Monday, October 31, 2011

In Response to my Own Blog Entry/Question: Have you Emailed a Teenager with ADHD and Received no Response?


Before I drive back home from the Starbucks in which I am sitting, due to the power outage in our area, I have to tell you a great, short story. In my previous post, (to which I refer above), I have had a difficult time getting the children with whom I work to either email or text me. 

Last night, I learned that sometimes due to an emergency situation, things change. I have a Russian Tortoise whom we added to our household in 1991, whose name is Leonardo. At any rate, I really like this guy and want him to survive as long as possible. (I know that some of you are surprised that I am into turtles. I have always been so, ever since I was a child). My house began to get very, very cold because we lost our power on Saturday at about 2:00 P.M.

After finding out from our wonderful power monopoly, Con Edison, that we would not get our power back until Wednesday, November 2, I knew that Leonardo would never survive the freezing temperatures in my house until Wednesday. I had gone into his room to check on him earlier and he seemed warm, but when I went in to check on him a few hours later, he was very cold. I called one of the families with whom I work, who lives close to me and asked them if they could take Leonardo until our power returned.

They were so gracious and agreed to take him, immediately. I brought the turtle over to their house and both of the kids were enthralled not only with him, but additionally, with the idea of taking care of him.
I began to realize that this would be the best social skills lesson ever! This was certainly a lesson in responsibility. First of all, the child with whom I work had to keep their cat (aghhhhh) away from Leonardo. Second of all, he had to attach two different heater lights, one that was for the daytime and the other that was for the nighttime.

This Really is a Huge Deal!!

As I was leaving, I told him that I was going to give him another responsibility in addition to taking care of Leonardo. I told him that this added responsibility was to text me to tell me how Leonardo was doing. This may not seem like a huge deal to many of you. However, this child has always been too anxious to text anyone! He has a great phone and certainly knows how to text, but he has never done so. Last night, around 8:30, I received this text from the child with whom I work:

“Leonardo is okay. He seems bored. I’m having him stay in my room tonight with the door shut. Don”t worry about Lucky (the cat).”

Then, just now, I received this text:
“Leonardo is doing great. I have him next to me so I can watch him and my cat is locked out of the room.”

I guess that sometimes when something is so hard for a child to do and he realizes that others are depending upon him to do so, all of a sudden, it becomes easier to do so. I am so happy that this child finally texted and communicated with me. After all of my requests, who ever thought that an October snowstorm would get him to do something that he previously just could not get himself to do? Great story??

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Hurtful Moments: Teenagers with ADHD who are Ignored by their Peers

The teenage years are filled with experiences with peers that are both exhilarating and hurtful. There is no reason to talk about the exhilarating moments, because they speak for themselves. However, the hurtful moments need to be discussed.

The first place to begin our discussion is that teenagers with ADHD oftentimes misread their relationships with peers. In other words, they may think that they are a peer’s best friend even though that person does not think of them as their best friend. Just hanging out with someone does not mean that they are best friends. But your teenager says, “I have known her since kindergarten!” In the same way as people’s interests change, their friendships change, as well.

The vital issue here is that teenagers with ADHD have to learn to understand who are their friends, who are their acquaintances, and most importantly, who does not want to be either a friend or an acquaintance. Sometimes, this misreading of their relationships with peers may be self-protective.

Oftentimes, however, it may be that due to their ADHD, they do not have a worldview of their behavior. In other words, they do not see how others are observing their behavior. Other teenagers may be giving the teenagers with ADHD cues, so that they will understand that they do not want to interact with them. For example, an acute cue is that they do not invite that teenager with ADHD to their party.
A more subtle cue might be that when they are at a school football game, the teenager with ADHD might quickly walk up to the other teenagers and say hi and receive no response…none. Being ignored is one of the most hurtful things that can happen to a teenager, nonetheless, a teenager with ADHD who so desperately wants to make friends.

For example, the teenager is standing there waiting for their peers to talk to them and instead, they continue talking to their other friends, and ignore the teenager with ADHD in an obvious way. If the teenager stays there for some time, they begin to realize that they are being purposely ignored. Not only is the teenager with ADHD embarrassed, but additionally, they do not know what to do. Do they try to talk anyway? Do they walk away?

What ideas do you have as to what teenagers with ADHD should do after they realize that they are being ignored by their peers?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Have you Emailed or Texted a Teenager with ADHD and Received no Response…Why does that Happen?

Teenagers are literally and figuratively attached to their cell phones. That being said, they seem to find it difficult to email or text adults. Let’s talk about some possible reasons for this lack of communication.

Perhaps this difficulty has to do with anxiety concerning whether or not those conversations will be confidential.

