Mainstreaming Vs. Special Education

Mainstreaming refers to the integration of children with special needs in a regular/ traditional classroom environment alongside children their age without disabilities. This is in contrast to giving them specialized/ individualized education separated from peers whether that takes the form of separate classes within the school, hospital separate specialized schools, homeschooling or any other segregated arrangement.

Is Mainstreaming for My Child?
Like any other educational option, mainstreaming has advantages and disadvantages. Advocates point to the unrestricted access to general education that mainstreaming provides. Children with disabilities can avail themselves of the same curriculum offered to other kids their age. Specialized educational opportunities, on the other hand, can be so expensive that they are out of the reach of many parents.

Another benefit of mainstreaming put forth by advocates is that it helps children with disabilities feel part of the whole; it promotes diversity and equality in the classroom. Feelings of normalcy and acceptability are enhanced when a disabled child is welcomed into the community of “normal” children. By contrast, when children with disabilities are given special classes, there’s a risk that they will feel ostracized and isolated.

There are those, however, who feel that mainstreaming does more harm than good. Instead of making children with disabilities feel that they can lead normal lives, mainstreaming may actually make these children feel “different” – self-conscious of their challenges and handicaps. Of course, some children with disabilities mix better than others, depending on their disability. For instance, “invisible disabilities” like learning and perceptual disorders, may be more mainstreaming-friendly than, say, a behavioral condition like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Asperger’s Syndrome.

Furthermore, there is the issue of qualified teachers and disability-compatible teaching tools and methodologies. Not all teachers in traditional schools are sensitive enough, knowledgeable enough or skilled enough to work well with children with disabilities. Specialized instruction in more appropriate settings may sometimes provide superior learning opportunities more targeted to the child’s special needs.

Considering all these factors, it is clear that the decision to mainstream must always be an individual one, based on considerations such as financial resources, the child’s unique personality, the nature of his or her disability, the suitability of the mainstreaming institution and its resources, and the qualifications of available educators. The question is not “is mainstreaming preferable?” but rather, “is mainstreaming preferable for MY child?”

What If I Do Decide to Mainstream My Child?
If you do decide to mainstream your child, it’s important that you constantly monitor your child’s adjustment. Depending on the child, increased socialization with peers without disability can be a good or bad thing. Some may feel challenged – and indeed mainstreamed kids do report being motivated to do better in a mainstreaming school – but others may just feel additional stress. Some may develop lasting friendships, others may get bullied, teased or ostracized.

But there are many things parents can do to prepare their children for mainstreaming. Enhancing their self-esteem and self-worth is a good start. If kids are raised confident of their person, they are less likely to bow down at the face of adversity. Parents must also emphasize that their children have their constant support and love.

On the technical side, parents must exert effort to educate the administrators, instructors and classmates in the mainstreaming school about the child’s disability – unless it is the deliberate choice of the child to keep it hidden, which is their right. If the people around a child with disability are aware of what are the child’s special needs, they would better be able to make reasonable accommodation.

Eating to Improve Focus, Attention, and Concentration

There are lots of reasons why a child might have trouble focusing – there are so many possible internal and external challenges. Some children’s brains have a very low tolerance for boredom; for these kids focus is hard to attain unless they are engaged in an activity that holds their interest. Some kids have such active minds that everything seems to grab their attention, viagra making it hard for them to zero in one on just one thing. Teens are particularly prone to self-induced fatigue (from staying up too late) which makes focused attention hard for them. Moreover, health in today’s world of beeping, bleeping toys and tools, everyone seems to have a harder time focusing.

No matter why a child is having trouble focusing. dietary changes may help. Consider the following tips:

Certain Foods Contribute to Inattention
Many studies associate sugar consumption with symptoms of restlessness and inattention. Different children have different levels of reactivity and sensitivity to different kinds of sugar. The only way to know whether removing a particular sugar is going to help your child’s ability to focus, is to experiment. Having said this, keep in mind that most people of all ages suffer negative effects of high amounts of sugar in the diet. To do your experiment, remove, or even just significantly reduce, a source of sugar from your child’s diet and note what happens. Start with high glycemic sugars like white sugar and brown sugar. Move on to maple syrup, honey and agave. If you are using other sugars, remove them as well as part of your experiment. What is wrong with processed and refined sugar? They would immediately go to your child’s bloodstream, increasing his or her blood glucose level. High blood glucose means that your body will have difficulty metabolizing essential nutrients. The immediate impact of high blood glucose is stress inside the body, making it difficult to focus and concentrate.

Increase Protein
Centers in the brain responsible for attention and focus rely on two amino acids: tyrosine and tryptophan. Consuming a diet rich in these two amino acids can help increase focus. Protein-rich foods like meat, eggs and dairy products are high in tyrosine and tryptophan. The same goes for soy, nuts and legumes. Bananas, brown rice, tomatoes, avocado, pineapples and beets are also good vegetarian sources of tyrosine and tryptophan. In addition, there are natural tyrosine and tryptophan supplements available in health stores.

Eat Moderately
Note: the ability to focus depends not just on what you eat, but on how much you eat. If your child eats too much – even if the food is wholesome –  feelings of fatigue and lethargy may impact on the ability to concentrate. Similarly, eating too little will make a child prone to hunger pangs and stress – making it all the more difficult to concentrate. Children in the habit of skipping meals are less likely to be able to focus than children who eat on time regularly.

Consider Food Sensitivities
Sometimes food intolerances, sensitivities or allergies can agitate a child’s entire body and mind. This can cause a range of disturbances that might impact on concentration and focus such as foggy brain, hyperactivity, distractibility, anxious feelings and more. A professional naturopath, dietician, allergist, medical doctor or other health care provider may be able to help you explore this possible cause of focusing difficulties. Or, you may experiment with adding and subtracting foods from the diet in a systematic way to note whether concentration improves or worsens in relation to those changes.

When Your Child Hates Reading

Love of reading helps a child in so many ways: it facilitates school learning, career functioning, lifelong professional and personal learning, and of course endless personal pleasure. When a child dislikes reading, on the other hand, his or her school performance and work performance can suffer. As serious as this is, parents often feel helpless to fix the situation – they don’t know how to get their youngster to enjoy reading. Fortunately, there ARE things that parents can do when they know how.

