Monday, March 28, 2011

Using Emotional Intelligence to Help Children with ADHD Diminish their Socially Inappropriate Behavior

Children with ADHD are often thought of as the “bad children.” They are rebuffed, rejected, criticized, teased and punished. Trust me that these children do not want to be thought of in a negative way. We all must be careful in terms of how we discipline these children. Oftentimes, the only comments that they hear are negative, so imagine how they feel when they are punished for behaving in a way that they cannot control? It is rare indeed that people approach children with ADHD in a way that they can express their feelings about what is upsetting them, and perhaps is contributing to their socially inappropriate behavior. 

By speaking to children with ADHD with emotional intelligence[1], you are able to help them to access their feelings, which undoubtedly will make them believe that someone cares about them. I can guarantee you that children with ADHD are rarely asked, “You seem a little down today. Did something happen to upset you?” “How is everything at home?” It means so much to children with ADHD to be treated with respect for their feelings, instead of being criticized. If they feel that someone is interested in their feelings, they will begin to develop better self-esteem.

Additionally, by talking out their feelings, much of their anger and/or disappointment will arguably be diffused. By the time that they talk about what happened to cause them to be frustrated and behave in a socially inappropriate way, this inappropriate behavior will arguably be diminished.
Next time a child with ADHD behaves in an inappropriate way, instead of immediately disciplining him, try to use emotional intelligence and let me know how it went.

[1] “the subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one's own and others' feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one's thinking and actions” (Salovey and Mayer, 1990).

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Billy is so Distractible! How can I Teach him to Listen to Others?

I have worked with children who are very distractible, such as Billy, who truly could not sit down to work with me. Here are some of my notes upon meeting with Billy for the first time:

“Billy rarely maintained eye contact, which I think was a factor of his activity level. While he was walking around, as he did the entire time that he was with me except for a few fleeting moments, he certainly could not make eye contact. Even when he was sitting talking to me, he stood up next to the chair most of the time, and did not make eye contact. The only time that he was focused was when he was drawing. While he did so, he sat and completed the drawing. The moment that he finished, however, he became extremely distractible again.”

“Billy talked and talked. When I tried to talk to him about a topic, he continued talking and barely stopped to hear what I had to say.”

Billy’s distractibility was truly frustrating. I have so many skills that I need to teach these children, but if they cannot sit down for more than a few seconds, and if they talk so excessively that they cannot listen to what I have to say, then what I can teach them is very limited. Therefore, what do I do?

I have discussed previously giving children with ADHD who are very distractible Wikki Sticks, stress balls and Legos to manipulate while I am working with them. I am the first to admit that these manipulatives do not work with all children with ADHD. What I try to do is to find something that is within the child’s interest area with whom I work, so that I can get them to hyperfocus.

For example, I need to see what I can do with Billy to diminish his distractibility even for five minutes. I need to facilitate a conversation with him in order to teach him how to listen to others, instead of doing all of the talking. His distractibility is immediately apparent when he walks into the room, so trying to sit down to talk with him does very little to settle him down.

He is interested in making videos, and scripts scenes extemporaneously as he videotapes. Pretty amazing, right? So, how can I use that interest to diminish his distractibility?

I would skip the typical introductory conversation and immediately show him a DVD on social skills that would be interesting to him. I have a DVD entitled “Fitting in and Having Fun” that can be ordered from It follows a child throughout his school day, so he will learn positive social skills. I typically show the child with whom I am working a chapter from the DVD, in this case, the chapter entitled “Taking Turns Speaking.” This topic might give me an entry point for beginning to help Billy to listen to another person, instead of monopolizing the conversation.

I will try this technique this week when Billy comes to see me. I will let you know if using a visual intervention worked in terms of increasing Billy’s attention. I will also let you know if the topic of the DVD helped to facilitate conversation between Billy and myself, so that I was able to succeed in teaching Billy how to converse in a way so that other children will want to talk to him.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Behaving Properly in Public

Learning to behave properly in public incorporates involves self-talk. As we have discussed previously, it is vital to teach children with ADHD how to self-talk as a way of self-regulating their behavior. You must be saying to yourself, how could these children manage to self-talk themselves through so many socially inappropriate behaviors? These children have to learn to manage those behaviors one at a time. If you have not realized it by now, learning positive social skills is a very slow process.

First, children with ADHD have to be aware of or be made aware of their social skills problems and the consequences that ensue as a result of exhibiting them. Second, these children have to be willing and interested in changing their socially inappropriate behavior. Third, they must change their socially inappropriate behavior to socially appropriate behavior. The reason why it is so important for them to change their behavior is so they can behave properly in public.

