Coping With Road Blocks

February 27, 2012 by · 6 Comments 

Recently a number of families I work with have been stymied by their childen getting stuck.  These are children with Asperger Syndrome, nonverbal learning disability, obsessive compulsive disorder, or some combination of those.  During the course of a normal day, these kids hit road blocks that trigger outbursts. Often the cause is a change in plans that seemed inconsequential to you.  You might say, “On our way home, I’m stopping at the grocery.  Want to come in?”  Child: “Nooooo.  You always do this, etc.”  Or you might say, “Your brother has a friend over.”  Child:  “I won’t go in the house.”  Or on a pleasant family outing to an ice cream store you say, “They’re all out of confetti sprinkles, but they have the chocolate ones.” Child:  “Noooooo.”

Any one of these scenarios can trigger an outburst that could last five to forty minutes or more.

You get the picture, and you have been there.  It is very frustrating for a parent to deal with this behavior.  It can seem as though your child is incredibly self-centered, immature or badly behaved.  When it happens in public, it is embarrassing.

You have a child who is wired to be rigid.  Imagine what it must feel like to have your anxiety peak over a minor change in routine.  Imagine that you are headed down the track on a bobsled run and suddenly the track has new turns.  You skid, you careen, and you might be pretty anxious and angry.  I think that is a little of what these children experience.  The emotional discomfort triggers the outrageous behavior.

So what is a parent to do?

First, consider the last paragraph about what a child experiences.  Try to have some empathy for your child.  It’s a tall order, but it is very helpful.

When your child is out of control, concentrate only on what will help him or her settle down.  This means that you cannot argue or reason with him at this time.  You simply do not have a rationale partner for this. On the other hand, I don’t mean offer him the world so he will quiet down.  Just don’t make it worse by arguing and scolding.  That means that you might be in a fairly awkward situation, but there is nothing to be done about it then—once your child is out of control the “horse has left the barn,”  so to speak.

When your child is calm, you can address the situation again if it is still relevant.  But the passage of time may have changed this.

Punishments are not helpful this type of problem. Your child needs to learn to recognize his or her emotional discomfort and learn coping strategies.  No amount of punishment or reward can teach this.

Using empathy, begin a conversation with your child about how to manage the outbursts.  Consult a psychologist if you need to, to help with this.  Once your child is learning some strategies, incentives can be helpful to motivate him or her to use them.

Good luck.  This is a long process.  Because it has to do with neural networks, it will take some time for your child to learn to cope with it.  The important thing to understand is that you do not have a spoiled child—you have a rigid one with poor coping skills.

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You’re too soft! You’re too harsh! When Parents Can’t Agree

February 20, 2012 by · 8 Comments 

Most parents know that they are supposed to agree on childrearing.  It’s better for children if parents present a united front.  That’s all well and good when you agree.  What about when you don’t?  If you have a child who has ADHD, Asperger Syndrome, or anxiety, it is likely that you are presented with behaviors and situations that you did not expect.

Here is a quick list of the major points in coming to agreement.

  1. Acknowledge that it is hard work.  Ross Greene, Ph. D, who wrote The Explosive Child, says he assumes that parents are doing the best they can.  I totally agree.
  2. Find time to talk about the problems without children present.  Difficult, but essential.  Worth the effort.
  3. Try to find and express some empathy for each other. Do you understand enough about your partner’s background and disposition to understand why he acts the way he does?  Perhaps you might ask.
  4. Without blaming tell your partner what you see and how you like things to be.  “I know that Sally pushes your buttons, but I really need you not to explode in anger at her.”  Or, “When I have set a limit with Sally, please do not renegotiate with her.  That undermines me.”  Be willing to listen.
  5. Find where you agree and set a goal for how you want Sally to behave.  This might be, “Start your homework after a 30 minute break after school.  Do this with cooperative behavior.”
  6. Talk to your child together about your expections.  Sally sees that there is a new regime.  She has less room to manipulate, and she will test the system, but ultimately, she will be comforted by this approach.
  7. Follow through.  If Sally goes to Dad to renegotiate the homework agreement, he should politely refuse to engage.  If Sally starts to negotiate with Mom, Mom might need to walk away, but the basic expectation (Start your homework), still stands.
  8. Repeat.  Over and over.  Find a time to talk.  Express understanding and empathy.  State your needs without blame.  Come to an agreement about a goal.  Explain it to your child.  Back each other up.

Sometimes it is too difficult to start this process on your own.  That is where a Parent Coach can be helpful.  I enjoy this type of work because it is so helpful to parents and children.

 

Click here to sign up for my newletter, Parents’ Corner, and receive my free report on how to improve morning routine with children who have ADHD, Asperger Syndrome, or other executive function deficits:  Smoothing Out Your Morning.

Where’s Your Child’s Strength? Bolstering Self Esteem in Children with Learning Disabilities

February 10, 2012 by · 7 Comments 

Having a learning disability is exhausting.  Whether your child has ADHD, or a Nonverbal Learning Disability, or a Language Based Learning Disability, or Asperger Syndrome does not matter.  Learning differently from the way school is taught is hard work.

In order to obtain proper educational services for a child, one must define the difference or deficit.   The child needs to fail to make progress in order to qualify for services.  This is simply how the law is written, but it means that a smart child often has to experience frustration and failure before appropriate services are put into place.  Even if the services are helpful, their delivery distinguishes the child from other learners — the child has to leave the room for support in reading or math, or a special teacher comes in. It is a situation that can grind down self esteem.

What to do?  Where are you child’s strengths?  Perhaps you have some excellent teachers in your school who know where your child has particular talent.  Perhaps you know and can encourage you’re her to take a chance on a non-academic pursuit. These are the parts of life that teachers and parents can encourage so that the child feels competent, even gifted.

I once knew an art teacher who had a depressed teenager with nonverbal learning disability in her class.  She raved about his skill and originality.  His parents had no clue.  The boy had been so down on himself that he denigrated everything he did, including his drawing.  With the teacher’s encouragement he took some drawing classes and produced some fine work.  It helped turn his life around.

Another student I knew who had nonverbal learning disability was on the chunky side.  His parents wanted him to play sports to get exercise and to practice social skills, but his poor coordination made it impossible for him to enjoy any sport with a ball.  His Dad got him involved on a swim team where he excelled.  He was on a team, but he was swimming to beat his own time.  The swimming also helped with his anxiety.

These are just two stories.  There are more.  There are kids who are writing wonderful poems, often about their challenges.  Others I  know are on speech or debate teams.  The precise logic involved in those activities fits their thinking well.  Playing guitar or any other musical instrument can provide calming comfort.  Other children I know excel at archery.

It is as important to find activities in which your child excels as it is to provide tutors and social skills groups.

 

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