Archive for the ‘learning disability’ category

Great news for parents: it’s not on purpose.

February 14, 2007

It is 7 o’clock and your child still hasn’t done his homework, or taken out the trash, or cleaned up his room. For the umpteenth time, you remind him as politely as possible. He promises to do it before bed.

The next morning undone homework, full trash bins and messy rooms are scattered all over the country, along with fistfuls of parental hair.

Is your kid trying to drive you crazy on purpose?

No. Well, not on purpose, anyway.

A new study reported this week in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology reveals that there is an unconscious, automatic process by which teens—and adults—resist the efforts of people who they perceive as trying to control them. What child or teen doesn’t feel like his parents are trying to control him?

(In all fairness, I found this information at one of my favorite sites: )

All people resist being controlled: kids, teens, adults and seniors.

How many “bosses” does your child have? A child with a Learning Disability (LD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Aspergers Sydrome, or other issues has tons of bosses. Family Therapist, Social Worker, Occupational Therapist, a dozen teachers, private tutors, 1-4 parents, older siblings, School Psychologist, bus driver, you name it! To the child, every one of those people is out to run his life and nobody is asking the question, “Is Johnny having enough fun?”

The study showed that even when there is an unconscious, subliminal connection between a request and a controlling figure, the reactance occurs. Literally, when you ask your child to do his homework, his subconscious turns that into a desire to goof-off!

What the heck can you do about that?

Performance improves when the requestor is seen as wanting the requestee to have fun.

Science to the rescue! If the person making the request is perceived as wanting the subject to have fun, then the reactance is lessened or eliminated.

That is exactly what we are all about at Sparks of Genius!

Our computer lab is called The Playground. We have fun at work. We juggle in groups with our students. We talk about having fun and incorporate as many fun activities into what we do. That isn’t so hard, considering our training consists almost entirely of playing video games. The result? Our students are cooperative, look forward to their sessions, and do not see us as trying to control their lives.

Let your child have more control to lower reactance.

What this means to parents is that if reactance is high in your child, there are two things you can do to ease the tension. First, look for areas in which you can let your child have more control. Give them choices, even if the choices are stacked, like, “Do you want to go out on Saturday and do homework on Sunday, or vice versa?”

Relate requests (what you want) to what your child wants (to have fun).

Second, phrase requests in terms of what the child wants, especially in terms of fun. For example:

“I want you to have fun with your friends and not have to worry about the garbage. Can you take it out now, so you don’t have to remember when you get home?”

“I know you want to play X-Box. I’ll tell you what. Let’s get the dishes done as fast as we can and I’ll extend bed time an extra ten minutes so we can play together.”

Now I know you want to go play pinochle with your friends, but if you practice this skill right now, you’ll have more fun and less frustration.

Get started using this skill right now and save up to $100 per year on aspirin!

Good Luck!

Allen Dobkin


Parenting as Alternative Therapy for Learning and Attention Issues

February 14, 2007

The New York Times has a great article about parenting as an alternative or supplement to therapy for Children’s Mental Disorders. What I liked about the article is how well this idea applies to the families we work with every day here in Boca Raton, FL. Take a look.

Parenting as Therapy for Child’s Mental Disorders
“But like most other parents, the couple preferred to avoid drug treatment, if possible. Instead, with the guidance of psychologists at the University of Buffalo, they altered the way they interacted with Peter and his younger brother, Scott. And over the course of a difficult year, they brought about a transformation in their son. He still has days when he gets into trouble, like any other 10-year-old, but he no longer exhibits the level of restless distractibility that earned him a psychiatric diagnosis.
”People are so stressed out, and it’s so much easier to say, ‘Here, take this pill and go to your room; leave me alone,’ ” Lisa Popczynski said….”But what I would say is that if you are willing to take on the responsibility of extra parenting, you can make a big difference.”

The way families interact can bring about a transformation in a child. The catch is that the transformation can be a good one or a harmful one. A chaotic, confrontational home life can cause any child to develop attention and behavior issues. Children with Learning Disabilities, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Aspergers syndrome (commonly misspelled Aspbergers or Asbergers; humorously as Assburgers) are especially sensitive.
The lesson here, I think, is that regardless of what treatment plan or educational plan is in place for a child, a faster, greater, longer-lasting transformation can be achieved if an emphasis on improving parenting is made.

Parents face a real challenge in altering their parenting styles to suit their individual children. Here are some suggestions that may help:

  1. Make the decision to ignore harmless “odd” behavior. Save your energy for the situations that count the most.
  2. Cut yourself some slack. Make time, as few as ten minutes a day, to sit quietly in a still room and relax with deep breathing.
  3. Avoid anxiousness-generating thoughts.
  4. Phrase requests in terms of what your child is really interested in. They may not care about school or homework, but they’ll climb the walls if they miss their favorite TV show.
  5. Keep the focus on empowering the child to get what they want. “You better do your homework or I’m going to take away your computer,” doesn’t work for a child with attention issues. He or she just can’t keep that thought in mind. Instead, try, “As soon as your homework is done, you can watch TV. Isn’t your show on in half an hour? Let’s get started.”
  6. Children with Attentional issues need lots of reminders. Post reminders all over the house: on doors, the fridge, bathroom mirror, backpacks, etc. Use checklists to empower the child to responsibility.
  7. They will get off-task. Practice judgement-free redirection. “Quit goofing off and do your homework,” is harmful. “Focus on your homework, please,” or “Only 15 minutes until your show is on. How’s that homework coming?” Try not to take it personally: your child really wants to do well, they just need help.
  8. Don’t react to negative behavior. Ignore what you want to go away, and praise like crazy when they do something you like.

Feel free to chime in with your own suggestions.

Good luck!
Allen Dobkin