Perhaps as fluid as the conversation between teenagers with ADHD and the adults may be, by the time that the teenager emails that adult, he does not know what to say.

Perhaps teenagers with ADHD have more difficulty writing about themselves than they do talking about those issues.

Perhaps they forget to write back.

Perhaps they are not aware of email courtesy; when you receive an email, you write a return email. (Many people are not aware of email courtesy, however!)

Have any of you experienced this problem and been
successful in getting teenagers with ADHD to email or text
 you back? Please tell us about it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Come to Hear me Speak this Friday at 8:00 A.M. at the NY State CEC Conference in Rochester, N.Y.

Come to Hear me Speak this Friday, 8:00 A.M., at the N.Y. Council for Exceptional Children N.Y. State Conference, Rochester, N.Y.

I am presenting at the New York State Council for Exceptional Children Conference this Friday from 8:00 A.M. to 8:50 A.M. in Rochester, N.Y.

The conference is being held at the Radisson Hotel Rochester Riverside, 120 East Main Street, Rochester, New York 14604, USA. The phone number of the hotel is 585-546-6400.

I am presenting in the Fitzhugh Room.

Here are two links to the conference FYI:

If you follow my blog, please come up to speak to me after the presentation!!!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Assistive Technology Information (Courtesy of Education Week)

(See link below)
Published Online: October 12, 2011

Published in Print: October 13, 2011, as Assistive Technology: Write Answers

Assistive Technology: Write Answers

By Francesca Duffy


Assistive technology is designed to make hard or even seemingly impossible tasks doable—and for students with
 disabilities, writing can be one of the hardest school tasks of all. But since difficulties in writing are wide-ranging
—and technology is rapidly evolving—finding the right AT device can be an ordeal.

One key is to ensure you understand the student’s challenges first, and then to match the right technology to his or
her needs, speech-language pathologist Joan Green, author of The Ultimate Guide to Assistive Technology in
 Special Education
, says. For example, a word-prediction program, which only requires a few keystrokes before it
 generates word lists for the user to choose from, can help students with severe spelling problems who do not benefit
 from regular spell checkers. On the other hand, tools such as graphic organizers can be more helpful to students who
 have difficulties generating ideas and organizing coherent thoughts.

Although Green generally encourages educators to use free online resources, she says a digital pen, such as the Livescribe
, is a worthy investment for some students. “I use this with kids who have difficulty taking notes in class,” she says.
The Livescribe Pen (which costs up to $170) captures the audio in the classroom, which can then be uploaded and shared
online. Students can later tap on the notes they took during class and hear the audio recorded at the moment they were
writing. The pen is most helpful for students who have trouble catching the main points during class, since they no longer
have to worry about missing out on what was said while they were taking notes.

Free Assistive-Tech Writing Resources

Graphic Organizer
Graphic organizers help to get an individual started with the writing process by providing organization and
structure and allowing students to develop writing ideas through outlines and brainstorming. This software
 application, which offers free and paid plans, consists of mind-mapping and brainstorming activities that
help to foster creativity.

Multi-Function Literacy Support
Universal Design for Learning Tech Toolkit
This website provides a number of free resources, including tools to help students throughout the writing
process, such as text-to-speech features, graphic organizers, and tools that compensate for handwriting issues.

Made for students who struggle not just with the writing process but with reading and studying, this software
comes with a literacy toolbar, which includes programs such as mind mapping, screen masking, word prediction,
a talking dictionary, and text-to-speech that help students get a written message across. The package can be
downloaded for free.

Spelling Software
Vocabulary and
The goal of this program is to help improve the user’s spelling and vocabulary skills. Features include word
games such as crossword puzzles, HangMouse, and other activities that utilize the words entered by the user.
Users can hear words read aloud to them as well as how they are used in a sentence. There is also a “Teacher
Resources” section that shows teachers how to incorporate this program into classroom activities.

Visual Dictionaries
This site uses images and graphics from Flickr, Google, and Yahoo to convey a word's meaning.

This online dictionary uses diagrams to demonstrate a word's links and connections to other words to help
 students better understand its meaning.

WordQ is another tool that Green favors, saying she even uses it herself. The software assists with typing
and proofreading by providing features such as word prediction, highlighting, and auditory feedback. The
program (which costs around $200) also reads back text as the user types. “You’re less likely to miss errors in
 your work when you hear your writing said aloud,” says Green. “And when you’re stuck with spelling, it gives
 you a list.”

Debra Bauder, president of the Special Education Technology Special Interest Group of the International Society
 of Technology and Education, recommends a program called Inspiration, a graphic organizer that can serve
 students with ADHD, autism, dyslexia, aphasia, or those who simply struggle with organizing their writing. The
goal of the software (which costs $69 for a single user) is to engage kids in the writing process through diagrams,
outlines, graphics, video, and sound. Teachers can link up the software to an interactive whiteboard to demonstrate
 it for the class. “It’s the whole idea of engagement that gets them involved in the learning process,” says Bauder,
also an associate professor of special education at the University of Louisville in Kentucky.

