHDC.com

Screening for ADHD in Preschool: 10 Things To Look For

Young children often have problems paying attention or concentrating, but when are these problems serious enough for parents and teachers to be concerned? Most of us just think this is normal at this age, right?According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 11 school-aged children are diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, but research suggests that the warning signs often appear even before the demands of school begin. As many as 40 percent of children have significant problems with attention by age four, and ADHD is now the most common mental health disorder diagnosed in the preschool years.

Dr. Mark Mahone, director of the Department of Neuropsychology at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, Md. encourages parents to be especially observant of their young child’s behavior.  I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Mahone speak at a recent CHADD conference.  He impressed me very much and I have followed his work.

Dr. Mahone says, “Research shows that children with ADHD have abnormal brain development, meaning that ADHD has a biological basis that often makes it a lifelong condition.”  “We want to catch ADHD early because it has such a profound effect on learning and academic development. Children whose symptoms begin in early childhood are at the highest risk for academic failure and grade repetition.”

Dr. Mahone and his colleagues at Kennedy Krieger are among the first to use neuroimaging to study the brains of preschool children with symptoms of ADHD. They recently discovered that children with ADHD have a smaller caudate nucleus—a small structure in the brain that is associated with cognitive and motor control—than their typical peers. By identifying the biological markers of ADHD, they hope that intervention can begin earlier to facilitate better educational outcomes.

In preschool-aged children (3-4 years), Dr. Mahone recommends that parents look for the following signs that are associated with an ADHD diagnosis when children reach school age:

1. Dislikes or avoids activities that require paying attention for more than one or two minutes
2. Loses interest and starts doing something else after engaging in an activity for a few moments
3. Talks a lot more and makes more noise than other children of the same age
4. Climbs on things when instructed not to do so
5. Cannot hop on one foot by age 4
6. Nearly always restless – wants to constantly kick or jiggle feet or twist around in his/her seat. Insists that he/she “must” get up after being seated for more than a few minutes
7. Gets into dangerous situations because of fearlessness
8. Warms up too quickly to strangers
9. Frequently aggressive with playmates; has been removed from preschool/daycare for aggression
10. Has been injured (e.g., received stitches) because of moving too fast or running when instructed not to do so

“If parents observe these symptoms and have concerns about their child’s development, they should consult with their pediatrician or another developmental expert,” says Dr. Mahone. ”  You may be saying, the doctors will just write a prescription for medication and that doesn’t interest you.  There are many interventions besides medication to improve your child’s behavior.

As a Parent Coach, I provide ADHD support to parents and come up with a plan to deal with the challenging behaviors of pre-schoolers whether they have ADHD or not.  For more information on my services, go to ADHDC.  You may also follow me on FacebookTwitter and sign up for my monthly newsletter.

Exercise Improves Your Social Life

Most parents and professionals agree that exercise is paramount for children with ADHD.  It helps regulate their body, improves attention, and decreases impulsivity.  I recently read about a study that produced empirical evidence supporting the importance of exercise.  Claudia Verret, a University of Montreal kinesiology graduate showed in her doctorate that a 10-week physical activity program can significantly improve the cognitive behavior and functions of children aged 7 to 12 struggling with ADHD.

“Three afternoons a week, we brought together a group of 10 children, who,  for 45 minutes, took part in a team sport like basketball or soccer,” explained Verret. “The physical exercise was meant to achieve a moderate to high heart rate.” These children were compared with 11 subjects also with ADHD, but who did not participate in the activities.

Before and after the program, the children underwent a battery of neuropsychological tests to measure their attention. Their parents and teachers also completed questionnaires regarding their behavior and social skills.

“Following the program, parents and teachers reported that all measured problem behaviors such as aggression, anxiety, and depression decreased, particularly social disorders,” said the professor.

She said that the positive effect of exercise on social interaction is a “major” finding. “The clinical picture of children with ADHD reveals that they often find it difficult to adapt to others. Taking part in structured group physical activities helped them overcome this difficulty, even if the program was not specifically aimed at social reinforcement.”

The children were also less impulsive. “The teachers told us that when the children returned from the exercise session they were able to sit longer than usual,” said Verret.

Attention problems also decreased. The children still made mistakes on the neuropsychological tests of course, but they completed the tests faster. “Ultimately, they were more effective, suggesting that their attention was better,” said Verret.

Physical activity, a supplement to therapy

Claudia Verret recognizes that this research is still exploratory because of its small sample. But, she adds, the results are encouraging to the point that it would be worthwhile to eventually consider physical activity as a supplemental aid to traditional therapies.

“In cognitive behavioral therapy sessions, we work on self-control, self-esteem, and social skills, among other things. We could integrate this structure within a sports program. Children could then apply what they learned during therapy. It would be a great way to provide enjoyment and increase their motivation.”

She notes that such an initiative would require further training for the professionals who supervise the children. “Our study shows that group sports are better for these children because of the influence at the social level. But in reality, looking after a group of children with attention deficit is not easy when you lack the required training. We need to develop tools to facilitate the work of these professionals.”

It will be some time before CBT incorporates physical exercise.  In the meantime, this summer require that your child gets rigorous exercise every day before all that screen time!

Katherine Price coaches parents on everything from behavior modification plans to IEP goals.  She helps DC area parents get the ADHD help and resources they need by guiding them through the options available to them, connecting with the right people, and making a workable, affordable plan for the whole family.  For more information about her company, go to www.ADHDC.com.