Blog

Tips and Strategies for Classroom Wide Behavior Management by School Psychologist Emma Savino

School psychologist Emma Savino recently guest blogged for EdGeeks.com, writing about the use of charts and positive praise for behavior management in the home. Today, as promised, she contributes tips, ideas and resources for behavior management in the classroom.

Tips and Strategies for Classroom Wide Behavior Management

Emma Savino, NYS Certified School Psychologist

Managing behavior in a classroom is essential for effective and consistent instruction.  Teachers are often faced with behaviors that interrupt lessons and disrupt student learning.  Here are some foundations for successful behavior management in the classroom:

  • No matter what age, respect your students.  Remember, issues that affect your students are important and ever present to them. As adults, we should be mindful of this and try to be understanding.  If your students feel respected, you will receive the same in return.
  • Create clear and explicit classroom rules using positive language.  Creating these rules as a class during the first few days of school is recommended. Be sure to post a visual reminder such as a poster or chart somewhere in the classroom.
  • Remember…yelling gets you nowhere.  Communicating calmly with your students is key. Being clear and stern when problems arise is acceptable when implemented correctly.
  • Create a team atmosphere.  Highlight student strengths and show your class how each student has different skills that will help your class be successful.  Hopefully, this can reduce bullying behaviors and create a sense of belonging.
  • Reach out to your support staff! I find that many teachers feel they need to solve their classroom problems alone.  Social workers and psychologist can offer push-in services to help manage problematic behaviors in the classroom.

There are many different techniques you can use in your classroom. Here are a few interventions/strategies to consider implementing:

  1. Token Economy System: This is probably my favorite system to implement because I have found it to be the most motivating for students.  This system works by rewarding desirable behaviors by giving your students tokens or tickets.  As a teacher, you can create a system where a specific number of tickets results in a prize or special privileges.  You can collect tickets individually or as a class working toward a common goal.  Provide small rewards weekly (i.e. homework pass, free (healthy) snack, 5 points on lowest quiz score) and also larger rewards monthly (i.e. bring in your favorite stuffed animal, potluck party, afternoon movie with popcorn, extra recess time with special events).  You can also set up a classroom store where students earn money to spend on prizes or privileges.  If students do not comply with rules (i.e. bullying behaviors, not completing homework, noncompliance) students can pay you in tickets. The amount of tickets taken away should be consistent with the offense.  However, give them ample opportunities to earn tickets back.  Try to give more than you take away. Get your students involved and find out what rewards they would work for.
  2. Non-verbal cueing: Come up with a silent signal to remind students to quiet down when your classroom get noisy. This will allow you to avoid yelling over your students.  You can also create a sign or use a puppet to redirect your class.
  3. Planned ignoring:  Many behaviors are attention seeking. Although it sounds strange, some students do engage in behaviors that get them negative attention. Ignoring behaviors that are not causing significant disruption or compromising the safety of others can be very effective in some scenarios.  Students will eventually learn that they have to gain the teacher’s attention in more proactive and appropriate ways.
  4. Praise those who do it right: If one student is not following classroom rules, select a student who is cooperating and praise them.  Phrase the language in a way that catches the other student’s attention and of course, be positive.  For example, “Wow! I love the way Ashley is seated at her desk ready to learn!”  You can go around the room and praise a few students who are doing the same.  Little Bobby who was rolling around on the floor may then look for the same praise and comply.  Be sure to praise the behavior when the student cooperates and always be specific.
  5. Plan, remind and reinforce: Once you get to know your students, you can anticipate when disruptive behaviors may occur.  Plan for these moments by reminding your students of what is expected.  For example if transitioning into the hallway is challenging for your class, 5 minutes before you leave the room, state to your students “Music is in 5 minutes. When we walk in the hallway, we will be quiet so we respect those who are working hard in their classrooms.”  Have your students repeat what you say to reinforce the expectation. Remember that prevention can be stronger than intervention!

Most of your students will respond to the typical behavior management system. However, there may be a select few in your class who will require more intense or individualized interventions. If this needed, reach out to your support staff to create an action plan.  Keep in mind, behavior management takes time.  Having a plan in place before the school year starts will facilitate more teaching time, smoother transitions and active problem solving among your students.

