Tips to help children with ADHD develop self-control, concentration and problem-solving skills

ADHD supportSusan Young, author of The STAR Program, talks about the innovative methods she has developed to help children with ADHD  develop their self-control, concentration and problem-solving skills.

I started working with young people with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) over 20 years ago. The clinical picture has changed over these years due to research, which has considerably advanced our scientific knowledge and understanding about the aetiology, presentation, treatment and prognosis of ADHD. ADHD is now recognised to be a lifespan condition yet, despite international guidelines on the assessment, treatment and management of ADHD, too many young people reach adulthood with undiagnosed ADHD. As a psychologist, I am less concerned with a “clinical” diagnosis than the functional problems associated with inattention and the immediate or longer-term effects on a child’s development and life satisfaction. As a mother I know how worrying this can be and, as a clinician, I know that steps can be taken to help and support a child in overcoming these difficulties. I know how important it is for everyone to work together to help children effect change in their lives, so I wanted to develop an intervention that may involve teachers, parents/carers and the children themselves. We do not often intervene directly with children and treatments: we usually aim to make change by teaching those who interact with them to change the environment around them in some way. I think this underestimates our children’s abilities and misses an important opportunity. Why can we teach children academic skills but not life skills? I wrote the STAR Intervention to provide these life skills to children, their parents/carers and, hopefully, others involved in their care. Continue reading

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Strategies in Supporting Children with Special Needs around Death and Dying

“My grandma isn’t a dinosaur. Why are the dinosaurs in this book teaching about death?”

“My dad’s not a leaf. I don’t understand what falling leaves have to do with him dying.”

“My aunt died. Why is everyone saying she’s in a better place?”

Metaphors, symbolic language, euphemisms. These all present challenges for many children with special needs who process information in a concrete manner. The quotes above encapsulate some of the feedback we have heard during our work in hospice care and in special education, as parents describe their struggle with explaining death and dying to their children. We wrote I Have a Question about Death: A Book for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder or Other Special Needs to address these challenges, and to create a book that parents and caregivers can read with all children.

Complicated subjects like death and dying can be particularly daunting to discuss with children, and even more so when those children have special learning needs; there is often no easy answer to difficult questions. The following strategies provide guidance on supporting a child with special needs around death and dying. Remember, every child processes information in a unique manner; consider which approach will work best for the children in your life based on strategies that have been successful in other scenarios. For instance, consider if the child learns best through visual cues, or through repetition. Do he/she process information best in short spurts? Does he/she have auditory processing or sensory-based challenges? Most of all, remember that special education is just good education! These strategies can work for all children.

  1. Straight Talk:

Though one might be tempted to “soften” the topic with “gentle” language, it can be more helpful to use the actual words, like “death” or “died” when talking with a child. Use concrete language and avoid euphemisms. Phrases like, “they are in a better place” or “they have passed” can lead to more confusion and anxiety.

  1. Preparation:

Consider using a short picture story, or checklist, to help provide a framework for next steps, especially if preparing them to attend a funeral or memorial service. Pictures, repetition, and perhaps even doing a “practice drive” to the funeral home, church or synagogue can help the child understand what to expect. Have a trusted adult on hand to be with the child if they need a break during the service.

  1. Emotions:

Many children with special needs have difficulty reading the emotional cues of other people. Preparing them for emotions they and others might experience can be helpful. Let them know some people may be sad and crying, and it’s ok if they feel the same way. Preparing for the emotional aspects of the experience with pictures or images, such as those provided by Symbol Stix (www.n2y.com), can be particularly useful.

  1. Sensory Processing:

After someone dies, disruptions in routines are common. Many more people may be in the child’s home, and there are likely new sounds, more hugs, and other changes that can challenge a child’s sense of order. Consider what sensory-based strategies have been helpful for the child in the past, and utilize those during this experience. Perhaps the child might need to take a break in a quiet room, hold a comforting toy, crash into a pile of pillows, or swing outside.

  1. Remembrance:

Support the child in remembering the person who died in meaningful and accessible ways. Ideas include creating a memory box filled with pictures or other mementos; helping to make connections for the child as to the impact of this person on their lives (i.e. if riding a train together, remembering a trip they took in the past with the person who died); or creating a short picture story about the person and their death, and ways they remember him/her.

  1. A New Normal:

When possible, try to maintain routines, as they are likely comforting to the child. However, do expect the possibility of regression, as the child may turn to self-soothing behaviors or show traits of an earlier developmental phase. Lean on your existing team of supporters, including teachers, school counselors, therapists, and friends.

  1. Communication:

If the child can communicate verbally, through assisted communication devices or in other ways, continue to encourage questions, even if the questions have no easy answer. We received much feedback about this issue when researching our book, as parents shared how difficult it had been to support a child around the questions that do not have a clear answer (“Why does someone die?” and “What happens to someone after they die?”). Continue to keep the lines of communication open, and acknowledge the frustration around not having a concrete answer to difficult questions.

Death and dying brings up myriad emotions for each of us, which certainly affects how we help our children cope. Keep in mind that you are already an expert when it comes to your child.  Relying on previously established strategies and support systems will go a long way in helping your child process this change in a healthy and developmentally appropriate way. This will lay the foundation for coping with other unexpected events and challenges throughout his/her life.