In addition, Bauder says that some well-known (and free) Google tools can serve as effective assistive-writing
 options. For example, Google Scribe. Word prediction was originally for individuals with disabilities, but now
 its for anyone encountering writing difficulties, says Bauder. She adds that purchasing assistive-tech developer
Don Johnston's word-prediction program is a good next step to consider after using Google Scribe, if more
 comprehensive services are needed.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

How much Patience can we Expect from the High School Educators who Teach Adolescents with ADHD?

Teenagers with ADHD are arguably not easy for parents to manage. They are distractible, forgetful and oftentimes hyperfocused on things such as video games and computer games that interfere with what they should be doing, for instance, homework. Additionally, they are characterized by other more typical teenage behaviors such as stubbornness that we see adolescents exhibit who do NOT have ADHD.

I have seen parents become impatient with their teenagers who have ADHD, which is understandable in consideration of how complicated it can be to manage their behavior. In addition to managing children with ADHD’s behavior, teachers have to manage these children’s academics, as well. Patience may wane when one has to manage both behavior and academics.

Let us talk about teenagers with ADHD in high school and the educators who teach them. I have attended meetings to discuss the needs of the adolescents with whom I work, and the teachers whom I have met are hard-working people who try very hard to meet the needs of the teenagers with ADHD whom they teach.
These teachers are experts in their particular fields, such as History, Science, Math and English, along with Visual Arts. However, they are not special educators. That being said, they are asked to teach children with special needs who are mandated to be included in regular classrooms, teenagers who are very bright, but have ADHD, written language disabilities, general anxiety disorder, etc. These teachers may be patient to a point, but is it possible that we are expecting too much when we ask them to continue to be patient when the teenager is not handing in his homework, is distracted in class, and refuses to take out his materials that are required in order to complete the day’s class work?

The answer to my question is that we are NOT expecting too much from these teachers. I believe that people choose teaching as a career path for other reasons than just because they love a subject area and want to educate children on that particular subject. Individuals choose teaching because they have a calling. They realize that both children and adolescents have needs that must be satisfied, and they want to be the ones to service either of those groups.
That being said, teaching middle or high school is challenging and teaching middle school and/or high school students with ADHD may be very frustrating, due to the persistent nature of those children’s symptoms. Medication does help these children to focus but it does not erase all of their inappropriate behaviors, i.e., not listening, interrupting, calling out in class, not following directions and instructions, forgetting to do their homework, forgetting to hand in their homework, among many other symptoms.

One of the ways that teachers can retain their level of patience is to become knowledgeable concerning methods and interventions that will help these adolescents to become self-regulated and therefore, accountable. Teachers may remain patient if they see that the adolescent with whom they work is trying to be responsible for his own work. These adolescents must be guided by their teachers in order to become as structured as possible, in terms of completing their own checklists in order to monitor the following:

Ø  Morning routines

Ø  End of day routines

Ø  At home routines

Ø  Homework routines

Ø  Attention

Ø  Long-term projects

Ø  Studying for quizzes and tests

Ø  Organizing their backpacks

Ø  Self-control

 Let me know what you think….

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Today is your Meeting with your Child with ADHD’s Teachers: What Questions should you Ask?

For some reason, many parents enter into meetings with their child with ADHD’s teachers and do not know what to ask. Additionally, due to the fact that they feel intimidated, they tend to ask few questions, if any at all.

Here are some specific questions that you might ask:

Is my child on grade level?

Which subjects are his strengths?

Is he keeping up with his homework assignments and projects?

Is my child making friends?

Is he interacting with his peers in a free environment, such as recess and/or lunch?

Is he taking responsibility for his belongings?

Is he raising his hand to answer questions in class?

Is his behavior appropriate when the teacher is giving instructions and/or teaching a lesson?

Does he pay attention to instructions and then follow them?

These questions are just some suggestions. What other questions have you asked your child’s teachers in your meetings?


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Shouldn’t Adults Know Better than to Make Critical Comments to Children/Teenagers with ADHD?

Since it is the beginning of the school year, children and teenagers with ADHD are getting to know their new teachers. It is imperative that these children’s teachers become educated about ADHD, so that they will know how to teach their students with ADHD in the most optimal way. Additionally, the manner in which they approach children with ADHD will have a strong impact upon these children’s confidence, which arguably will be associated with their increased academic achievement.