If your child hates to read, consider the following tips:

Try to Discover Why Your Child Dislikes Reading
Figuring out the reasons why your child hates reading helps point to solutions. For instance, if your child doesn’t like to read because he or she is finds it boring, it can sometimes be because the child’s poor reading skills slow down comprehension so much that the lag time between sounding out words and getting the storyline is too large – the story becomes boring. If so, you share the reading task so as to speed things up: you read a sentence and then the child reads a sentence or you read a paragraph and then the child reads a few sentences or you read a page and then the child reads a paragraph or two.  Share enough to make the story go quickly and make the child’s reading task shorter and less arduous. In this way, the child can learn that reading brings excitement and pleasure and this knowledge becomes a powerful motivator for pushing through the difficulty of acquiring the necessary skill-set.

Of course, it could be that the exercise is boring because it IS boring! Perhaps the literature that is written for the child’s reading level is simply uninteresting. This would be unfortunate because the child might get the wrong idea that books are boring. If this happens, be sure to get simple books out of the library that cover interesting topics and help your child read through these. In addition, make sure to get some really interesting books at higher reading levels and READ them to your child. This will not retard your child’s reading skill; rather, it will inspire the child to want to learn to read. It will also help the child to become a reader eventually, as the child begins to integrate the patterns of reading into his or her own mind as a result of listening to you read.

It is also possible that your child thinks of reading as “homework” rather than as something that someone freely chooses to do. Show him that reading is fun by letting him see you reading in your spare moments. Bring home interesting books and magazines for the whole family to enjoy; when a child sees that everyone in the family is reading enthusiastically, he or she will be more motivated to learn to do the same.

 Make Reading a Visual Experience
Children love looking at pictures. Pictures make the learning process more fun, interesting and comprehensible. Therefore, try to bring home well illustrated books for your kids, even if they are older (even adults enjoy books with good illustrations and photos!). A child is more likely to pour over a well-illustrated book, spending more time and effort trying to decipher it and thereby actually improving his or her reading skills. The opposite is true of books that are heavy with unillustrated text, especially if the layout is poor. Too many words cramped together on a page can discourage young readers from getting started, let alone persevering.

Take Your Child to the Library and/or Bookstore
If possible, bring your youngster to the library to select books to bring home. This allows the child to peruse the selection of topics and styles of books, coming eventually to choose those that most appeal to him or her. Some children may be drawn to “how-to” books instead of novels or stories – that’s fine. Give your child to the opportunity to discover the world of books and never discourage reading. Some kids may prefer to read online – this, too, is fine. In fact, as long as the child WANTS to read print, encourage him or her to do so. Invest in a couple of books to treasure or store in one’s data base. Help the child to bond with books, to make friends with the written word. Avoid all forms of lecturing or preaching about the importance of or necessity of reading. Instead, be a receptive listener to anything your child has to stay about a selection of text.

Create Space for Reading
Create physical and mental space for reading. Having a comfy chair or two with blankets, reading pillows and good lighting nearby can help. Making a “quiet zone” for a certain time period each day or each week is a helpful structure too. For example, you can forbid all electronic devices (games, computers, cell phones, televisions, VCR’s, tablets and so forth for a couple of hours on the weekend and/or a period of time during each day (i.e. twenty minutes before bedtime. This quiet time can be used for playing, doing puzzles or art,  or reading. If you bring home a a tempting pile of books each week from the library, your kids are more likely to use the quiet time for reading.

Turning School Failure Around

Kids don’t enjoy receiving failing grades. It leaves them feeling inadequate and incompetent, frustrated, disappointed and disheartened. It is so much more satisfying to succeed! Fortunately, there are ways that parents can help their kids turn school failure around.

If your child is struggling in school, consider the following tips:

Working Hard/ Working Smart vs. Being Smart
It’s important to help kids understand that failure is the result of many factors, inborn intelligence being only one, often relatively insignificant one! Assuming that a child is placed in an appropriate academic setting (whether that is a special school, a special class, a regular class or a gifted class), he or she ought to be able to achieve a passing grade and possibly even an excellent grade. Children should not be sitting in classrooms that are way beyond their intellectual or academic level. For instance, we don’t put a 6 yr old child into a university level physics class! If your child is in the wrong academic setting, take care of that first. However, let’s assume for now that the child is where he or she belongs. Academic failure under such circumstances is a result of insufficient effort. That insufficient effort might occur because of stressful circumstances such as divorce or death in the family, or poor attitude such wanting to party and socialize instead of studying. Regular study with proper concentration usually leads to passing grades and even good grades.

It’s important that you help keep your child from attributing failure to himself or herself. When kids internalize failure, chances are, they will not try again. On the other hand, attributing failure to a cause that’s external makes the problem workable. After all, someone can fix a bad study habit, but it’s virtually impossible to fix a defunct brain.

Bite Your Tongue
No matter how much your child protests that he or she doesn’t care about the failure, deep inside he or she probably does. The casual attitude is most likely just a front to protect his or her self-esteem. Since a failing child already feels bad; there is no need to make him or her feel worse. There certainly is no need to create punishments – failure is punishment enough. Refrain from saying things like “I work hard to send you to a good school and this is what you give me?” Instead, share what you feel. “I feel disappointed that this is your grade.” It’s okay for parents to feel sad, disappointed, frustrated and upset about the situation; it is NOT O.K. to make hurtful or abusive remarks.

Reiterate Your Support
It’s a difficult time for your child, so offer your support. Ask your child if he or she would like help of some kind – homework tips, study partner, tutor, extra help from the teacher or something else. Do whatever makes sense with the resources of time and money that are available. Your child will see that you consider school success to be a valuable asset. However, apart from offering help (or insisting on it, for younger children), do not emphasize the importance of schoolwork to the point where your child feels annoyed or nauseated! Refrain from lectures and simply offer help.

Figure Out How to Get Better Grades Next Time
Be future-oriented. While it’s alright to ask: “what do you think went wrong?”, you must also ask “how can you change for next time?” Explore possible contributing factors such as low motivation, poor time management skills, mental blocks, emotional stress, fear, overwhelm and other issues. See what adjustments can be made. If possible, provide support in the form of l tutors, educators, therapists or other people. Sometimes a helping hand makes a huge difference in the child’s ability to persevere and succeed.

