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

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Common Core Standards Coupled with a Cultural Shift

common-coreMission Statement:

The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.

Common Core made it to California and began its full implementation just a few days ago. Students started the 2013-14 school year off with new state standards, which have a focus on project-based learning in keeping with the multiple-intelligences theory as well as technology in the classroom. There is less of a focus on objective, standardized testing and more on testing with the purpose of long-term comprehension. There is also less teacher [and union] focus and more student/child-centric learning. Ultimately, however, preparation to go on to higher education is the end goal. There are 45 States that have adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Initiative (Texas, Alaska, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Virginia are still holding out) but no one quite knows the residual impact of this (almost) national conversion because although most states adopted the CCSS standards in 2010, roll out and full implementation doesn’t really began until this year or next.

It all sounds pretty good and gives the educational system a unified approach but, perhaps, what we also need is an additional cultural shift

The hope, of course, is that this new country-wide approach will offer consistency and clarity. However, the skeptics are out there and there is something to be said for another attempt at a nation-wide endeavor to educating our children in a generalized manner. We all remember the hope that No Child Left Behind promised only to deliver schools with a slanted take on prioritizing testing over The Arts and P.E. To be on par with students of the world, particularly China and Japan, however, I suggest that our Common Core should begin with a Cultural Shift. If we want to keep up with these kids, American society must shift its focus from making education a problem solved in the classroom to making education a problem solved at home.

In other societies there is an understanding that classroom standards don’t end when the bell rings. In other countries, there is a longer school day and longer week, sometimes even going to school on Saturdays. Parents take on an active role in their child’s education, becoming the teacher at home and, thereby, extending the school day even further. Whereas sometimes our society takes a position that it is the parent’s job to get their child ready for school and it is the school’s job to teach their child, other countries stress the fact that it is the parent’s role to not only teach the child morals and ethics but also math, taking ownership and responsibility head on for their child’s academic future.

There is no quick fix to anything, including our education system. The law requires that each child receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) but the US Supreme Court has ruled that appropriate does not mean the best. (Board of Education of Hendrick Hudson School District v Rowley, 458 US 176 (1982)) If we want our children to have a shot at competing on a global level, as the Mission Statement suggests, then now is the time to take matters into our own hands: become more actively involved in your child’s studies by taking what is taught in the classroom and implementing it at home. Common Core may be able to help you chart your child’s educational path but you steer your child’s academic success.

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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

The Golden Ticket: Teaching the Concept of Earnings Power Through Reading

We Can All Agree That Reading Is GoodSummer Reading Club

We are all aware of the significance of reading at a young age: (1) reading is instrumental to a child’s cognitive and emotional development, (2) phonemic and phonological awareness is the basis of speech and language processing; (3) reading is directly connected with an increased vocabulary which helps to build strong writing mechanics and essay structure, and (4) let’s not forget that reading stories about adventure, love, loss, and friendship makes us feel more connected to ourselves and each other. We can all agree that reading is good.

How To Help Non-Readers Become Active Readers

But what do you do if your child is just not that into reading? With so many other activities vying for their attention it is difficult to make reading a top priority. Some kids are naturally voracious readers, even categorized as autodidacts. Some kids are not and that’s okay because as we talked about last week, there are many ways of learning and various Multiple Intelligences. For the kids who need a little extra golden ticketencouragement to pick up that book, I suggest quantifying their efforts through what I like to call, The Golden Ticket. Commonly known as a book program or reading club, you too can adopt this strategy in your own home simply by setting forth an expectation of reading daily for 20 minutes and then allowing your child to earn a weekly prize once they compete their weekly reading ticket. That weekly reading ticket becomes a Golden Ticket just by attaching expectations and earning power to it, elevating its importance and giving it some real clout.

The Correlation Between Hard-Work & Rewards

Healthy self-competition is good for the soul and keeps motivation alive. It’s important to instill the essence of earnings power, the ability to generate profit (whether monetary or not ) from working hard, at a young age. The idea that your child has true potential but needs to capitalize on that by putting forth the time and effort to raise the status quo is the same idea used in everything from potty-training to chores to pay grades in the work force. Motivation comes in all forms and for things that are difficult for kids to do, it may require a little extra incentive. But don’t just give them that reward! Instead, help them learn to earn it. You’ll not only teach them the importance of reading but the importance of two life lessons: hard-work and tenacity.

For Good Reads Check Out Our Recommended Book List: Summer Reading Club- Upper Elementary School

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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