Resources:

teachingchannel.org – this website has video examples that model behavior management strategies.

interventioncentral.org – this website has numerous behavior interventions and reward ideas.

pbis.org– this website provides information on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, which is a school-wide behavior management system.  You can apply many of these principles in your classroom.

If you found this post helpful, be sure to read these past articles by Emma Savino:

Behavior Charting, Positive Reward Systems and Praise

Home-School Connection: What’s the deal with A.D.H.D?

Personal Favorite’s:

The First Days of School: How to Be An Effective Teacher by Harry Wong

[amazon-product image=”http://ws.assoc-amazon.com/widgets/q?_encoding=UTF8&Format=_SL160_&ASIN=0976423316&MarketPlace=US&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&tag=edg0b-20&ServiceVersion=20070822″ type=”image”]0976423316[/amazon-product]

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

[amazon-product image=”http://ws.assoc-amazon.com/widgets/q?_encoding=UTF8&Format=_SL160_&ASIN=1451663870&MarketPlace=US&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&tag=edg0b-20&ServiceVersion=20070822″ type=”image”]1451663870[/amazon-product]

Share This:

Read more

What’s Up With All the Meetings? (Circle Time, The Morning Meeting and Circle of Power)

Circle Time, The Morning Meeting and Circle of Power

Many classrooms begin their day with some kind of classwide meeting time. Beginning the day with a meeting can do wonders for building a strong classroom community. For younger students, you might want to call the meeting “Circle Time” or “Morning Meeting,” and for older students you may want to call it “Advisory Group” or “Circle of Power.” Whatever the name may be, the idea remains the same…build community through routines, discussions and sharing daily classroom news. Depending on the age of the students, the meeting routines will look different. Here are some ideas for activities to include in your meeting time. Remember, meeting can be a time to build academic, social and behavioral skills amongst students  in the classroom.

***Families: You can and should incorporate some kind of meeting time in your home as well. Yours could be in the morning or in the evening but it is important to have a designated time to discuss your child’s day. You can use some of the routines below in your home as well. For example, perhaps you are charting the amount of days that your child has been in school – or maybe you are counting books that your child has read using coins. Maybe you have a teenager and each day you swap news articles and share about something that interests you. Whatever routines you choose, stick to them and make them meaningful!

  1. Greeting – A time for students and staff to greet each other (this can build social skills)
  2. Morning Message – A message for students (see some samples below)
  3. Word Wall Words – Introduce new vocabulary and/or high frequency words to your students at this time
  4. Math Activities – Incorporate math somehow into your meeting (Ex: Count the days of school using coins, discuss the time allotted to each activity of the day, solve a problem of the day, etc.)
  5. Student Shares – Have 3 students share personal news each day
  6. Emotional Chart – For the young ones, have students go up to a poster that has pictures of certain emotions and choose what they are feeling that day. To boost verbal skills, offer a sentence starter such as “I feel _____ today because _____” and have students give one reason why they feel the way they do.
  7. World News – For older students, bring in one daily news article or video that shares about one event happening in the world that day

Here are 3 examples of morning messages and what can be done to make them engaging.

Message #1 is for younger students. Notice you can do a lot with fill in the blanks. For example, you can leave portions of the date blank and have students fill them in, teaching them to look for the day, month, date and year (in that order). You can also create a focus point for behaviors and let your message lead the discussion. For example: “Hmm…what do you think we really need to focus on during lunch?…ah yes, thats a good one. Let’s focus on cleaning up our lunch spots!”

For Younger students

Message #2 is for middle elementary school students. At this level, you will want to make your morning message as academic as possible, tying in literacy in a variety of ways. My favorite thing to do is create a schedule with daily themes (Ex: Misspell Monday or Punctuation Tuesday). In this message you will notice there is room to correct misspelled words (Ex: Wednesday) and punctuation (Ex: in the date). Also notice the message introduces a special word of the day to get kids thinking ahead. There is also a classwide goal!