Find Your Child’s Strengths
Your child may be an underachiever in one area, but he or she may have plenty of strengths in another. Discover what your child is good at. A special interest, aptitude or hidden talent may be what you need to help your more generally motivated. Success in one area often spills over into success in other areas as well. Even if it doesn’t it certainly helps balance the child’s self-esteem as he or she discovers competencies and abilities that spell “success.”

Reinforce Positive Changes
There’s no better way to turn a school failure around than to turn it into a school success, and when that happens, make sure to give positive feedback. Kids, like adults, go from strength to strength. Focusing on small successes along the way helps to ensure big successes further down the line. Reward improvement with praise, treats and privileges (“Wow, all that studying really paid of on your math test. Why don’t we go celebrate with an ice cream cone?”). Similar to a “bonus” for hard work at the office, concrete forms of acknowledgement are powerful motivators for more effort in the future.

Homework Issues

While homework sometimes goes smoothly for some children and their parents – it often doesn’t! Homework issues abound, from kids who forget to do their homework, to kids who don’t want to do it, to kids who simply can’t do it. Let’s look at some common homework challenges and their solutions:

Inborn Homework Challenges
Some children are naturals when it comes to homework. They enjoy school work and tend to be independent and mature. They know what their homework is, they bring it home and do it and they take it back to school – all with no or minimal parental supervision. However, there are two other genetic homework profiles to consider: the “average” child and the “organizationally challenged” child. The average child would rather play than do homework. Like the average adult, this youngster tries to avoid unpleasant tasks as long as possible. Parents have to provide encouragement and structure for this kind of child, teaching him or her to settle down to the task and apply appropriate attention and effort. In the younger grades, parents may actually set the homework time and participate in the work itself with some of these youngsters, although some children in this group simply need to be pointed toward their desk. The average child may balk or dawdle, but eventually he or she cooperates and the task is completed. Smart parents try to make the time pass pleasantly with plenty of positive feedback, good humor and maybe even little niceties like milk and cookies. The average child might also benefit from and be receptive to some parental advice when it comes to homework: encouragement to take short breaks, for instance, or reminders to do the work carefully and neatly.

The organizationally challenged child often doesn’t bring his or her homework home. If it is brought home, it is wrinkled, crinkled and half-missing. If it is in one piece, it is too long or too hard or both. If it gets done, it doesn’t make it back to school. No matter how the parent tries to organize this child – providing special notebooks, folders and systems – the same organizational challenges present themselves year after year. This child’s brain is wired for creativity and many other positive attributes, but not for boring, detailed tasks like homework and not for the organizational abilities required to see it through. The wiring – being a built-in feature of this kind of brain – normally affects people throughout their life spans. Although they may eventually learn some tricks to help themselves work around organizational deficits, the best trick in adulthood is to get a good administrative assistant and/or spouse!

Teenagers & Homework
As these three homework “types” move into adolescence, the challenge for parents changes. The “organized and responsible” child never presented a real challenge and that likely remains the same throughout the teenage years. The “average” child who needed some coaxing in the grade school years, is now an adolescent and, like all adolescents, has much less tolerance for coaxing. At this age, a young person has a strong distaste for being told what to do and when and how to do it. If the parent was an unpleasant coaxer earlier on – that is, actually fought with the child over homework – the topic will be even more contentious now. However, even if the parent had been firm and patient in those earlier years, the teenage child now balks at explicit instructions.

What can parents of homework-allergic teens do? First of all, it is necessary to adopt strategies that are appropriate for the second decade. Compliments are welcome throughout the lifespan, so the occasional positive remark offered for responsible behavior can be employed. Too much praise for doing homework at this age is inappropriate, however. It would be the same if your spouse praised you regularly for getting up in the morning – more insulting than helpful! Once the children hit the teen years, the most important strategy is standing back. By that time, you will have expressed your philosophy of life and homework many, many times over. The child knows your views. Now is the time to let the child experience the consequences of not performing well. Here is where it becomes very hard for parents. In the teenage years, children need to deal with their own problems in order to develop the muscles for doing so later in life. Indeed, adversity breeds creativity, ingenuity and other coping skills. It is better to have learning opportunities in the teen years than in the years of adulthood that follow quickly after.

Most important, be aware of the possible consequences of your interventions. While the occasional reminder may be tolerated, many reminders might actually erode your parent-child relationship (and thereby, your overall power to positively influence your children). NEVER use anger. Even if the homework gets done, the personality of the child and your relationship with her may both be damaged as a result of anger. Moreover, academic success achieved this way is normally a temporary exception in the child’s life. Once the child is left to his or her own devices, he or she will regress to the default non-performance position. The most important strategy of all may be to reinforce your child’s natural talents and abilities and focus less on academic performance. Help him or her to find and maximize natural strengths. People normally succeed best in life by utilizing their God-given gifts. Strengthen these and by doing so, you will strengthen your youngster’s self-confidence, self-esteem, positive mood and desire to do his or her best. And that’s the best that you can do.

Parenting Style
Some parenting styles can contribute to homework issues in some children. For instance, when parents provide insufficient supervision for younger children, the kids sometimes figure out how to “work the system.” They learn that they can just show Mom and Dad a little effort and then, with no further reporting obligations, they can get back to their games or computer to have some real fun! Problems like this can be addressed by being more conscientious about checking to see if homework is complete and well done when children are still in grade school.  Close supervision of this kind is not generally appropriate for teens however. That age group must deal with the consequences of their poor study habits (such as low grades or teacher feedback) and make corrections on their own.

Distraction
Sometimes, the learning style of the child affects the way homework is done. For instance, incomplete homework may be due to being too distracted to get the job done successfully. Perhaps your child’s study station is too noisy and busy for him to be able to concentrate for a long period of time. Some children do better with less hustle and bustle around them. If this is the case, try to make the homework location as protected as possible. This can sometimes be accomplished by putting a desk in a quiet part of the house or creating a homemade “study carol” by using cardboard boxes around the desk to block out the sights and sounds around. Of course, some children are distracted not so much by their external environment as by their internal environment – the chatter inside their heads. For instance, a child may start to do his arithmetic and then begin thinking about the numbers in a card trick he learned. This gets him thinking about what happened at recess and reminds him that he has to talk to his friend after school today. His mind flits on and on, from one topic to another and the arithmetic is no longer on the agenda. It’s just the way his brain works, moving from one thing to the next, making it quite challenging to focus on boring tasks like homework. The Bach Flower Remedy Chestnut Bud may help reduce the scattered tendencies when they are caused by an easily-distracted nature. or the Remedy Clematis might help if the child is prone to being “spacey” or engaging in daydreams. (You can find more information on the Bach Flower Remedies online and throughout this site.) If neither help, a professional assessment is in order. Sometimes the cuplrit is ADHD – attention deficit disorder; treatment may involve behavioral modification and/or medication. If your child does get distracted on a regular basis, a professional psycho-educational assessment can help determine the cause of the problem and the most appropriate forms of intervention.

