Friday, February 27, 2015

Taming Impulsivity

Those with ADHD, autism, learning disabilities, and other challenges often act in an impulsive manner. They may blurt out inappropriate comments, hit others, or break rules that they understand. While this behavior is due to poor executive function control, there are methods you can use to help them reduce impulsive actions.

  • Use visual reminders of expectations

  • Practice calming strategies such as deep breathing, walking, using a squeeze ball in the left hand, or taking a time out. 
  • Teach the child to recognize when he or she is becoming upset and to use the calming strategies. My friend used a traffic light as an example for a two-year-old. When her daughter started to get anxious or angry, she would say, "You're on yellow, what are you going to do to go back to green?" After a period of days without going to red, there was a reward. 
  • Reduce anxiety by giving a clear schedule and warnings of transitions from one activity to another (in 5 minutes, we're going to put the toys away) or one location to another (this afternoon we're going to Grandma's house). 
  • Try a point system to encourage good behavior. 
  • When the child has calmed down after a problem, discuss the other options he or she had to deal with the situation and what the best choice would be in the future. Use a visual reminder to prepare for the next time. 
How have you tamed impulsivity in your home?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Emotional Security, Self-Help Skills, and Improved Family Life

One simple change has the power to improve your family's health, behavior, and relationships. It can prevent chronic illness and school failure. Sound too good to be true?

It is.

While this change can be powerful, it's not simple. It requires ongoing effort and consistency. What is this miracle cure?

Working a family schedule.

Before you dismiss this idea as unworkable, take a look at a few advantages for all family members:

  • Everyone in the family will be happier.
  • It decreases stress in the family.
  • You will build stronger family relationships through fun routines and traditions.
  • Daily tasks seem more manageable.
  • Fewer family disputes.
  • Improves resilience for all family members.
  • Prevents chronic illness such as diabetes.

There are additional benefits for the parents:
  • Greater productivity for household tasks.
  • Parents will be better able to think and be more organized
  • You will feel better about how you're doing as a parent overall.
  • Less nagging for parents.

The children (especially those with disabilities) will experience:
  • The ability to fall asleep faster because when children are overtired, it takes them longer to fall asleep.
  • Body clocks will be set to regular times for eating and sleeping, which is healthier.
  • Better cognitive development and learning of new skills.
  • Fewer emotional and behavioral problems.
  • Better sense of feeling secure.
  • Children will be healthier and learn good health habits to use throughout their lives.
  • Predictability reduces anxiety.
  • Routines teach responsibility, job skills, and time management.
  • Lowers risk of school failure.

Experts report it's best to start working a family schedule when children are young, but it's never too late.

Next time: How to begin implementing your family schedule.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Don't Feed the Troll....Even if it's You

The Internet can be a blessing in many ways. Easy access to information, connections to other people, and chances to share your point of view. Unfortunately others have easy access to what you post and can make their views known quickly, and often anonymously. 

They're called trolls.

Trolls like to call names, poke fun, make accusations, and generally cause havoc. They can raise your anxiety level, make you cry, have you hesitating before posting, or even keep you away from cyberspace altogether. 

How can you spot a troll?
  • They don't compliment--they only make negative comments. 
  • They may try to distract you from the topic under discussion by picking a fight.
  • They don't add to the conversation--they are not there to help.
  • They engage in personal attacks. 
If you've done the things described above, you can consider yourself a troll. 

What can you do with a troll?
  • Ignore them (not feeding the troll). This is my new policy. I've tried to have an online conversation, find out individual concerns, work out a compromise, but these methods don't work because the troll is out to attack and disrupt--not find solutions. 
  • Thank them for their input and walk away (or pretend they're agreeing with you).
  • Ask the moderator to block them. 
  • Take down the post. 
What if you are the troll?
  • Go find something productive to do--stop attacking people who may actually be trying to help others. 
Have you had any experiences with online trolls?