For Middle Elementary Students

Message #3 is for Middle Schoolers or perhaps even high schoolers. This sample message was written by a student, Sarah. Sometimes with older students, it can be fun (and academically challenging) to have students write the message daily. This student chose a current event to share about and has been practicing asking a question to her audience to get them interested in her topic. It can be fun to do morning message themes by month, for example for one month each student write one message with a current event. The next month may be a letter writing theme or a book quote theme. As always, I like to include a classwide goal. In this case, Sarah leads the class discussion on choosing a goal or point of focus for the day.

For Older Students

P.S. Yes, I know it is not Wednesday, January 16th or 17th – I just wanted to see if you were all awake!

What other ideas do you have for meeting times in the classroom or at home?

Share This:

Read more

Stadium Seating, Beanbags and Video Game Chairs

I am a person who loves lazy days and relaxation. Even so, I can say with conviction that sitting down and staying still is unnatural and uncomfortable. I know this for a fact because I have tried it many times. I have designed many classrooms over the years and I have always opted to have at least one rug. I love teaching my mini-lessons with students gathered around. I like the feeling of having everyone close so that I can better manage the focus of the class. That being said, sitting on a rug can cause behavioral issues and over the years I have found it intriguing to study the behaviors of students on the rug.

Students often have difficulty staying in their own space when sitting on a rug. After a certain amount of time (it’s different for each person) most students will begin either rocking back and forth or moving into the space of others. Often times, this issue of space becomes a behavioral interference and this can result in a loss of focus for the class. After observing these behaviors time and time again, I thought it would be interesting to spend some time on the rug myself. I was fortunate enough to be able to experiment with this because I have had so many co-teachers in the past. What I found is that it is challenging to stay still on the rug, even for a grown woman. After about ten minutes, my lower back began to feel discomfort and I found myself moving around to get a stretch. I tried sitting in a variety of different positions including “criss-cross applesauce,” amongst the most popular seated position for classrooms I’ve been in. There is no position that is comfortable enough to stay still for prolonged periods of time. After looking at this issue for quite some time, here is a summary of my findings:

Tip 1: Keep your rug time short (no longer than 10 minutes)

Tip 2: If working with older students, bring chairs to your rug

Tip 3: Be flexible – allow students to sit in any comfortable position and to have “stretch time” on the rug in between your teaching

Tip 4: Use special seating to increase focus

Let’s focus on Tip 4. I decided to play around with special seating more recently in my teaching practice. I have found that using seating such as: bean bags, video game chairs and stadium seating improves focus and allows students to be engaged at the rug for longer periods of time. Another fun way to use the special seating is as a reward to boost strong work ethic. For example, I knew a teacher who used a positive reward system called “The Exemplar System.” Students who displayed “Exemplar” behavior would get small rewards to boost intrinsic motivation. One possible reward was to spend independent work time in cozy seating at the rug, rather than at the table with the other students. This reward was popular amongst her students in a middle school setting (which I couldn’t believe!)

Here are some examples of special seating that I have used in classrooms over the years. If you are a parent or family member reading this, you can consider purchasing some sort of cozy seating for at home use. I had a student last year, who loved our video game chairs so much that he had his mother buy one and he did his homework in it every night. It was such a great reward for him!

Stadium Seating[amazon-product image=”http://ws.assoc-amazon.com/widgets/q?_encoding=UTF8&Format=_SL160_&ASIN=B003YNV5LI&MarketPlace=US&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&tag=edg0b-20&ServiceVersion=20070822″ type=”image”]B003YNV5LI[/amazon-product]

 

Beanbags[amazon-product image=”http://ws.assoc-amazon.com/widgets/q?_encoding=UTF8&Format=_SL160_&ASIN=B001T4XTW2&MarketPlace=US&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&tag=edg0b-20&ServiceVersion=20070822″ type=”image”]B001T4XTW2[/amazon-product]

 

 

VideoGameChairs[amazon-product image=”http://ws.assoc-amazon.com/widgets/q?_encoding=UTF8&Format=_SL160_&ASIN=B001T4XUOE&MarketPlace=US&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&tag=edg0b-20&ServiceVersion=20070822″ type=”image”]B001T4XUOE[/amazon-product]

 