I always told my children that they can argue and fight at home, but when they were out in public they had to behave. If children with ADHD are observed behaving inappropriately in public, they will be ostracized by their peers. Children with ADHD, especially, are looked upon in ways that are stigmatizing and unfair. People look at these children’s behavior as a separate entity.

They do not seem to care about evaluating the child behind the behavior. As I have said before, children with ADHD do not choose to behave in the way that they do. Do you honestly think that they would choose to be distractible, exhibit excessive verbiage, and annoy people with whom they come into contact? I guarantee that they would not choose to be identified and characterized in that way.

How can teachers and parents help these children to learn to behave properly in public?

Teachers and parents need to teach children with ADHD that their behavior labels them. Therefore, these children’s behavior separates them out from other children. Since all people see initially is these children’s irritating and obstructive behavior, they immediately decide that they do not want to be around these children. The only way to combat other people’s prejudiced attitudes is for children with ADHD to behave properly in public.

It is your job as a teacher and as a parent to teach children with ADHD to diminish their socially inappropriate behavior in the ways that have been discussed here. Some of these methods are role playing; writing and reading social stories; conversing with children with ADHD about their socially inappropriate behavior; having children with ADHD view themselves on videotape so they can see the consequences of their actions; setting up a schedule of rewards for their socially appropriate behavior; and self-regulating their behavior, among others. If you as a teacher or parent have a positive, optimistic attitude that these children can and will be able to change their behavior, THEY WILL BUILD POSITIVE SOCIAL SKILLS and, therefore, WILL be able to change their behavior in public!!!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What is Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Anway?

Before I give you the medical/educational definition, listen to Stacey who decided to home school her son Bobby who had ADHD. She did not feel that Bobby would be able to learn within the confines of a classroom due to the fact that he could not stay in any one place for a prolonged period of time, a typical characteristic of ADHD.

And then, by the time Bobby was four, for sure, I was pretty
convinced that he had ADHD. And, um, and I was also convinced
that I didn’t want to medicate him. And, um, so, but I
know that if he was in a classroom that, well, first of all he was
four and a half. And I’m thinking, he’s supposed to be ready
for kindergarten soon? And I’m thinking, there’s no way this
kid could sit in a classroom for a half-day or a whole day, either
one. So I started thinking, wow, that’s not going to be good for
him. It’s not going to work for him. I realized that he wasn’t going
to be suited for classroom learning. And originally, that was
one of my big reasons was that I knew that a classroom wasn’t
going to be a good place for him.

Other children exhibit the following characteristics in their classroom as noted from an adapted Conners Rating Scale:

✱ Restless in the “squirmy” sense

✱ Excitable, impulsive

✱ Fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities

✱ Is an emotional child

✱ Restless or overactive

✱ Does not appear to listen to what is being said to him

✱ Leaves seat in classroom or in other situations in which remaining seated is expected

✱ Inattentive, easily distracted

✱ Has difficulty waiting his turn

✱ Does not know how to make friends

✱ Fidgeting

✱ Disturbs other children

✱ Talks excessively

✱ Runs about in situations where it is inappropriate

✱ Has poor social skills

✱ Fidgets with hands or feet

✱ Demands must be met immediately—easily frustrated

✱ Blurts out answers to questions before the questions have been completed

✱ Interrupts or intrudes on others

✱ Easily distracted by extraneous stimuli

✱ Restless, always up and on the go

Have you noticed any similar symptoms in your students? Let’s continue on to the accepted definition of ADHD, which has become the umbrella term for attention-deficit/hyperactivity

disorder of all types. So we are all clear on exactly what we mean by attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), here is the well-accepted, current definition of it according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSMIV-TR):

The essential feature of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
is a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity impulsivity
that is more frequently displayed and more severe
than is typically observed in individuals at a comparable level
of development (Criterion A). Some hyperactive-impulsive or
inattentive symptoms that cause impairment must have been
present before age 7 years, although many individuals are diagnosed
after the symptoms have been present for a number
of years, especially in the case of individuals with the Predominantly
Inattentive Type (Criterion B). (APA, 2000, p. 85)

The DSM-IV-TR categorizes these children into four types:

✱ Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Combined Type

✱ Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Predominantly Inattentive Type

✱ Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type

✱ Attention-Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified (APA, 2000, p. 87)

The inconsistency of these children’s behavior is very frustrating to teachers who work with them. One of the most difficult things about Timmy’s behavior (whom I have discussed previously in this blog) is that it was evidenced by inconsistency. Please read a portion of my notes that I wrote during the time that I worked with Timmy:

This is the first year that the school has allowed him to have gym. Last year, the teacher did not feel that she could run the gym class successfully because she constantly had to manage Timmy’s behavior. I believe that one of the reasons, among others, that he exhibited socially inappropriate behavior in gym class was that he did not know how to play many of the games that the teacher played. Therefore, I taught him many games this year that he had never been taught how to play. For example, I taught him how to play soccer and kickball. Today, I talked the gym teacher into permitting him to participate in the kickball game that she was facilitating in gym class. After teaching him how to kick the ball properly, and run around the bases according to the rules, he made a big kick that enabled him to get two children “home,” as well as himself.

