ADHD: A Behaviorist Approach

ADHD“I marvel at people who can sit down and stay seated in the same position for longer than five minutes. I found this internal restlessness especially difficult to control during school. Trying to stay focused during a 40-minute class while sitting in an uncomfortable chair was pretty torturous for a young student with attention issues. I remember asking to go to the restroom during most classes, not because I needed to use the facilities but because I needed a minute to get up a walk around.”

These are the words of Jillian Levy, a young women who, for most of her schooling years, struggled with the basic premise of the traditional classroom: to sit down and pay attention. Often thought of as restless, unfocused, or lazy students with ADHD are labeled early on in their academic career as “that kid with behavior problems”. Not to say there isn’t a rampant diagnosis of this disorder (as previously discussed in The Smart Drug Debate), but those who really do have this internal restlessness are genuinely challenged with the tasks that others, myself included, take for granted. For example, when I was in school I learned very early on to raise my hand when I wanted to ask a question or contribute to the class discussion. I would have never dreamed of calling out the answer without adhering to this protocol! But students with ADHD take a more logical and less systematic approach: “If I know the answer, why wouldn’t I call it out? And why aren’t the other kids in my class calling it out too? Well, I guess they don’t know the answer or don’t want to say it out loud.”

The scientific community is really just beginning to put these mysterious pieces of the puzzle together and finally give the general public some real data on the brain science behind ADHD. The educational community, however, is far behind the mark of discovery. Science and technology spearhead change while education and law wait for the numbers to come through. Meanwhile, these students, many of whom are on my Private Tutoring Plus and Education Advocacy rosters, are misunderstood and labeled as a distraction. You have to wonder: how many kids with ADHD are sitting in the principal’s office?

As a person and provider who cares deeply about advocating for those who are unable to advocate for themselves, I’m not waiting for education to catch up with what we already know. Instead, I believe we can change the course of these students lives by helping them understand their own behaviors– creating logical, common sense pathways for positive change through honest conversations with students, their parents, and their school; employing trained therapeutic aides who teach appropriate behavior cues and responses; provide our teachers with effective classroom management training with follow-ups to ensure accountability; and advocate for administrative acceptance of a school-wide rewards and consequences system. If you think these ideas are far-fetched, think again. I’ve seen this in action at schools that are willing to take the hard road and work with the individual in need, not by singling the student out and risking social stigma but, rather by incorporating those systems into the classroom for all students.

Jillian Levy writes, “I am fully aware that having ADHD is a lifelong experience. Everyday I have moments where I feel restless and irritable. However, I try very hard to not let my learning and attention issues control my life. I’m always working to understand why certain situations may trigger symptoms, moving forward with the knowledge that I’m not perfect and that mistakes—whether intentional or not—are human nature.”

I love the way she summed it all up, don’t you. It’s a simple reminder that we must first acknowledge our differences but also take action, learning to move forward in order to create change for ourselves and those around us. After all, that’s really what education is about anyways– a lifelong journey of discovering something greater than ourselves.

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Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder & Owner of Terry Tutors, a Private Tutoring, Family Coaching, and Education Advocacy service dedicated to supporting the whole student. She writes this blog as an effort to help Moms & Dads Navigate Generation Z, Honestly. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com

Nagging Just Got Cooler with These New Apps

nudgeJust like your mom once prodded you to try out for the cheerleading squad, take up violin, or join the basketball team so, too, do new apps provide the same nagging– I mean nudging–effect.

Nudges are predicated on a paternalistic idea that small reminders  lead to positive behavioral choices and, therefore, greater long-term success. From a psychological standpoint, I can get behind that logic! The fact that these nudges are coming from a neutral third-party (ie: iPhone via app) and not mom and dad gives even greater credibility to the reasoning. However, I question: where are the consequences apps– you know, the ones that calmly explain that because you didn’t complete the nudge there is no dessert after dinner.

Okay, I’m being a little sassy here because we all know that technology is no replacement for good parenting and consequences are a good and necessary part of learning how to navigate the right behavioral choices. The fact of the matter is that as our daily lives become more and more interconnected via technology, having Siri nudge you in the right direction is more of reality than ever before. Parents have to be comfortable enough with technology as a check on the balance of power, making sure that technology is helping their child. That’s what Lori Getz of Cyber Education Consultants helps parents do: define the boundaries of technology by becoming comfortable with its benefits. Like anything else, we must define our boundaries to maintain success. The lesson: use technology to your advantage but make sure your kids know that in the end that mom and dad have the final nudge.

Check out these research articles, which delve deeper into the psychology behind nudges, analyzing why nudging works but doesn’t work alone: Nudge Nation: A New Way to Prod Students Into and Through College and Nudge is No Magic Fix. The potential consequences of behavioural interventions need to be weighed carefully based on an understanding of underlying behavioural processes

Nagging just got cooler with these new apps:

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Christine Terry, B.A., J.D., is the Founder & Owner of Terry Tutors, a Private Tutoring, Family Coaching, and Education Advocacy service dedicated to supporting the whole student. She writes this blog as an effort to help Moms & Dads Navigate Generation Z, Honestly. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com

Preparation Takes Away The Frustration

Get-Organized-School-0612As I stared at my supply closet today I realized drastic cleanup measures were needed! It seemed like this summer all the composition books, chapter books, pencil cases, poster board, binders, glue sticks, index cards, rulers, pencils, pens, planners, paperclips, highlighters, erasers, folders, notebooks, and one random science fair trifold just exploded everywhere. Where did all this stuff come from? Well, these are just a few of the many supplies found in the closet of a very busy Tutor 🙂 These could have also been easily found in your own home school supply closet. It’s easy to make and saves you ton of frustration over those last minute forgettable items.

Preparing to Deal with Back to School Anticipation

Back to School time presents its own challenges, namely getting back into the school routine with early morning school bells and evenings full of sports, dance lessons, music lessons, tutoring, and homework. One of the best ways to deal with that anticipation, however, is to adequately prepare. The key to eliminating frustration is none other than that boring, old staple: predictability. Now, I know that doesn’t sound too exciting but when it’s 6:45 am and your child forgot to tell you that they needed to get a protractor for today’s lesson, you’ll be able to calmly reach into your own school supply closet instead of being the first person in line at Office Max that day.

Give Your Child a Sense of Internal Calm

Thinking ahead and anticipating what to expect not only takes away the frustration (and subsequent argument that may ensue as a result) but also gives children a sense of internal calm. Schedules, routines, and knowing what comes next allows a child to feel safe because they know that their caregiver has everything under control.

Teach Them Executive Function Skills

By teaching the art of preparation and leading by example, you’re also helping your child develop the necessary Executive Function Skills: prioritization, organization, strategizing, logic, time management. These are skills your child will not only use as the foundation for good study habits throughout their academic career but also throughout their chosen professional career.

Don’t Spend A Lot of Money

Stocking up on those school supplies doesn’t have to cost as much as Ivy League tuition. Here are a few of my favorite school supply stores that make it easy to get prepared without spending a lot of dough:

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Christine Terry, B.A., J.D., is the Founder & Owner of Terry Tutors, a Private Tutoring, Family Coaching, and Education Advocacy service dedicated to supporting the whole student. She writes this blog as an effort to help Moms & Dads Navigate Generation Z, Honestly. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com