Eleven Ways To Influence Your Attention Different Child and Help Him Be Successful
Posted Nov 17 2008 9:04pm
Note:This article is taken from childspirit.com, the author of ADHDFamilies is not a licensed psychotherapist or medical professional.
In my psychotherapy practice, I work with kids who have what I term “attention differences”‘ or are Attention Different (AD), a term I prefer over “deficits” as in Attention Deficit Disorder. I have found that the most effective parents acknowledge the fact that their kids see the world differently. These parents talk to their kids in a certain way to make sure that the child’s tendency to misperceive the intention of the parents’ communications does not come into play: And they teach their children how to do new things by carefully bridging to prior learning. Here are 11 communication and learning techniques these parents use:
Use “I statements” that invoke positive outcomes. AD children are reflexively oppositional. Make a “big tree” out of this tendency and go around it by painting a picture with positive language of where you want them to go. They will get stuck on anything negative and give you a run for your money! For example, do not say “Pay attention.” Instead, say “I’ll start again when you look in my direction when I am talking and tell me that you are Iistening.” Or (using a language prompt to overcome short term memory problems) “When you can show me that you are listening by no longer swearing at me, we can continue.”
Know that the Attention Different child is visually and auditorily cued to your behavior and what you say; if you are upset, he is upset. If you are calm, he is calm. It is important to choose the images and sounds you put in front of the child as he may not “edit” his behavior but will follow what is put before him. If you are not calm yourself, expect that your child will be just as uptight as you are. He will watch your disposition so it is a good idea to get another adult involved to give yourself time to calm before dealing with him.
AD kids are extremely visual so to motivate them, invoke exciting images: “I have a picture in my mind of you playing goalie at recess and being one of the star players on your team. I can see you with our group talking together and planning things that need to be done for the hike you guys are going on.”
If a child is obsessing you probably will get nowhere until he can relax and clear his mind. You cannot tell him to stop but you can roll with obsessions and compulsions by expressing neutral empathy: “It must be tiring to have that dumb thought going over and over again in your head. Is there anything I can do to help?”
AD children go bonkers in crowded settings because they are so open to stimulation from other kids. To calm him, check out the AD child’s physical comfort zone by asking him and measuring the distance he prefers between himself and another. Respect his need for space. Try to get an accommodation like this made in his classroom.
Use numeric or color signals to help him tell you when he is getting stressed or frustrated. Create a range from “1″ to “7″ in which “1″ indicates “relaxed,” liable to pay attention.” and “7″ indicates “stressed to the max. Or develop a color code to this effect. “Amber” means slightly stressed, “White” means relaxed, “Red” means totally stressed and about to blow. This helps you get on problems early.
Use breathing and relaxation exercises to reduce stress. Have the child breathe down to his diaphragm (belly) and subvocally repeat “I am relaxed” while visualizing a triangle or pyramid with the words “I am” going up one side and “relaxed” down the other, coming back with a little light strand on the bottom of the pyramid.
Use “are you not?” language to enlist the AD child’s natural oppositionality toward your goals. “You are talking quietly, are you not?” “You will empty the waste baskets, will you not?” Or challenge the child’ s ability to control himself while deliberately creating a situation that he can probably control: III bet I can easily make you angry if I raise my voice just a little bit. Like this!” Energize his natural oppositionality: “Nope. You can’t make me angry. I can breathe down to my gut, count to three, and control myself. See. You didn’t do it.”
AD children are notoriously oblivious to their own emotional states and those of people around them. But they also tend to be very “feeling oriented” in their reactions. To develop self awareness of the child’s emotional states, first go over with him what different emotions feel like in his body and where he feels them. Then ask him to feel his own face to notice the expression on it and then figure out his emotional state from that. III notice that my mouth is tight and I realize that I am angry.” Share how you experience emotion in your body: “When I get angry, my belly feels tight,” and bridge to his experience.
To develop skill in noticing the impact of his behavior on others, have him focus on the left side of the other’s face to notice that person’s expression. Then have him sub-vocalize what he sees. “Her face is red. Her eyes are squinting. Her mouth is drawn up. She looks angry.”
And finally, teach him new skills by referencing prior skill learning. “Learning ‘x’ may look hard, but it is nothing compared to how hard it is to learn to play the piano. Remember when you first sat down with your music instructor. You never thought you’d be able to do it, but then, after practice, your fingers just sort of got into it and it started being a little more fun and easier.
Don’t be too hard on yourself if you run into miscommunication problems with your AD child or if he takes a long time for you to teach him things that come quickly to normal kids. Focus on keeping a strong relationship with him and you I II get through just fine!