Stadium Seating[amazon-product image=”http://ws.assoc-amazon.com/widgets/q?_encoding=UTF8&Format=_SL160_&ASIN=B003399114&MarketPlace=US&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&tag=edg0b-20&ServiceVersion=20070822″ type=”image”]B003399114[/amazon-product] Beanbags[amazon-product image=”http://ws.assoc-amazon.com/widgets/q?_encoding=UTF8&Format=_SL160_&ASIN=B001T4XTUE&MarketPlace=US&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&tag=edg0b-20&ServiceVersion=20070822″ type=”image”]B001T4XTUE[/amazon-product] Video Game Chairs[amazon-product image=”http://ws.assoc-amazon.com/widgets/q?_encoding=UTF8&Format=_SL160_&ASIN=B004SU7OAM&MarketPlace=US&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&tag=edg0b-20&ServiceVersion=20070822″ type=”image”]B004SU7OAM[/amazon-product]

Share This:

Read more

Behavior Charting, Positive Reward Systems and Praise

Introduction by Marisa Kaplan of EdGeeks.com

The concept of rewards and consequences is usually a controversial topic amongst educational professionals. I have sat through many school meetings regarding school-wide systems for behavior management and the one thing I can say for sure is that there is never a simple answer. Some professionals believe that materialistic rewards such as stickers or allowance are appropriate for students. Others believe that only those non-materialistic rewards are appropriate. This article is an unbiased piece written by a school psychologist who wishes to offer tips to families at home. You can decide for yourself which types of rewards are appropriate for your child. My personal advice:

  • Always put intrinsic motivation at the heart of any behavior system
  • Always aim to develop a child’s sense of morality through modeling what makes something right or wrong
  • Teach children to make positive choices because they believe it is the right choice to make, rather than because they want extra allowance 

Charting and Improving Behaviors at Home – Emma Savino, NYS Certified School Psychologist

Behavior and sticker charts are a great way to reward and positively reinforce desired behaviors.  Not only does the child learn new strategies to manage their own behavior, they can visually see their progress and simultaneously work toward a goal.  The benefit for adults is the ability to consistently monitor a child’s progress over time.

The best part is that you can chart any behavior! Your child’s behaviors will vary based on their age.  Therefore, the type of chart you use and the rewards provided will change as your child grows. Older children might work towards a goal to obtain allowance or extra time with friends, while younger children can work for small tangible prizes or time on the playground.

Keep in mind; rewards do not always have to be tangible items.  A reward can simply be verbal praise or affection.  This applies to all positive behavior; not just behaviors you are tracking or looking to improve. Be sure to reward progress, not perfection. If your child is making gains, they should be rewarded in some way.  Address one or two behaviors at a time.  If you try to manage all undesirable behaviors, you will be unsuccessful.  Choose the most salient behaviors. For example, if your desired goal is to have your child put their toys away each day, you can create or print a behavior chart, similar to this one:

Minnie Mouse Chore Chart

I suggest writing the desired behavior somewhere on the chart to remind the child daily of what is expected.  Even if your child is not yet reading, exposing them to goal oriented language is important when improving behavior.  Your goal can simply state: “Molly will put her toys away each day.” If Molly cleans up her toys after playtime, she would receive a sticker on the day she completed the task.  If your child plays more than once a day, you can divide the chart into times and provide a sticker after each play session.

You can also rate your child on a scale from 1 – 4, or use picture icons such as smiley faces (J L), particularly if they are resistant to change at the start of the intervention or if they partially engage in the desired behavior.  This will visually show them where they need improvement.  After rating them, explain why they received a 2 or a L face.  Decide on an appropriate number of J faces or number range (i.e. 20-28 points per week) for your child to receive a reward.

For younger children (roughly PreK-1st), rewards should be more immediate and given directly after the desired behavior is observed or at the end of each day that the plan is in place.  Young children are not as mindful of goals as older children, and many cannot think past the present.  That is why direct and immediate rewards are important for that particular age group.  If your child is older (roughly 2nd grade and up), let them create a “reward menu” of what they enjoy.  At the end of the week, they can choose a reward from the menu. Use your judgment when rating behaviors, when giving rewards and determining the time frame to earn a reward.  This will vary with age and one particular plan will not work for all children.

