Posts Tagged ‘ADHD’

PostHeaderIcon What It’s Like Coaching Parents

What It’s Like Coaching Parents: Traveling Further Upstream

I often get the question, as do we all, “What do you do?”  I realize now that people are asking, “What difference do you make?” or “What can you do for me?”  So I thought I’d write about my life as a parent coach, to give you a window on what I can do for you, or those with whom you work.

It all started when my middle son proved to be a fabulous, smart, adorable boy who also gave me a run for my money. He asked a thousand questions each day, and often didn’t like being told what to do. I found my way with him, stumbling often, but he grew up to become a wonderful person. (There’s a ton of hope!)

I became a school psychologist, inspired to make school a pleasant, or at least not harmful, place for kids who struggle with learning disabilities, emotional/behavioral disturbance, ADHD, ODD, grief, autism, giftedness, and a variety of other situations.  I had had a less-than-nurturing school experience as a kid, and was determined to change that for others. I kept thinking about what it would be like to be in school 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, and feel like you were always failing and not fitting in.  It was that feeling that kept me going in behalf of kids, to make each day one where they were welcome and accepted.

Then it dawned on me: “If I could go upstream a bit more, and get to the adults who love and care for these kids, we wouldn’t have to have so many evaluations for emotional/behavioral disturbance.”  Who better to do this work of bringing out the best in children than their own parents, who love them, have the most invested in them, and are there when the children need them the most?  Inspired, I hung my shingle as a parent coach and prayed.

That was 2000, and now I have a story to tell!  Each year since the beginning , I have had the enormously gratifying experience of helping parents look further upstream for the reasons behind their children’s behavior, and help them understand how to create peace in their homes.

I went on to teach at my graduate school alma mater, UW-Stout, to train parent coaches through my own business, and then to certify coaches at Adler Graduate School, where I continued to develop more ideas for making parent coaching work the most effectively, to comfort the hearts of parents and children alike.

If your child is being defiant (usually it’s pain being expressed) we’ll explore the reasons, employ insight, adjust the interactions, and see the defiance melt away.  When your child is oppositional, we’ll uncovered the particulars (she needs more self-efficacy, and to be seen and heard) and watch as she blossoms into the loving kid she was meant to be.  When he’s acting depressed and withdrawn (often unexpressed grief), we’ll help him grieve his losses directly, and witness miraculous recovery.

Yes, I think this is the best job in the world.  There is simply nothing like helping parents to heal their own child.

To date, I’ve trained nearly 500 others to coach parents and have been privileged to watch them work their magic with families. I love my position as the Director of Family Engagement at Center for the Challenging Child/Anu Family Services, where the other coaches and I work with Treatment Foster Care parents, bio parents, and kin. These are the most hurt kids, who have been moved from home to home “because of their behavior” (read: unexpressed grief) and we’re finding the same amazing results.  Working with parents who are not in the child welfare realm has been profoundly satisfying, as well. How much job satisfaction can one person have, I ask you?

My heart is full, full, full as I reflect on this incredible journey from mom of an intense and wonderful kid, to a school psychologist, to college and grad school instructor, to parent coach and trainer.  I can share this great news with people, offer hope they never dreamed of, and watch them create miracles in their own homes.  Even thinking about the generational effect of coaching is fabulous … kids who grow up with Present Moment Parenting may just pass that legacy on to their children!

I’ve come to realize that it’s never too late for any child to benefit from their parents’ understanding of the upstream reasons for behavior, and ways to calm them.  Yes, 17, 18, and 19-year-olds can experience healing through their parents’ evolution.  In fact I’ve coached parents of children in their 20’s, 30’s and beyond!  The principles remain the same, the parent-child relationship continues to affect the child for years, and it can always be healed.  What a concept!

How can I help you with your child, or train your staff to do this powerful work?

For more information on healing hearts through parent coaching, click here.

For more information on parenting coach certification, click here.

For information on my speaking and training events, click here.

To check speaking availability, click here.

Thank you for the enormous privilege of serving your family or your staff in healing children’s and parents’ hearts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

PostHeaderIcon When Your Child is Diagnosed and You’re Not Sure What It Means

ADHD, ODD, RAD, ASD, SPD, … the alphabet soup of labels can be mind-boggling!  When your child is diagnosed and you’re not sure what it means, life can be so overwhelming and confusing.