Arlen Grad Gaines, LCSW-C, ACHP-SW is a licensed clinical social worker with an advanced certification in hospice and palliative care based in Bethesda, Maryland. She is co-author of I Have a Question about Death: A Book for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder or Other Special Needs (Jessica Kingsley Publishers).

Meredith Englander Polsky, MSW, MS Special Education, founded Matan (www.matankids.org) in 2000, and has helped improve Jewish education for thousands of children with special needs. She co-authored  I Have a Question about Death: A Book for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder or Other Special Needs (Jessica Kingsley Publishers).

Please visit their website at www.ihaveaquestionbook.com for more information.

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With dyslexia comes the determination to succeed – Margaret Malpas

dyslexiaMargaret Malpas, author of Self-fulfilment with Dyslexia, explains how it is not just talent that makes people successful but rather the strength of character to succeed. Admitting that dyslexic people may well struggle academically at an early age, she nonetheless asserts that with dyslexia comes the determination to prove your critics wrong.

Download the extract

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Teach primary school children how to count with this fun lesson plan

Try this fun and engaging maths activity designed to teach primary school children how to count, taken from Claire Brewer and Kate Bradley’s new book 101 Inclusive and SEN Maths Lessons for P Level Learning.

Magic Number

Resources

Whiteboard and pen for each child or number fan for each child

Activity

  • The teachers tells the children that they are thinking of a number.
  • Give the children some clues, such as ‘It is one more than three, or two times two.’
  • Ask the children to write the number on the board or find it on the number fan. After a few minutes say ‘One, two, three, show me’ and ask the class to show their numbers.
  • Everyone puts the board down and claps or stamps the total, and then takes another turn.

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Creative, Successful, Dyslexic book launch

Rooke_Creative-Succes_978-1-84905-653-3_colourjpg-printThe launch of Margaret Rooke’s Creative, Successful, Dyslexic in paperback at Newham bookshop last Thursday was a celebration of the determination, creativity and outlook that dyslexia brings with it.

Involving a panel of experts in dyslexia as well as a special guest appearance from You Magazine’s ‘Agony Aunt’ Zelda West-Meads, the launch saw some inspirational talks.

“The most important thing,” Zelda revealed, “is for a child with dyslexia to know it’s nothing to do with intelligence, just something that gets in the way of their learning.  They should use it to be determined to be successful!” Continue reading

Read an exclusive extract from Alison Thompson’s ‘The Boy from Hell’

Thompson-Bremne_Boy-from-Hell_978-1-78592-015-8_colourjpg-printFor Alison, life with her son Daniel sometimes seemed like an endless torrent of disobedience, backchat, rudeness, name-calling and aggression. Upon starting school, where his aggression and lack of concentration concerned teachers, Daniel was given a vague diagnosis of borderline Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which was later changed to ADHD with secondary Oppositional Defiant Disorder and autistic traits. In this unapologetically honest account of the first 18 years of Daniel’s life, Alison exposes her own worries, doubts, and exceptional courage at every pivotal turn in Daniel’s life. Interspersing the narrative with tips and advice on what she has found useful – or not – in bringing up Daniel, Alison also provides encouraging guidance for teachers and fellow parents. This book also raises serious questions about how the education system supports children with special needs, and if medication can be the answer to managing ADHD in children.

Click here to download the extract <

Read an exclusive extract from ‘The Parents’ Guide to Specific Learning Difficulties’ by Veronica Bidwell

Bidwell_Parents-Guide-t_978-1-78592-040-0_colourjpg-print

Packed full of advice and practical strategies for parents and educators, this book is a one-stop-shop for supporting children with Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs).

Covering a spectrum of SpLDs, ranging from poor working memory, dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia, through to ADHD, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), auditory processing disorder (APD), specific language impairment and visual processing disorder, it explains clearly what each difficulty is, how it can affect a child’s learning and how to help them to succeed despite their difficulties.

“A treasure trove of useful information and practical advice for the parents of children with Specific Learning Difficulties and anyone who teaches them… It really is a must-have.” -Claudine Goldingham BA LLB (Dist.), a dyslexic and mother of two dyslexic and dyspraxic girls

Click here to download the extract

We talked to Veronica Bidwell about her new book, ‘The Parents’ Guide to Specific Learning Difficulties’

Bidwell_Parents-Guide-t_978-1-78592-040-0_colourjpg-printPacked full of advice and practical strategies for parents and educators, this book is a one-stop-shop for supporting children with Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs).  We talked to Veronica about how she came to write the book, about her long experience as an Educational Psychologist, and what advice she has for parents whose child has an SpLD. 

What inspired you to write this book?

I always wanted a book that I could give to parents which they could use for reference.  I wanted a book that would explain the various learning difficulty labels, and one that would provide advice and support.  It has been difficult to find such a book, so I decided to write it myself.

For most parents it can be really daunting to find that their child has a Specific Learning Difficulty (SpLD) and that they will need to roll up their sleeves and get to work.  Unlike teachers and other educational professionals, parents have had no training.  It can be hard for them to know where to start.

Parents need guidance.  My hope is that this book will be of help.  I hope it will provide encouragement and that the stories included will inspire optimism. Continue reading