Use of positive language is important when changing undesirable behaviors.

  • “I really like how you are cleaning up your toys and putting them in your toy box”
  • “You are really helping Mommy keep the house clean by picking up your toys.”

Try to avoid negative or direct comments like “Put away your toys!” or “Look what a mess you have made!” Rather than criticizing behaviors, teach and model how to behave appropriately. The more you praise, the more automatic the behavior will become.  Rewards can be gradually reduced as the behavior becomes more habitual.

Possible Chart Ideas: 

  • Homework Completion
  •  “Penny a Page” – I am stealing this idea from my mom, who used to make a chart for my brother and I to encourage summer reading.  She paid us a penny for each page we read at the end of the summer.
  • Anger Control
  • Potty Training
  • Sibling Argument
  • Whining/Crying
  • Picky Eaters
  • Going to bed on time

Resources:

This website has a wide range of charts available.  Plus they are free! There are behavior tools for all ages that can be used at home and school. http://www.freeprintablebehaviorcharts.com/

Coming Soon: Classroom Wide Behavior Management

Share This:

Read more

The Importance of Sharing: Feature pieces, gallery walks, spotlights and more…

I’ll begin today by opening myself up and sharing an embarrassing memory from my first year of teaching. I’m warning you, this one is pretty bad, but here is my personal opinion… We all have embarrassing moments and if we can’t reflect on how we used to be and how it impacts who we are now, we have no business being in the field of educating others.

It was around the holidays and everything seemed to be getting out of hand. Piles of paperwork flooded my desk, my curriculum binders were a mess, I could not keep up with grading homework, and I was constantly being scheduled for meetings on my preps. I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but this overwhelming feeling made me begin assigning work that was not necessarily the most important. This was not like me. I cared so much about teaching meaningful lessons, but I guess somehow my values got lost in the chaos for a moment. I will never forget when one of my most beloved students, we’ll call him “Captain” to maintain anonymity, came up to me with a worksheet in his hand. I looked at him and said “Thanks, Captain, you can leave that on my desk.” He said to me, “I already handed it in. I just found it in the trash.” I was mortified. In that moment I flashed back to the previous afternoon when I went on a cleaning spree and tried to clear off my desk…obviously his work was on it. There was nothing I could say to Captain in that moment to make up for what I had done. The only thing I can do now, years later, is to say thank you. Captain changed the way I teach and think, and that one moment has impacted the countless students I worked with after him.

Today in education, teachers are responsible for plowing through a ton of material. I always fear that this idea of “fitting everything in” can blur the lines of what is most important. The worst thing we can do is give work that comes across to our students as “busy work.” We need to be careful. While there is a lot that must get done, our work must be meaningful. We need to make time to stop and celebrate the work that is being done or else our children will not realize the importance of their work nor will they have a visual representation of the progress they have achieved. This concept is small but it has a great impact on work ethic. This idea is important both in school and at home. Classrooms and home work-spaces should have student work on display.

Why Share Student Work?

  • To instill that the work being done is valuable
  • To instill pride for the work that is being accomplished
  • To allow students to get feedback including both compliments and constructive ideas for ways to make their work stronger next time
  • To allow students to review work from different points in the year, so they may have a visual marker for progress

How to Share Student Work?

We can share work in a variety of ways including:

  • Publishing party: Have student families come into the classroom so children can share their writing
  • Bulletin Boards: Display student work and art (see below)
  • Library: Put student writing in your library so other students may read their work (see below)
  • Gallery Walk: Tape student work all around the room and have the class walk around to admire the work. Take it one step further and give students post-its to write compliments for the pieces they like.
  • Theme Day Celebration: Invite families or other classes to come in and see your students’ work. Last year, I worked with a fabulous teacher who held a math carnival to share math games built by students. (See below)
  • Principal Boards: Ask the principal of your school to make a bulletin board in his/her office that has displays exemplar student work each month.

Bulletin Board: Community Heroes

Student's stories are bound and headed for the library to be shared.