What I find so often is that a parent will say, “My child has a diagnosis of ADHD and anxiety.  It’s driving me crazy that she can’t remember to pick up her clothes and her room is a mess!” My first response is often that these are signs of ADHD, which comes as a bit of a surprise to the parent.  Even though she has looked up the symptoms on the Internet, she hasn’t put two and two together – that right now she’s seeing the symptoms of her child’s diagnosis.  It’s trickier with mental health diagnoses than it is with physical ones. If your child has a rash, you can see the rash and you fully understand why she wants to scratch it.  You normally don’t call a parenting coach to say, “I don’t understand why she wants to scratch!”  But since the symptoms of ADHD, ODD, etc., are not in clear view, and since they are behavioral, it’s easy to jump to “bad- behavior-make-it-stop” than to reflect on the reason behind the behavior.

The other day I spoke with a parent whose child is grieving. She said, “The child is really clingy and we don’t know how to make that stop.”

Last week I worked with a family whose child has an anxiety diagnosis. The parent said, “He constantly asks when we’ll be doing every single thing, and it’s driving me crazy.”

A month ago I had a client whose child was diagnosed with giftedness.  She said, “She acts like she knows everything already, and challenges us at every turn. It’s exhausting just trying to get through the day.”

I recently spoke to a parent whose child has Sensory Processing Disorder related to taste and texture.  He said, “I can’t get him to eat the dinner we put on the table. Shouldn’t he just be grateful for a good meal?”

All of these parents love their kids and want the best for them. It’s just that when you’re in the thick of raising a challenging child, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s really going on. Each of these parents, after gaining insights into the root cause of their child’s behavior, can reduce their own irritation with the child, who is simply demonstrating the effects of the diagnosis, not being disrespectful.

Once the irritation is reduced, understanding and compassion can come into play. Most parents want to be compassionate toward their children, but they don’t know how to navigate the behavioral aspects of the diagnoses without feeling like they’re “giving in,” which feels awful.  The last thing parents want is a child who thinks she can “run the show.” When your child is diagnosed, or even just suspected of having a diagnosis, this is a really tough spot to be in as a parent.

The good news is that parent coaching can help you see what you’re looking at, and to learn new ways of interacting that truly work and don’t involve “giving in.”

For a quicker view of how this works, read Present Moment Parenting: The Guide to a Peaceful Life with Your Intense Child.

Or if listening is more your style, get the book on Audible.

And as always, parent coaching is an option.  Don’t wait. You can be released from thinking you have to be the “heavy” with your child, and find ways to communicate that cause great harmony.  Sound good?  We think so, too.

 

PostHeaderIcon The School Year is Wearing Thin Already

The School Year is Wearing Thin Already

The school year is wearing thin already. We parent coaches usually see an up-tick in referrals from professionals and calls for help from parents at this time of year. Parents are distressed because homework struggles and/or behavior calls from school are increasing.  The newness has worn off, and learning issues are coming to light.  Children can’t do their math, they bother their friends, they seem testy and disrespectful, and they are emotionally wrecked by the end of the day. Gifted kids are disrupting the classroom because they are being under-challenged. kids with undiscovered reading disabilities are losing their hope. Those with ADHD are remembering that it’s more of the same every day … I can’t focus enough to do what the others do, and I don’t want to  be different!

What can parents do to help in these situations?  First, understand that if your child is losing interest in school this early in the year, it’s important to

  1. Listen closely to what he’s saying
  2. Avoid blaming him for being unmotivated.

    If the issues persist week after week, asking the school for accommodations and/or testing is well within your rights and responsibility. If it’s math, reading, or writing that’s causing the issue, the evaluation team can try some strategies to help your child. Do not wait for a few more months to go by. If there’s a true learning issue, the sooner you discover it, the better.  If the strategies (i.e., fewer problems or items assigned, moving to the front of the room, or more time allotted for tests) don’t seem to help, the team can decide that a formal learning evaluation should take place.This may involve:
    1. the school psychologist (IQ/learning strengths and weaknesses testing)
    2. the reading, writing or math specialist (grade level achievement testing)
    3. the regular education classroom teacher
    4. your input via surveys and conversation
    5. music, gym, and art teachersIf your child shows that there’s a significant grade-level lag in his or her abilities, special education can be provided for the Specific Learning Disability in the form of an Individualized Educational Plan, or IEP. The child will have programming, often in the regular classroom with the special education teacher co-teaching as a resource for special needs students.  Or the child may be in the special education resource room for math, reading, or writing.  Each school handles this according to their staffing configuration. If no learning disability is discovered, the child may be eligible for regular education accommodations that can support him or her. Many schools have supplemental reading programs, in particular, that can be of great help to your child.