Everyone who has interacted with children with ADHD are acutely aware of their symptoms, which includes distractibility, excessive verbiage, and hyperactivity, among other symptoms. These children’s symptoms are real. ADHD IS REAL! That being said, children with ADHD may be taught to diminish these symptoms, but they will always be there at some level.

ADHD is a life-long disorder and the accompanying symptoms are life-long as well. I am not saying that ADHD should be viewed as an excuse for children/teenagers who are diagnosed with it for not adhering to their many school requirements, such as completing their homework, handing in their homework, or remembering their teachers’ instructions.

However, it is critical that teachers become aware that children/teenagers with ADHD are not purposely ignoring their school responsibilities. Believe me, these students would much rather be adhering to the class requirements than having to tell the teacher that they have not completed their work. Imagine having to tell a teacher in high school that not only did you not hand in the homework, but that you forgot to do it, or for some other reason, you did not do the homework? Will teachers understand? Will they understand that because a child is looking out of the window when the lesson is being taught, when he is asked a question, he arguably will not know the answer?

One of the many problems that I have come across is that even though arguably some teachers are informed about the symptoms of ADHD, they do not understand ADHD nor do they understand why these children are exhibiting these symptoms. Due to their lack of understanding of ADHD, they make critical comments to the child/teenager with ADHD.

Here is a scenario that I have recently heard: A child with ADHD was in middle school and had a Special Education teacher shadow him. She talked to him about his homework and she helped him to try to stay organized and on track, etc. That being said, he had quite a bit of leeway in middle school regarding handing in his homework, which one might construe as a strategy that was not optimal. However, that being said, it was what really occurred.

In addition to his ADHD, he had great difficulty writing in a clear and legible way.  I am sure that he has a written language disability that was either misdiagnosed or ignored by the school. None of his teachers seemed to understand that his handwriting was an actual disability, and would often say that when he wrote slowly, his handwriting was legible. His handwriting was legible when he wrote one sentence or his name. After that, the quality of his handwriting quickly diminished.  Additionally, it seemed as if his teachers were completely unaware that he had an IEP that delineated his accommodations. When the teacher called his Mom, she complained that he was not taking notes in class. His Mom pointed out that his IEP mandated that all of his teachers were required to give him a copy of the class notes each day! How could his teacher not know about his accommodations?

Despite the great difficulty that he experienced when he did his written class work, which was largely due to how laborious writing was for him, the Special Education teacher in middle school decided that he was too dependent upon help. Therefore, she decided that when he entered high school, he would only be assisted by a teacher in the learning center who worked with many children in addition to him. She was more of a facilitator who watched him do his homework in her room, along with checking with the other teachers concerning whether or not he was doing his work. She did not specifically work with him.

He was given some leeway the first week of high school in terms of handing his homework in late to his teachers. By the second week, however, he was expected to hand in all of his homework on time, but did not do so. I believe that he was so used to being permitted to hand in his homework late in middle school, so that was what he continued to do. The learning center teacher wrote an email to his Mom explaining that his teachers told her that he was not handing in his homework on time. She not only seemed extremely surprised that he had not handed in his homework on time, or at all, but in addition, she had not talked to him about this problem!

The only thing that she did was to ask his Mom if she could make sure that he checked the school website every day for the due dates of his homework, as well as the upcoming tests and projects!!!! I am sure that you are saying, “What? Are you kidding?” I would agree with you!

Additionally, he was unfocused in some classes some of the time. For example, during Biology, while the head teacher was teaching, he was looking out of the window. By the time he focused again, he did not realize that the teacher had told the students that they were required to do a worksheet in class on the experiment that they had recently completed. When he realized a few minutes later that he had to do the worksheet, he completed it.

However, because he had not listened to a large part of the lecture, when the assistant teacher asked him a question, he did not immediately know the answer. He had written down the answers to the questions on the worksheet, but could not remember the answer right away, and worse than that, he could not read his answers. At that point, the assistant teacher said to him, “Are you sure that you want to stay in this class?” He became very upset, because he felt that she was implying to him that he could not do the work for that class. 

He said, “I like this class. I like the subject, and I am just making friends with the kids at my table.” He also said, “Another kid at my table changed to an art class, but I already have an art class. I do not want to change classes.” He also said, “I do not like the assistant teachers at all. All they do is say bad things to me. One of the assistant teachers said to me ‘Why can’t you pay attention. Stop fidgeting in your seat. Can you read this assignment? Did she think that I was retarded? She said this to me on front of the other kids.”

My question to you is “Shouldn’t adults know better than to make a statement to a teenager that he might construe as meaning that he could not do the work in a particular class? The fact that he was momentarily distracted does not mean that he was not interested in the class, nor does it mean that he could not do the work associated with the class.

What do you think? I have one comment…aghhhhhh