Theme Day Celebration: Arctic Study Share


Spotlights: Here is my favorite way to share work. This strategy can easily be modified to fit your needs. I will give an example to help you understand how this works.
Download Spotlight Sheet
Monday: We do a writing lesson on how to include more details in our writing.
Monday night: I take home student work, read through each piece and write feedback. I choose a few lines from student work that I deem to be exemplar. I fill out my spotlights sheet including  a short excerpt that demonstrates the skill (or for younger students, i’ve used a spotlights chart on large chart paper.)
Tuesday: I begin our writing lesson by reviewing the spotlights with the class. We discuss the student writing and why these particular lines were chosen.
With this strategy, students become motivated through examining the strong work that is being done by their peers. They are more likely to work hard when they know that their teacher is looking through there work with care. I always make sure to include a variety of writing levels. It is easy to choose a struggling writer if you are just focused on the one line! This can boost confidence, especially for writers that do not receive compliments frequently. Download “Spotlights” sheet by clicking on the blue link above.

Share This:

Read more

A Silent Way to Address Undesired Behaviors

Often times when we come across an undesired behavior, we tend to address it in a forward way. Sometimes we raise our voices in frustration, other times we repeat ourselves again and again although we realize it is having little or no effect on the behavior. Even though we don’t want to, sometimes we focus on the child in the room who is making the wrong choice rather than sending positive attention towards a student who is making the right choice.

Last year I worked with a teacher who used a strategy that I found revolutionary. The teacher addressed undesirable behaviors by complimenting positive behaviors in a silent way. This seems so simple, but somehow it is under-utilized. This teacher used a series of “silence signs.” The signs carried various messages to students such as words of encouragement for a particular behavior, or words of warning for others.

Below is a series of “silence signs” that are available for download. I created these as a generic version of the signs we used last year so they might apply to more situations. Of course you can feel free to re-create them using language that is specific to your circumstance.

Click here to download Silent Signs

How to Use “Silence Signs”

To use these signs, I suggest downloading, printing and stapling them together. If they are in a booklet, you will be more likely to remember to use them. The most obvious rule is to use them silently! Remember, these signs were developed to avoid using a loud voice in difficult situations. In the situation below, Student A is making a poor choice, while Student B is making a positive choice.

  1. Walk past Student A and over to Student B.
  2. Reward Student B’s positive behavior by showing that student a sign with a friendly message such as “Thank you for setting a great example.”
  3. If Student A’s behavior changes in a positive way, be sure to reward the behavior.
  4. If Student A’s undesirable behavior remains, use a sign with a message that lets the student know that you are asking them to make a change. This can offer a student a chance in a non-intimidating way.
Why Use “Silent Signs”
  • To practice de-escalation in the classroom
  • To show students that you are staying calm
  • To take your voice out of the equation
  • To help you make sure that you are giving fair warnings to a student
  • To show students that you value positive behaviors
  • To make sure to focus on giving thanks to those students who are making positive choices

Share This:

Read more

Home-School Connection: What’s the deal with A.D.H.D?

This article was written by a wonderful school psychologist who also happens to be an amazing friend. She works primarily in student assessment and is a wealth of knowledge on many different areas of student needs both in the classroom and at home. Her ideas truly offer us ways to bridge the gap between home and school. This is my longest post yet…and while I thought about breaking it into two sections, I didn’t want to make my readers wait to read the second half. Yes, it is long but it is informative and sends a message of hope to all of us out there working with children who have been diagnosed with ADHD.

What’s the deal with A.D.H.D? by, Emma Savino, M.A., C.A.S, NYS Certified School Psychologist

We’ve all heard someone self-diagnose themselves with ADHD; “I can’t focus today! I’m so ADHD!” The truth is, we are all inattentive or become restless at times.  Most of us have the self-awareness and cognitive control to bring ourselves back to reality when this occurs.  However, about 10% of the population struggles with maintaining focus and conforming to environments that require controlled behavior on a daily basis.  Imagine how tiring that would be for someone who has limited control over their impulses, attention, organization and ability to remain still.  Now imagine that person as a child stuck in a classroom for 6 hours each day behind a desk.  This is a daunting task for many children in our classrooms.  Some feel that ADHD is over-diagnosed (which it probably is), however, it does exist!  What separates those with true ADHD from those with attention difficulties depends on the frequency, severity and length of time behaviors have been present.  For these individuals, there is hope! We can treat ADHD just as we treat medical disorders, through various modifications and behavior management systems in home and school settings. This helps create a better and more productive work environment for everyone involved.