Learning Disabilities or Challenges
Incomplete homework may also be an indication that your child is having problems with the lesson. After all, it’s not unusual for teachers to combine easy and hard questions in the same assignment to both interest and challenge a child. Perhaps your child breezed through the simple problems and then struggled with the more complicated ones. If failing to complete homework is a chronic and recurring issue, then consider the possibility that your child is having some difficulty with the task. If this is the case, an educational assessment may help locate the source of the difficulty. Ask your child’s teacher or pediatrician for a referral to someone who can diagnose a child’s learning problem. Sometimes tutorial services may help the child perform better and parents can arrange this help with or without having the child assessed. However, an assessment can point the way to the best interventions for the particular youngster.

Perfectionism and/or Anxiety
Failure to complete homework may also be a sign of anxiety regarding failure and/or evaluation. Maybe your child is motivated to start assignments, but dreads the idea of you or teachers checking his or her performance. For some kids, it is less threatening to think “I failed because I have incomplete work” than feeling “I failed because I wasn’t good enough.”

If this is the case, do what you can to take some of the pressure off of academics; help your child to relax and enjoy life by focusing on extracurricular activities, hobbies, exercise and relaxation. If these steps don’t help your anxious child to calm down around schoolwork, consider the possibility that the youngster is more anxious than he or she needs to be. Again, professional assessment can help determine whether professional intervention of some kind might be helpful. If home treatment is sufficient, you can offer Bach Flower Remedies (or, try the remedies first and if they seem to help within a few weeks, then further assessment and treatment may be unnecessary. However, if after a few weeks of treatment with Bach Flowers, your child’s anxiety is still interfering with schoolwork, it is likely time for a mental health assessment.) For a child whose self-imposed high standards are interfering with completion of schoolwork, you might try the Bach Larch (for fear of failure) and Rock Water (for perfectionism). Alternatively, an evaluation by a Bach Flower Practitioner can help determine if other remedies may be useful. You can also read up on descriptions of the 38 remedies in books and online and try up to 7 of those you think might be useful. Mix 2 drops of each one in a single 1oz. glass mixing bottle and put 4 drops into liquid (juice, water, milk, chocolate milk, tea, coffee, soda, etc.) 4 times a day until the child no longer seems to be experiencing tension and fear around homework issues.

Assessment and Intervention
As we have seen, many factors can impact on a child’s ability to do homework. If you have done everything you can and your child is still having homework problems, do try to arrange for a psychological assessment to help determine the source of his or her difficulty and to receive remedial recommendations and interventions.

Alternatives to University or College Education

Traditional college education is not necessarily appropriate for every single young person. In fact, many students and their parents are looking for other options besides the traditional universities and community colleges. Fortunately, many are finding newer and better opportunities outside the traditional school system.

If your child isn’t interested in or well-suited to a full-time, full-length post-high school academic program, consider the following tips:

Independent Learners
Distance learning education can be an excellent option for teens who can work independently. Independent learning programs often allow for greater flexibility, allowing students to work at their own pace. Your teen does not need to attend a campus, but can work wherever there is an internet connection. Some courses don’t even require that. There are special educational consultants who have already done all the research for you and who can find the right program for your child. Programs based in other countries may be accredited in your own town – just be sure to find out if that is the case before taking any move. It would be a shame to invest a lot of time and money in getting a certificate or degree, just to discover that it is not recognized in your own locality.

On-Job Experiences
Your teen may be able to get academic credit for his or her job experience in an organization. Discuss this option with certifying educational programs. In addition, keep in mind that working experience is actually vitally important when it comes to finding a full-time job – even if it doesn’t count as part of the academic credits, it is likely to have a significant positive impact on your child’s future. Today, many students “intern” – meaning, do unpaid work in order to learn skills and acquire experience. Whether it’s called interning, volunteering, apprenticing or something else, unpaid work experience can certainly set a child on the right course toward a productive career. Similarly, entrance-level positions where the youngster can learn on the job can be great stepping stones to a proper career.

Working and Studying
Some young people can start working in a field of interest or in a related field, and then beginning taking courses in order to qualify for higher level work within that  field. Mature students are often more motivated and even more competent at their studies. After a few years in the workforce, people have a better idea of what they really want and they can aim their efforts more directly at their goals. It happens occasionally that young people decide they want to go to university or college full time in order to complete a particular degree, or it may happen that their place of work will pay for them to take certain courses, certificates or even degrees.

Gaining Credit for Current Skill Set
Another consideration is the possibility of obtaining university or college credits based on current skills. For instance, your child might be fluent in a foreign language or possess excellent skills in Math and Physics. Some universities offer the privilege of skipping certain courses as long as the student gets the required grade on a standardized examination. It is sometimes possible to get credited and accelerated this way, saving time and money toward a degree.

ADD/ADHD – Attention Deficit Disorder

You’ve always considered your son to be an active child; even as a toddler he was always on the go. He gets bored quickly if there isn’t structure or if he doesn’t like the activity (like homework!) and he prefers to do several things at once. He often interrupts people when they speak, but you’re confident that he can outgrow the behavior. However, his inability to sit still during dinnertime is increasingly annoying and of even more concern is the trouble he’s been getting into in school for calling out answers and leaving his seat without permission. You’re wondering – could he have ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)?

