Some simple techniques can assist children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and/ or autistic spectrum disorder (ASD)to be happier and achieve appropriate goals. These techniques are easy for parents and teachers to implement.
Of course a child is not a car but think of the following analogy:
Every car to get to a destination needs a driver. Parents can assist children to get into the driver’s seat and drive their ‘car’ to appropriate ‘destinations’.
Here’s how to assist children who have difficulties with focus, attention, concentration, ‘executive functioning’ or ‘working memory’ difficulties. Executive functioning and working memory are words used by school psychologists. What the parent sees is a child who can’t seem to figure out what comes first and appear disorganized.
What to do: Get a pad of 8 by 12 inch lined paper.
On one per sheet of paper —
1) Write at the top, a Goal that parents/teachers want the child to achieve.
2) Write out all the Steps required to accomplish the Goal.
3) Order the steps from first to last using KISS (Keep It Simple, Simple)
4) Figure out an appropriate Reward for child accomplishing the steps.
Set it up so child can get partial reward for partial completion.
5) Decide the number of Days child needs to complete the Goal.
6) Draw up a Graph with Days across Top of Page and Goals listed on left.
Here’s an example of a Behavior Plan for a child who shows symptoms of both ADHD and ASD:
Gina is 8 years old and was exposed in utero to illegal drugs and alcohol. Her biological mother lost parental rights and Gina has been in foster care since age two. Since age four, Gina has received County Mental Health therapy and medication to assist with focus, attention and concentration. The therapy provided by County Mental Health focuses only on helping Gina to label emotions and better express her emotions appropriately.
Gina’s foster mother and her teacher agree that Gina’s adaptive functioning abilities are considerably below what they expect for her age. Her foster mother wants Gina to 1) wash her face & brush her teeth; 2) make her bed; 3) put toys in basket in her room; 4) set the table with utensils and plates before dinner.
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Wash face & clean teeth
Put toys in basket
Set table with utensils & plates
Spiritual/ religious beliefs need to be integral to a successful Behavioral Plan.
For example, Gina’s foster mother goes to church and rests on Sunday. Therefore the behavior plan is for six days a week and no work on Sunday, their day of rest. Six days a week time four goals = 24 Goals for Gina to achieve. For each Goal achieved she earns one (1) dime. During the week she puts stickers on the sheet and gets her motivators (dimes) which she puts into a plastic, clear jar. That way she can see exactly what she has earned towards a new toy on the weekend. Her foster mother believes Gina can find age appropriate toys for around $2.50 to $3.00 a toy.
What makes a Behavioral Plan successful?
The answer is simple: practice and more practice so the Steps are as simple as possible and the child gets rewarded for partial and then complete finishing the Goal.
For example, Gina when we started could not make her bed said her foster mom. Well, the cover was too big and too heavy for a thin, small 8 year old to move around. Thus, by simplifying and making a bed simply tossing a light duvet (down comforter) on a twin bed and putting the pillow in place — then making a bed by an 8 year old is simple and possible.
A second example: Overall point: Parents can set simple ‘destinations’ for their child to drive their ‘car’ towards and by keeping the steps simple and practising the steps again and again their child can achieve those destinations to goals that parents set. Very important: the hugs and ‘You did great!’ and ‘Keep trying!’ are as important and at times more important than any reward system. Parents – whether biological parents or foster parents – are the fire to ignite important, life long change in children.
Gina has never set the table for dinner. Part of the reason is that the plates are too high for her to reach and they are china easily breakable. Also, the utensils are not easy to get to. This is easily solved by moving plastic plates and smaller folks and spoons to one drawer that the child can reach. The point is to set it up so the child can successfully achieve the Goals.
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Overall point: Parents can set simple ‘destinations’ for their child to drive their ‘car’ towards and by keeping the steps simple and practising the steps again and again their child can achieve those destinations to goals that parents set.
Very important: the hugs and ‘You did great!’ and ‘Keep trying!’ are as important and at times more important than any reward system. Parents – whether biological parents or foster parents – are the fire to ignite important, life long change in children.