What is ADHD? Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurobiological disorder characterized by inattentive and hyperactive behaviors that are developmentally inappropriate.  These behaviors tend to interfere with daily life, impacting school performance, social relationships and productivity.

When do children display these behaviors? ADHD can manifest at an early age.  Be sure to rule out developmentally appropriate behaviors.  Kids are inattentive! That’s just a fact of life.  My professional opinion is to seek help if behaviors persist through 1st grade.  I do not feel comfortable assessing a child in pre-K or kindergarten for ADHD.  First grade is where students usually begin to be required to function in more structured settings.  If you (parent or teacher) are actively teaching self-control through the use of a structured routine and other direct teaching strategies in which the child is not responding, further investigation into ADHD may be warranted. Be sure that these behaviors are impacting your child across various environments.  If behaviors are specific to one setting (i.e. the classroom) modifications in that particular setting may be all that is needed to see improvements in behavior.

*It is also important to rule-out learning disabilities or any medical problems that may contribute to inattention/hyperactivity. If you have concerns about your child’s performance, contact your school district to find out how you can refer your child for evaluation to assess these areas.

Who can diagnose ADHD? School districts can use screening tools to determine frequency and significance of behaviors, however, cannot diagnose.  Once this information is gathered, school districts will typically recommend you share the data with an outside medical professional.

Although your general pediatrician can diagnose ADHD, I recommend follow-up with a neurologist, clinical psychologist or psychiatrist.  These individuals have more training in this area and may be able to conduct additional assessments to determine whether a diagnosis is warranted.

Guidelines for Diagnosis The Diagnostic & Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) is the mental health professional’s bible.  This manual outlines behaviors associated with various disorders.  Individuals must meet a specific number of criteria, occurring for a pre-determined length of time. For ADHD, symptoms must be present for 6 months and be disruptive to daily life or are considered developmentally inappropriate. They also must be present across at least two settings.  There are three different ADHD diagnoses (the term ADD is no longer used):

a. Predominately Inattentive Type: This describes the child who is inattentive and does not display significant hyperactive behaviors.

  • Inattentive symptoms can include:
    • Trouble organizing activities.
    • Trouble keeping attention on tasks or play activities.
    • Is often easily distracted.
    • Does not give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities.
    • Loses things needed for tasks and activities.

b. Predominately Hyperactivity Type: This describes the child who is hyperactive and does not display significant inattentive behaviors.

  • Hyperactive/Impulsive symptoms can include:
    • Fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat.
    • Runs about or climbs when and where it is not appropriate.
    • Has trouble playing or enjoying leisure activities quietly.
    • Is often “on the go” or often acts as if “driven by a motor.”
    • Trouble waiting one’s turn.
    • Interrupts or intrudes on others.
    • Blurts out answers before questions have been finished.

c. Combined Type: This describes the child who displays both inattentive and hyperactive symptoms.

Recommendations for Teachers and Parents

General Recommendations:

  • Be patient with your children with ADHD.  The calmer and more collected you are, the more they will respond to you and follow directions within the classroom or household.
  • Provide these children with visually stimulating and interesting material such as maniuplatives, to help catch their attention.  You can also allow a student to hold an object in their hand while working (i.e. stress ball, play-doh, etc.).  This can sometimes help increase focus.  However, this technique should only be used if the item itself does not become a distraction.
  • Students with ADHD often suffer from deficits in working memory or “immediate memory.”  This is where we initially process information and then store the information into our short or long-term memory.  When we repeat a phone number in our head in order to remember it as we get to the phone, we are using our working memory.  Individuals with attention problems may struggle with using their working memory.  Therefore, always break up instructions into individual steps.  Writing down these steps on paper can also act as a visual reminder.
  • Teach organization! If your home and classrooms are organized, the more likely your child will be organized.  At home, organize toys into categories and colored bins.  You can also label these bins and put pictures on them displaying what’s inside.  For school books, color code folders and binders into separate subjects.
  • Attention to task and school performance for a child with ADHD can fluctuate.  Some days you may notice this child is “on point” or they may score high on a test.  This is normal for these children so it is important to expect patterns of fluctuating performance and attention. Again, be patient.

