Parenting as Alternative Therapy for Learning and Attention Issues

Posted February 14, 2007 by edukfun
Categories: add, adhd, attention, ld, learning disability, parenting, therapy

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