Most children are first considered for formal assessment when their school performance is suffering. However, ADD/ADHD can occur in children of every intellectual level (from intellectually challenged all the way to intellectually gifted). The brighter the child, the longer it may take for teachers and parents to become concerned, since the child’s academic performance may not be as quickly or as severely affected by his disorder. Nonetheless, a child who has to work extra hard in order to counteract the effects of ADD/ADHD is usually feeling stressed, exhausted and irritable. These behavioral symptoms should be taken seriously – not just the child’s grades. In fact, no matter what the child’s grades are like, behavioral disturbances at home should also be taken seriously. Sometimes these are a result of parenting style, but sometimes they are caused by conditions inside the child. A proper assessment may lead to a diagnosis of ADD/ADHD or some other developmental condition or simply stress that the child has not been able to express to his parents. Parents should also seek assessment when their child seems to have trouble following instructions, remembering to do what he is told, taking turns, waiting patiently, organizing his schedule and belongings or sitting for age appropriate lengths of time. Don’t assume that a child doesn’t have ADD/ADHD just because he can spend hours sitting quietly in front of the T.V. or computer screen. The disorder only interferes with “boring” activities, not activities that stimulate the child. That is because ADD/ADHD is a brain condition that is essentially understimulated. In fact, medicinal treatment consists of stimulant drugs. Although normal people can tolerate boredom fairly well, those with ADD/ADHD have zero tolerance for boredom because their brains are stimulant hungry – boredom is actually painful for them. This is also why kids with ADD/ADHD tend to get into trouble when left in unstructured situations. They will create activity by getting into mischief. Highly structured programs help prevent this problem.

What is Attention Deficit Disorder?
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD, are behavioral conditions characterized by an inability to maintain focus for a long time and/ or an inability to keep still. These difficulties in managing attention and activity are more than what is expected developmentally from kids of the same age. The symptoms tend to also persist across all situations, thus a child with ADD or ADHD tends to be inattentive or disruptive, not just at school but at home as well.

ADHD affects somewhere between 5 and 10% of schoolchildren, depending on measurements utilized. Symptoms of ADD or ADHD are never the same with any two people. People with attention deficit disorder may not be able to sit still, plan ahead, finish things, or pay attention to what’s going on around them. Symptoms for ADD may include: having difficulty remaining in one place, difficulty waiting one’s turn in groups, blurting out answers before the question is complete, poor organizational skills, losing things, shifting from one uncompleted task to another, talking excessively, not listening to what is being said, being easily distracted, entering situations without thinking, having difficulty following instructions, fidgeting with hands and feet, squirming while seated, interrupting people often and forgetting things that are necessary for a task or activity.

Kids with ADD/ADHD may also have additional symptoms such as problems with anger, poor social skills, poor fine or gross motor skills, anxiety, sleep disturbances and mood issues. Sometimes ADD/ADHD occurs alongside other disorders such as Tic Disorders, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, depression and social phobia. Attention Deficit Disorder has an early onset, and usually manifests itself before a child turns 7 years old.

Symptoms for attention deficit disorder are broken down into three groups: Type 1: Inattentive. This group of ADD sufferer have symptoms of attention deficit – i.e. being easily distracted, daydreaming, losing focus. Type 2:  Hyperactive/Impulsive. This group of people with ADHD show symptoms of overactivity (fidgeting, running or pacing where inappropriate, always “on the go”) and impulsivity (acting without thought, interrupting others, calling out). Type 3 is Mixed Inattentive and Hyperactive/Impulsive, where the person has a mixture of symptoms across both categories – that is, a mix of ADD and ADHD symptoms. Diagnosis is generally not made until the person concerned has eight or more of the above symptoms, and the symptoms have remained the same for at least six months.

Below is a summary of the common symptoms of ADD:

  • Short attention span, mind tends to wander
  • Frequent  forgetfulness
  • High rate of unfinished projects
  • Gets painfully bored when task isn’t interesting or when there is a lack of structure
  • Makes careless errors in schoolwork
  • Is easily distracted
  • Doesn’t follow through on chores or instructions, appears not to listen
  • Disorganized; loses and misplaces things frequently
  • Difficulty in concentrating on tasks, a high rate of unfinished projects
  • Excessive activeness or excessively high energy levels

Common symptoms of ADHD include:

  • Constantly being on-the-go
  • Frequent fidgeting and running about
  • Impulsive behavior like blurting out answers in class
  • Trouble waiting in-line or other slow-moving situations
  • Talks excessively and interrupts others

There are no laboratory tests that can measure ADHD; as a behavioral condition, psychologists and medical practitioners rely mainly on observation, interview and teacher reports to get a clear picture of the patient’s state. Diagnosis can be made by a paediatric specialist (a medical doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of ADD/ADHD or by a psychologist whose speciality is assessment and diagnosis). Sometimes the family doctor can make a diagnosis as well. Teachers cannot diagnose ADD/ADHD although they may suspect its presence and they are also a vital source of information for those who provide the assessment. Teachers can often refer parents to those who can diagnose. Finally, friends and relatives CANNOT diagnose ADD/ADHD – specialized tests and measurements are required in order to make a diagnosis in addition to behavioural data collected from parents, teachers and others.

What Causes ADHD?
The exact origins of ADHD are still under debate, and many controversies surround the different theories being pushed forward by various research groups and experts. The most accepted explanation so far is that ADHD is a neurological condition related to both the lack of specific chemicals in the brain, and brain structural issues that inhibit attention and self-control. This biological basis is most favored, as ADHD appears to be a genetic condition that begins as early as infancy. However, many researchers also believe that diet, lifestyle and environmental conditions have a lot to do with the symptoms of ADHD. They argue that ADHD is a fairly recent phenomenon, and the condition was rarely reported 50 years ago. ADHD is also rare in poor and developing countries, suggesting that there is something in the way we approach life today that promotes symptoms of inattention and inactivity. In particular, some scientists blame the high sugar content of the modern diet, as well as the rampant used of preservatives and artificial ingredients for ADHD. Excessive use of  technology, such as the television, computer and gaming consoles have also been considered as culprits. Additionally, poisonous chemicals in the air, water and food products are also believed to cause neurological impairment.

How is ADHD Treated?
Once a diagnosis is obtained, parents have a variety of treatment options that they can consider. Both behavioral and biological interventions are usually recommended.

Psychostimulants such as Ritalin have been found to be effective in increasing an ADHD child’s attention span and improving performance at school. Some parents prefer to try alternative treatments such as homeopathy, herbal medicine and nutritional supplements. Some parents will try the natural approach for some months and, if results are not satisfactory, then try psychotropic medication.

Cognitive-Behavioral techniques are used to help manage inattention and impulse control. Children and adult ADHD sufferers can be taught specific techniques to help reduce symptoms and enhance functioning.