Recommendations specific to teachers:

  • Have the student sit in close proximity to you.  A simple tap on the students’ desk may be enough to redirect them to task.
  • Reward this student when they are focusing.
  • Provide them with movement breaks throughout the day.
  • DO NOT take away recess as a punishment or for the student to catch up on work.  These children (wait a tic; all children) NEED recess.  Recess is not a significant amount of time to keep the student from participating.  What is recess nowadays, anyway? Fifteen to thirty minutes? Let the kid play!
  • Use visual schedules so the student knows what to expect each period during the day.  This can be posted on the child’s desk or in the front of the classroom.
  • Rules should be clear, concise and their implementation should be consistent.  The student will eventually learn your expectations and this leaves no room for surprises.If and when you have the time, work one-on-one or in a small group with these children.  Attention can significantly increase with less distraction in a smaller setting.
  • Expressive tone of voice when teaching will help keep your student’s attention.

Recommendations specific to parents:

  • Homework can be challenging to finish with any child.  Create a homework routine.  Complete homework at the same time each day.  Have a “homework box” near where your child completes their work to avoid disorganization and interruptions during homework time.  This box should include ANYTHING that your child could possibly need to complete homework and small projects.
  • Medications:  Medicating your child is a big decision and is solely your decision.  I’m not going to speak too much on this matter because the truth is if you are considering medication, you really must speak to a medical professional about benefits and side-effects.
  • Encourage healthy eating!  You are what you eat, right? Good foods that act as fuel are the healthy ones!  These foods can help improve focus and productive energy.  Therefore, avoid sugary foods that are going to make your child MORE hyper.  Have a healthy snack waiting for them when they get home from school.
  •  Limit video game time.  Many parents think their child does not have ADHD because their child can play video games for hours! However, the intense stimulation provided by video games is making your child’s brain happy, but is not necessarily good for them.  Although a child can partake in a healthy amount of video game playing, try to get them to do something more productive like build a sculpture out of blocks, play with a friend, create artwork or help you with chores around the house.
  • Let your child play! Take them to the park and let them play outside.  Use play time as a reward for your child.  As long as all of their school responsibilities are fulfilled, they should be playing, running and jumping to release that energy, particularly after being cooped up in school all day.
  • Keep open communication with your child.  Do not keep their ADHD a secret from them.  Many children with ADHD have average to above average intellectual abilities.  Therefore, there is a good chance they know they’re different! Educating your child about their strengths and areas for growth, and working with them to determine what works best to manage inattention and impulsive behaviors will only benefit them.

In closing, remember this when working with these children:

  • There is no cure for ADHD, but managing the disorder is possible.
  • Be sure that inattention/hyperactivity is significantly impacting your child before searching for a diagnosis.
  • Ignore behaviors that are not causing disruption to others or are not jeopardizing safety for anyone. If you try to correct each and every problematic behavior, you will go crazy.
  • Use every opportunity to teach your child.  Teachable moments occur everyday and many of the skills that children with ADHD lack can be taught directly with repeated practice.
  • Take a deep breath.  Remember, you are working with a child and they need your help; and hey, they keep you on your toes, right?  Accept the challenge and do all you can to create enriching experiences and environments for your child.

Resources: http://www.chadd.org/  – This website is a great resource to learn about ADHD and connect with other parents or adults who have been diagnosed.  They also offer a bi-monthly magazine that you can subscribe to so you can stay informed.

Emma also highly recommends this book for parents and teachers that are working with children with ADHD:

[amazon-product image=”http://ws.assoc-amazon.com/widgets/q?_encoding=UTF8&Format=_SL160_&ASIN=1843106515&MarketPlace=US&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&tag=edg0b-20&ServiceVersion=20070822″ type=”image”]1843106515[/amazon-product]

 

Have a story to share or a question to ask? Post a comment and we’ll get back to you!

Share This:

Read more