Timmy ran “home” at the same time as a child threw the ball in an attempt to get him out before he crossed the plate. Timmy then took the ball and threw it at the child’s face, hurting him. When he saw the child cry, he felt very badly. I made him apologize. I also had him sit out of the game for a few minutes. There was clearly no “rhyme or reason” for his behavior. He finally had athletic success, yet behaved in a destructive manner.

On the same day that he had displayed the socially inappropriate behavior I just described, he also exhibited socially appropriate behavior. I simply could not explain Timmy’s enigmatic, inconsistent behavior.

Again, my notes: The social studies teacher finished her lesson earlier than expected and allowed the children some free time. Timmy played a clever variation of a Hang-Man game with Hebrew letters for thirty minutes with three other boys and one girl. He was clearly the leader at this game and set up the rules. He was able to negotiate with all of the children who were playing Hang-Man with him. I have witnessed this positive interactive behavior before. This was not parallel playing as with Legos but interactive behavior, where Timmy was laughing and having a good time. He was an equal member of the group, in terms of social interaction.

On that day, Timmy exhibited both socially inappropriate behavior and socially appropriate behavior. When children with ADHD behave in such an inconsistent way, the people around them often misperceive their behavior. These outsiders, as I call them, view these children’s behavior as representing the child. They view ADHD as a disease. That is why you will hear me referring to children who are diagnosed with ADHD as children with ADHD or children who have ADHD rather than ADHD children. These children, our children, have a disorder that affects their behavior. Children with ADHD and their behavior must be viewed as two separate entities, even though these children are ultimately responsible and accountable for their behavior.

Monday, March 14, 2011

How to Manage your Child with ADHD’s Behavior when you have a Flood in your Basement

In many areas of the country, there have been rains the likes of which we have never seen. Due to the eight to ten inches of rain that we have received, the clean-up can be overwhelming. As our children grow out of their toys and clothes, some of us are savers and those who are so, have an overwhelming amount of work to do in terms cleaning up. These cleanups do not just take an hour or even a day, but sometimes, weeks.

So here is the scenario: You begin to clean up that incredible mess and your child with ADHD somehow gets in the way. What can you do to keep him busy so that you can do whatever you have to do in terms cleaning up?

Your dilemma is quite simple. Give him one and only one specific job at a time, whether it is taking Legos out of a wet box and washing each piece, and then drying them, that is the idea. Just to continue, he can categorize the Legos into different colors and then count how many there are of each color. Hopefully, this task will give you at least an hour of uninterrupted time so that you can clean up.

If you need more ideas, please just ask me, and I will quickly respond.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Article: Supporting the Many Ways Children Communicate

Please read this article in Young Children, a journal of the National Association for the Education of Young Children entitled, Supporting the Many Ways Children Communicate. This article begins on page 10 and ends on page 19. Here is the link. If you cannot access this article, please let me know.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

How do you Teach Children with ADHD if you have ADHD yourself, Accompanied by Difficulties with Executive Function?

Some of the graduate and undergraduate students whom I have taught over the years have had ADHD themselves and consequently, have been very nervous about how they were going to manage a class of students with all of the multitasking that goes along with being a successful teacher.

What can they do to help themselves? I tell them that one area, among others, that they should work on improving is their executive function, which is basically like being their own CEO.

Like a CEO-Chief Executive Officer, a teacher must always remember her goals and plans and see the needs and the benefits of projects from end to end. She should work on facilitating the following:

  • To see and to maintain goals
  • To plan and to organize
  • To inhibit competitive processes
  • To monitor these communications and functions
I do not mean to be redundant, BUT it is vital for anyone with difficulties with executive function to plan, to inhibit and to execute, which is oftentimes not as easy as it sounds to do. I often tell my students that when I am working on their lesson plans, I find myself on the Banana Republic website, so I quickly say to myself, “Inhibit this behavior that is interfering with your goals. Stop looking at those clothes and get back to work.” (Truly!)