When making a decision as to which form of treatment to employ, consultation with the following people is recommended: a behavioural optometrist for a developmental vision evaluation, an allergist regarding possible allergic reactions, a child psychologist who can devise a behaviour modification program, a medical doctor who can assess the need for and prescribe medication and an occupational speech therapist with expertise regarding sensory processing problems. Other professionals to consider are special education tutors who can provide specialized supplementary education when necessary and naturopaths who are experienced in the alternative treatment of this syndrome. Although the treatment team seems large, it is also comprehensive, helping to create the most thorough and effective intervention for those children who have ADD/ADHD.

Bringing Out the Best in the ADD/ADHD Child
Raising a child with ADD/ADHD requires superb parenting skills. Being “Average-Joe-Parent” just won’t do with this population. For a set of easy-to-acquire top parenting skills, see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe. While your doctor and other members of the professional team are addressing your child’s symptoms, you as a parent can keep the following points in mind:

  • The ADD/ADHD child is not purposely disobedient or unruly. He is dealing with inner compulsions and forces; he would like it if he could be easier going, more flexible, happier and relaxed, but he just can’t get there.  He needs your love, support, patience and understanding.
  • Keep expressions of anger to an absolute minimum with this population. They lack the ego-strength (self-confidence) to handle anger and often react with depression, withdrawal, aggressiveness, acting out and other forms of intense emotional turmoil and dysfunction. Learn how to discipline without using anger at all.
  • Your child might benefit from reading self-help books on ADD/ADHD – there are now many available, written for children and teenagers.
  • Consider experimenting with Bach Flower Therapy as a treatment for ADD/ADHD. Bach Therapy has no side-effects of any kind, yet can often effectively reduce many of the symptoms of ADD/ADHD such as impulsivity, immaturity, hostility, depression, anxiety, restlessness, lack of concentration/attention and more. (You can find more information on the Bach Flower Remedies online and throughout this site.) Your naturopath may also recommend other alternative and dietary interventions.
  • Consider enrolling your child in social skills or anger management programs providing sheltered group activities or individual activities that will build personal confidence and self-esteem such as karate lessons, drum lessons, art lessons, cooking classes etc. These needn’t be formal classes – if you can provide extracurricular activities yourself at home (like teaching your child to cook or sew) – that’s great! ADD/ADHD children often grow up to be adults with exceptional creativity and unique gifts. As long as their self-esteem remains intact and they develop ways of working around their deficits, they are capable of being highly successful professionally and personally.

How to Raise Your Child’s Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence (E.Q.) refers to “people smarts.” A person with high emotional intelligence understands both himself and others. Not only does the person understand people, but he also knows how to make them feel comfortable – he knows how to bring out the best in others. As a result, the person with high E.Q. experiences more success in relationships and at work. Kids with high E.Q. have better relationships at home and at school, with kids and with adults. Moreover, high E.Q.in children and teens is associated with better academic performance, better physical health, better emotional health and better behavior. In adults, high E.Q. is associated with better performance in every area of life.

What can you do to help foster your child’s emotional intelligence? In this article we will discuss ways one can boost their child’s emotional intelligence.

Adapt an Authoritative, Not an Autocratic Parenting Style
Parenting style has a huge influence on children’s emotional intelligence. When parents can guide their children while still being sensitive to their feelings, children have higher E.Q. Authorative parents are warm, but consistent in setting appropriate limits and boundaries. They will use discipline, but not at the expense of respectful communication and care. Their children will learn how to be sensitive to others and they will also learn how to “talk to themselves” compassionately, modelling after their parents. This gentle self-talk becomes a major aspect of their emotional intelligence, a tool they can use to reduce their stress in a healthy way.

Autocratic parents, on the other hand, don’t care that much about the child’s feelings. Instead, they focus on the rules of the household, what is allowed and what is prohibited, what the child may and may not do. Sensitivity to the child’s inner world is missing. In this case, children fail to experience parental empathy and as a result, fail to learn how to soothe their own upset emotions. They may attempt to relieve their discomfort by becoming aggressive, acting out their feelings. Eventually they may turn to comforts outside of themselves such as addictions (to food, alcohol, drugs, etc.). Acting out and addictive behavior reflects lower E.Q.

The more feeling words used by parents and educators, the more sensitive a child becomes to his inner reality. Most of us tend to use few emotion words in our dealings with children, and when we do, we often use the same few tired ones over and over.  It is important that we move beyond “mad,” “sad,” “glad,” and “scared.”  Shades of feeling are most helpful and can be used when describing our own feelings or the child’s feelings. Words like irritated, annoyed, frustrated, anxious, worried, terrified, alarmed, disappointed, hurt, insulted, embarrassed, uncomfortable, unsure, curious, interested, hopeful, concerned, shocked, elated, excited, enthusiastic, let down, abandoned, deserted, mellow, calm, peaceful, relaxed, bored, withdrawn, furious, enraged, frightened, panicked, and proud can be used DAILY to help provide an emotional education in the home or classroom. These are the regular feelings that children have in facing life, stimulated by everyday experiences, dreams, movies and even novels. Identifying a youngster’s emotional reaction and feeding it back to him, helps him to become aware of his inner processing. This information then forms the core of his emotional intelligence, providing an accurate barometer of his response to his world. From this place of inner certainty, a child is well-equipped to navigate life, knowing what he feels, what he is searching for and when he has attained it. His familiarity with the world of feelings allows him to connect accurately and sensitively with others. This prevents him from hurting other people’s feelings with words and further, permits him to achieve great kindness and sensitivity in his interpersonal transactions.