Friday, February 6, 2015

Helping Children with Disabilities Start, Follow Through, and Complete Activities - Improving Executive Function

Many people with disabilities struggle with executive functioning. Your executive function abilities can be compared to the leader of an orchestra. These skills are what coordinates all other brain activities. Individuals who have problems with executive function will struggle to

  • plan a project
  • determine how long an activity will take
  • tell a story out loud or in writing
  • share details that are organized or sequential
  • memorize and retrieve memories
  • start activities
  • generate ideas
  • recall information while doing something else--such as remembering what to do next as they are getting dressed
Diagnosis of an executive function disorder may be made through standardized testing by an educational diagnostician, psychologist, or psychiatrist. Challenges with executive functioning may also be part of another disabling condition such as ADHD, autism, depression, learning disabilities, brain injuries, Alzheimer's, stroke, etc. 

There are two types of executive function: organization and regulation. Organization is involved for tasks like making a grocery list, getting to the store, purchasing the items, and getting them put away. Regulation is required to react to changes, such as lowering the volume of your voice when you go from outside to in the house.

There are many things you can do at home to improve executive function:

  • Give step-by-step instructions for new activities, with visual reminders to use along the way. 
  • Make use of organizers, watch alarms, computer reminders, and other devices for reminders.
  • Use visual schedules when learning how to get ready for school, making a simple meal, or performing household tasks like setting the table. 
  • Combine oral instructions with visual or written reminders when possible. 
  • Plan for transitions between activities (give warnings and reminders).
  • Use checklists for long tasks.
  • Break big projects (like cleaning the room) into smaller pieces, like 
    • clean off the bed
    • pick up the clothing
    • put Legos away
    • put game pieces away
    • close closet door
    • put books away
  • Train your child to write the due date at the top of every assignment.
  • Organize desks and lockers on a weekly basis
    • clear clutter
    • throw away trash
    • have a "to do" area and a "completed" area
    • make sure supplies are easy to reach
  • Make a reusable checklist for homework and projects
    • get supplies out
    • seat in designated area
    • work for 15 minutes
    • 2 minute break
    • work for 15 more minutes
    • put supplies away
    • put work in backpack to take to school
  • Schedule monthly troubleshooting sessions to review problems and form solutions.
How do you best deal with executive function challenges?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Cycle of Adaptation for Family Members of Individuals with Disabilities

Discovering that a family member has a lifelong disability can be devastating. Parents and others generally go through a cycle as they seek to adapt to their new living situation, including surviving, searching, settling in, and separating.

Those who are surviving feel helpless. fearful, confused, guilty, blaming, shamed, and angry. These emotions may be expressed physically and through crying or inappropriate laughter. Support groups can help parents learn that others have the same emotions. Support groups, help finding treatments, and opportunities to honestly express feelings all help at this stage. With sufficient time, family members can begin to feel more in control, optimistic, and filled with hope. This stage also includes the beginning of an outward search.

Searching begins with outward research for a diagnosis and services, including attempts to change reality or bargain with God for a better outcome. The inward search involves an examination of personal feelings about having a child with a disability. Some individuals may withdraw from all support or attack those who try to help. These experiences can cause a re-ordering of priorities and altered relationships with others. Emotions during this stage can range from incompetence, fear, and feelings of being overwhelmed. Differences emerge as one person may feel empowered to meet new challenges while others may feel immobilized. Time to recharge helps during this stage. 

As interventions and treatments begin, family members tend to reach the settling in stage. Patience must be exercised as most programs take time. Other aspects of life are often resumed, or parents may become depressed and feel hopeless. Parents in this stage generally have the knowledge necessary to advocate for their child, but may feel it is pointless. Finding programs that take a family-based approach can be helpful at this time. 

Separation technically begins at birth, but it continues in small incremental stages throughout childhood. This process is slower when the child has a disability. Typical peers will initiate some of this separation on their own, but those with physical or cognitive struggles may require that parents start the separation process. Parents may re-experience guilt and grieving at this time and return to outer and inner searching, and additional opportunities to talk will be beneficial.