What kind of difficulties can you expect to experience if you have problems with executive function?

• You may have difficulty with tracking your position through the passage of time and planning accordingly, so you often get burned

• Time is fluid for adults with ADHD: Boring tasks take forever and interesting tasks take no time

• You get lost in the moment: Lost time

• You do not do the right thing at the right time

• You miss transition times (This difficulty may impact how you help you students to manage transitions!)

• You miss deadlines when things take longer than you anticipated

• You run late when you do not plan ahead enough

What are some methods that you can try in order to ameliorate some of your executive function difficulties, such as what many researchers call, sense of time solutions?

 Put up clocks everywhere to keep you aware of the time

 Wear a watch that beeps (in class, you may want to use your cell phone, with your principal’s permission, of course) and keep the vibrate mode on in the alarm mode to keep you aware of time passing

 When doing work on your lesson plans, set alarms on kitchen timers or on PDAs, so that you restrict yourself to completing your work within a specific time frame

 Work backwards in time when you have a specific time that you have to arrive somewhere

 In order to prevent yourself from spending “lost time” on the computer, set a timer so that the you are aware when one hour has expired

Try these methods and let me know how they worked.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

In Honor of a Wondeful Man

To All My Followers:

I am sorry that I have not written entries for my blog over the past few days, but my father-in-law died early last Saturday morning and with the funeral and the extended events, I sadly have been more than a bit preoccupied.

My father died when I was 17 years old, and so my father-in-law, Murray Rapoport, became an extremely supportive father-figure for me. When my father-in-law, “Dad,” saw my blog he looked at it in disbelief, even though at almost 97 years old, up until the past few months, he was computer literate. He just could not fathom how the whole blog enterprise worked. He was truly amazed.

He did, however, enjoy reading the information that my son, Jake always made easy to find in bookmarks at the top of the page on his computer. Jake taught him how to click the bookmarks and gave him a personal tour of how to navigate those bookmarks. He so loved “visiting” the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

He also was an avid reader of my son Ian’s coverage of the New England Patriots on his blog, the Rap Sheet in the Boston Herald, as well as his game stories. He also loved reading my other son Jake’s synopses of baseball, football and basketball that he wrote for a sports newsletter. When I visited him, I showed him the vacation pictures that my daughter Mimi had sent him, and I remember vividly him telling me that seeing those pictures made him feel as if he was on vacation with her. He especially loved, however, seeing the pictures of Mimi and her students that she emailed him.

So, in honor of “Dad,” I will return to writing my blog tomorrow, with information that I hope you will all continue to be interested to read.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Is your Child with ADHD Stubborn? If So, Why is he Stubborn and What Can You Do You Can Do to Help him to Comply to your Requests?

I am sure that none of you have a child with ADHD who is stubborn, right? Now seriously, in my experience, most of us who have a child with ADHD have experienced them being stubborn at one time or another. What is a possible reason that the child with ADHD might behave in a stubborn way? Arguably, one reason that he might be stubborn is that he feels a sense of a loss of control, because so many decisions are being made for him.

Here are some examples of comments and questions that you might have said to children with ADHD and received a negative response:

Why don’t you do your homework when you return from school, so that you are finished with it?

You have to go to sleep in a few minutes, so turn off the video game now.

We have to leave for school in five minutes. Finish eating your breakfast, so that we can go to the bus.

We need to leave for the doctor in a few minutes. Get dressed.

I have tried many approaches in terms of somehow getting children with ADHD to comply with requests from both teachers and parents that they refuse to do. One way to manage these children’s stubbornness is to help them to regain some control over the situation. If you offer them two choices, arguably in most cases, they choose one. By giving them choices, they are the one who takes charge of their life, at least for that moment.

Let us see how we can modify the previous questions, so that children with ADHD will feel some sense of control over their lives.

Why don’t you do your homework when you return from school, so that you are finished with it?

Do you want to do your homework when you return from school or after you check your email for fifteen minutes?

You have to go to sleep in a few minutes, so turn off the video game now.

Since you have to go to sleep in a few minutes, would you rather turn off your video game now or in ten minutes?

We have to leave for school in five minutes. Finish eating your breakfast, so that we can go to the bus.

Since we have to leave for school in five minutes, would you like to finish your breakfast now or would you rather save the rest for a snack when you come home?

We need to leave for the doctor in a few minutes. Get dressed.

Since we have to leave for the doctor in a few minutes, would you like any help getting dressed or would you rather get dressed yourself? (Depending on the child with ADHD’s age, of course).

Let me know if you have tried this method, and whether or not it worked or if it did not work.