Here are some practical steps you can take to bring feelings into focus:

  1. Respond to your child. From the time your child is a crying infant to the time she is a young adult, be sure to be responsive. This means that you take her communications seriously. If she cries, try to come (instead of making her cry it out.). If she asks for something, try to answer her promptly. If she talks, you listen and respond appropriately. All of this responsiveness builds emotional intelligence because you are giving your youngster valuable relationship feedback. In the opposite scenario, in which a parent either fails to respond or responds only after a long waiting period, the child learns that people tune each other out. This causes the child to shut down. She assumes that her feelings aren’t that important based on lack of parental responsiveness and from this concludes that people’s feelings aren’t that important – the very OPPOSITE of the conclusions made by emotionally intelligent people. Quick responsiveness gives the message that people’s feelings matter. This is a prerequisite concept for emotional intelligence.
  2. Use a FEELING vocabulary. Pepper your daily conversation with “feeling” words. You can name your own feelings. Let your child know that you feel excited or dismayed or discouraged or resentful or whatever. This gives your child the vital information that everyone – including parents – has feelings and an inner life. Some people do this naturally, of course, but many do not. For instance, when a child is making too much noise, a parent may just say something like, “Can you please quiet down?” However, the Emotional Coach would say something like, “I’m starting to feel overwhelmed with all this noise going on. Can you please quiet down?” Similarly, a regular parent might give positive feedback to a child in this way, “I like the way you waited patiently in line with me at the bank today.” An Emotional Coach, on the other hand, might say something like, “I felt very relaxed with you in the bank today because you were waiting so patiently.” In other words, the Emotional Coach looks for opportunities to describe his or her inner experience. It is this description that helps the child begin to build an emotional vocabularly that will open the doors to Emotional Intelligence.
  3. Name your child’s feelings. Children feel feelings all day long but not all parents comment on them. In fact, many parents are more practical, focusing on solutions to problems. For instance, if a child is upset because there are no more of his favorite cookies left in the jar, the typical parent might say, “I’ll pick up some more for you when I go shopping this week.” While that solves the problem, it doesn’t build emotional intelligence. An Emotional Coach might say, “Oh, that’s so disappointing! You really love those cookies! I’ll pick some up for you when I go shopping this week.” The extra few words acknowledging the child’s inner world (“Oh that’s so disappointing”) make all the difference when it comes to building Emotional Intelligence. Similarly, parents often try to get kids to STOP their feelings or at least SHRINK their feelings by saying things like, “Just calm down – it’s not such a big deal” or “There’s nothing to be afraid of,” of “Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.” The Emotional Coach, on the other hand, accepts all the child’s feelings, giving the child the name for what is going on inside. “I can see how upset you are,” or “You’re really scared about this,” or “It so important to you,” and so on. By accepting all feelings as they are, the Emotional Coach teaches kids not to be afraid of or overwhelmed by feelings. This is a very important part of becoming emotionally intelligent.
  4. Teach your child how to express emotions appropriately. While all feelings are acceptable, all BEHAVIORS are not. It is not O.K. to hit and scream just because you feel angry. It is not O.K. to cry for an hour at the top of your lungs just because you are disappointed. Parents must teach children – by their example and by their interventions – the appropriate behavioral expression of emotions. For instance, parents can teach children to express their anger in a respectful way by saying things like, “When you are mad at your brother for touching your puzzle, just tell him ‘I don’t want you to touch my puzzle. I’m working hard on it and it bothers me when you move the piece around.’ Don’t slap his hand!” Parents will have to use the normal techniques of positive attention, encouragement and discipline to get the lessons across. It is, of course, essential, that parents are respectful themselves in the way they express their upset, fear and disappointment. See “The Relationship Rule” in Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice for details on how to teach the proper way to express negative emotions.
  5. Let them experience failure and disappointment. It’s understandable that parents want to protect their children from disappointment. But know that rescuing children from pain, to the point that they never get to experience life, will backfire in the long run. Children need to know how to bounce back from adversity — resilience muscles need training too! And children won’t know how it is to rebound from disappointment if they aren’t allowed to experience it to begin with. When your child gets a poor mark on a project, don’t rush to the teacher to get the mark raised; instead, use emotional coaching with your child (that is, NAME her feelings). “This mark is so disappointing! You tried really hard and the teacher didn’t appreciate it. That is frustrating!” By naming feelings, you actually help shrink them down to size. Feeling words act as “containers” for feelings. It’s O.K. for the child to be upset, or even to cry. After awhile, she’ll calm down. And this is the important part – learning that calm follows a storm. Everything in life doesn’t need to be perfect. There is such a thing as recovery. “There will be more projects, more chances to get a good grade.” You want to show the child that you yourself aren’t afraid of negative experiences or emotions. This model that life is “survivable” can really help a child cope when the going gets rough.
  6. Expand their social network. Few parents think of other people as possible teaching instruments in promoting emotional intelligence. But kids can learn more from interesting personalities and other people’s life experiences than they can from a classroom lecture. Having to adapt well to different types of people — quiet, assertive, annoying, fun-loving — can teach a child how to regulate their behavior based on the demands of an interaction. The challenges other people go through can also provide insight on how to manage one’s own trials in life. Learning vicariously through the success and failure of other people is a good way to raise a child’s E.Q. So if you can, go ahead and enroll your child in various clubs or organizations. When they’re a bit older, encourage them to volunteer in community service. Send them on mission trips. Let them talk with grandpa or grandma. Every person has a lesson to impart to a child.

Help Your Child Deal with Rejection

Louise worked so hard on her speech; she wanted to be the school’s representative in the annual public speaking contest. Unfortunately, she didn’t pass the auditions. She was so disappointed.

It took awhile for Tommy to ask Jerry and his friends if he could join them in their game of softball.  After one week of mustering the courage to ask, Tommy had to deal with Jerry’s hurtful answer: a “no.” 

Nobody wants to be rejected. It’s painful and humiliating and at times extremely frustrating. It can also make a person question his or her self-worth. If you’re always rejected, it’s not unusual to ask: “Can something be wrong with me?”

To avoid feeling defeated by rejection, it’s important to develop one’s coping muscles. It’s unreasonable to expect that we will be accepted all time; in life, there will always be moments of rejection. What’s important is that we gain control of the setback, so that it doesn’t debilitate us.

The following are some of the ways parents can help their child deal with rejection:

Raise Your Child’s Self-Esteem
Parents can help bolster their’ child’s self-esteem in three important ways:

  1. By giving generous positive feedback
  2. By limiting and softening necessary criticism
  3. By giving children ample opportunity  to experience success through their own activities

When a child has a positive view of self, he or she has a strong shield against the sting of rejection. Rejection becomes situational instead of personal, with the pain temporary instead of permanent. When you know deep down that you’re a person of worth, you’re willing to risk trying again, because you know the problem is not inherent in you.

Allow Your Child to Feel Disappointment
Welcome, name and accept all of your child’s feelings, including the sad ones. Avoid the rule: “You must always feel happy!” This rule stunts children’s emotional growth and makes it very difficult for them to ride through inevitable negative feelings and life experiences. Disappointment is just part of life. When you use “emotional coaching” (the calm naming of a child’s feelings) you demonstrate that YOU aren’t frightened by the child’s temporary distress. YOU can handle it! This gives the child courage to handle it too. Remember, you don’t have to force your child to cheer up every time he or she gets rejected. In fact, the best thing you can do is to give them time to feel sad about their situation! You can say something like, “Gosh, I guess that’s pretty disappointing.” Don’t look like you’re going to cry! Have confidence in your child’s ability to face life. In fact, the more you are able to comfortably name the child’s feelings, the more the child will be able to manage moments of distress. Remember that no matter what has happened, the sadness will pass and the child will be able to get on with life.

Help Your Child Figure Out How to Do Better
Rejection is an excellent motivator, and parents can take the opportunity to teach their child how to channel their disappointment into inspiration. Help your child figure out the reason why they got rejected. Perhaps they didn’t try hard enough; perhaps they were the wrong fit with the crowd. Whatever the reason is, there are always ways to do better the next time around. Effective problem-solving can lead to greater success.

Identify to Your Child the Areas Outside of His or Her Control
Sometimes the rejection is unfair and arbitrary. Sometimes rejection is the result of large numbers and insufficient placements. There may be a time when your child is subject to some form of bullying that leads to exclusion. Or your child could lose out on a great opportunity because someone forgot to file his or her application form. When these situations happen, it’s important to teach kids that sometimes it’s just unfortunate circumstances, or “not meant to be.” Not everything is within our control, and when we face something we can’t influence, the best approach is to simply let go. Those with a strong religious faith can draw on their belief that the rejection is not an accident and it is meant for one’s best development.

Learning Disabilities and Self-Esteem

Because they have more difficulty in school compared to other kids, children with learning disabilities (LDs) sometimes start to question their own intelligence and competence. Their self-esteem can suffer, despite the fact that they usually have normal or even very high intelligence as measured on standard instruments.  In fact, a learning disability is defined as a SPECIFIC deficit in one or two areas of functioning (i.e. math and reading) despite overall normal (or even higher)  intelligence. However, children typically experience a great deal of failure and frustration before they end up being officially diagnosed with a learning disability. It is often during this period of not knowing what the problem is that kids are particularly vulnerable to developing low self-esteem.

However, even after diagnosis there are many threats to the child’s self-concept: there’s the anger, self-pity and a sense of helplessness that comes from having to work harder than peers, or from needing to be isolated in special learning situations (remedial teachers, classrooms or schools), or having to endure after-school tutors and lessons. Despite all the interventions and efforts, many children with learning disabilities will never do as well as their peers in their weak areas. Moreover, some kids with severe learning disabilities will not be able to keep up with or join in certain activities because of their deficits and this exclusion, too, can contribute to low self-esteem.

In addition, not all people are sensitive or affirming when they relate to children with disabilities. Some kids can be downright cruel, teasing children with special needs or even bullying them. Parents and teachers may also unconsciously communicate low expectations, and may unintentionally send the message that they don’t see the child as capable.

A Predictor of Success
However, since healthy self-esteem is a key ingredient for attaining  success in life, it is important that parents do what they can to help their learning disabled child acquire a positive self-concept.

Studies have consistently shown that if kids with LDs consider themselves as capable and confident, they do better in all areas of life. Moreover, they are less likely to fall into mental health issues associated with LDs, such as depression or anxiety.

Define the Term “Learning Disability”
A learning disability is a condition, not a trait. In this way, it is similar to diabetes or asthma. Helping your child know that he or she is normal but has a condition, can go a long way to keeping that youngster’s self-esteem intact. There are books for children that explain learning disabilities; seeing the condition described in a book can also help kids realize that this is something outside of themselves that they must deal with, but it does not define all of who they are. Children often misunderstand the term “learning disabilities,” thinking that it means that they can’t learn! This erroneous idea can affect their performance across the board. Instead of just having difficulty in one or two areas, a child with this misconception can do poorly in every area simply because he believes he is intellectually handicapped. It is very important for parents to spell out the specific disability and to highlight the child’s learning strengths. For instance, a parent might say, “your brain has trouble recognizing and remembering letters (this is called ‘dyslexia’)and so you have to work harder to be a fast reader. But in every other way, your brain works perfectly and you are actually very smart. So this means that you should find it easy to do your arithmetic, art, gym, music, science and most of your other subjects. You can can also be awesome on the computer and in sports. And because you’re so smart, you will be able to figure out how to help your brain remember the letters and you will become a good reader – it will just take a bit of work. But we’re going to provide you with extra help so it will be even easier.”

In addition, parents should focus on their child’s areas of natural strength and competency. If the child is a talented musician, artist, cook, computer whiz or whatever, parents can highlight the child’s gift and smarts in these areas. Parents can try to expose their child to as many different activities as possible in order to help the child find areas of competency. For instance, if you don’t invite the child into the kitchen to prepare dessert for the family, neither you nor the child will ever know that cooking is his natural talent! In addition to skills, LD kids also have commendable traits such as determination, compassion or courtesy. Giving positive feedback to character and behavior is another way to boost the child’s self-esteem.

Let Them Contribute
Assume that the child is competent unless the child proves otherwise. Therefore, treat your learning disabled child as a full fledged member of the family with all “voting” privileges and responsibilities. Parents can help their child feel normal by holding them to normal expectations and standards. Offer compensation only when the child’s LD is actually affecting task performance. For instance, kids with learning disabilities can fold laundry as well as anyone else, so don’t let them off the task. However, a particular child with LD may have more trouble running errands due to the difficulty of handling money. This doesn’t mean that the child shouldn’t be allowed to go to the corner store. It might mean, however, that you help him with this task by explaining what to expect in the way of change, showing him what the financial transaction is going to look like or otherwise “tutoring” him through the task.

Use Emotional Coaching
By naming a child’s feelings, parents can help boost the child’s self-esteem and overall emotional intelligence. Naming a feeling lets the child know that he is O.K., his feelings are normal and acceptable and he has emotional support. Thus, when the child is struggling with a difficult task, a parent can acknowledge “It’s hard! It’s frustrating to try that again and again and still not get the answer!” It is hard to believe how powerful a simple acknowledgment of the child’s feelings can be. Moreover, a large body of research shows that just naming feelings helps the child do better academically, behaviorally, socially and emotionally.