If the problems at school are more focused on behavior and emotions, a similar path can be followed by the school staff.  After a request from parents or a teacher, a team meets to discuss the issues, and then accommodations (i.e., moving to the front of the room, more breaks between activities, and extra guidance at transition times) are made. If there’s not significant improvement, a special education evaluation can take place.  The process involves classroom observation, questionnaires for parents, teachers and familiar adults in the community, and sometimes surveys completed by the child.  The parents, the school psychologist, the regular classroom teacher, the social worker or counselor, and the Emotional-Behavioral Disability special ed teacher could all be involved. If the child is determined to be in need of special education in this area, the EBD teacher would write an IEP, and the parents would be invited to hear the details in a meeting. If the parents approve, the school can institute a regular program of support for the child, with contact with the EBD teacher, social worker, or counselor.

IEP’s follow children from year to year in school, and are reviewed annually. Parents are considered part of the IEP team, and are invited to all annual meetings to learn the results of the tests, and to hear of, and contribute to, changes in the plan. If a need for an early IEP meeting becomes apparent, parents are included in it, too.  Every three years, the special education team re-evaluates the child’s learning disability to be certain that services are still required. Some children mature out of their need for extra support, so they can be “mainstreamed” fully in the regular education classroom.

Some other children have conditions that interfere with their learning, such as hearing or vision impairment, medical issues, or ADHD, that do not qualify them for special education, but require classroom accommodations. In this case, a 504 plan can be instituted. This is a regular education program by which the school team and parents make plans to assure success in school for children whose needs are not in the special education realm, but are still significant enough to require help.  Read more about 504 plans here. 

You may also hear your child talking about the classroom, lunchroom, bus, or gym being “too loud.” She may say that she cannot concentrate in class because of certain smells.  You might hear that your child is struggling because the lights in the room seem to be flickering.  He may say that he cannot stand wearing jeans to school, but can only wear wind pants or sweats.  These all point to sensory processing issues (sensory avoidant), which can understandably interfere with learning. Some children have sensory seeking tendencies, wherein they are always touching a wall, other children, the floor, or furniture. They often bump into others and have difficulty keeping their bodies in their own space.  For some children, sensory avoidant and sensory seeking are both part of their landscape. Click here for information on Sensory Processing Disorder. These issues can be helped by Occupational Therapy, which is usually delivered outside the school setting, but is no less important than school-based services.  OT’s do provide services in school, but usually related to handwriting and other needs that are directly related to school performance. For more concentrated OT, ask your pediatrician for a recommendation, and start with requesting an evaluation from the OT.

Many children whose behaviors are found to be on the autism spectrum receive special education services in autism-specific programs.  Evaluations at school and by medical professionals help to determine if autism is the issue.  If you have a question about whether your child exhibits traits of autism, be sure to start the conversation early, as that will insure earlier intervention and more academic success for your child. Click here for the characteristics of autism in children. 

It’s possible to have sensory issues on their own, and it’s also very common for children with autism to have sensory issues. If your child has sensory concerns, it’s not necessary to assume autism, but it certainly warrants an investigation if some of the other characteristics are also present.

Auditory processing may also be an issue for your child.  This is different from the processing disorder above, where it’s hard for the child to receive auditory input.  This auditory processing issue involves the inability to get the message from the teacher when he or she is speaking. If your child repeatedly says, “I just didn’t hear him,” or “I don’t remember what she said,” this may be your sign that auditory processing is the issue. For children with ADHD, who appear not to be “paying attention,” you can assume that auditory processing is low. Think about how much of school is delivered auditorily, and it’s no wonder kids with ADHD struggle.

It’s also possible to be gifted and have a learning disability. Your child could exhibit “enormous capacity for novelty” and constant curiosity about topics way beyond the interests of her peers, and still struggle with math, reading, or writing. Do not be lulled into thinking your child is not gifted if one of these areas is not up to grade level. Ask for an evaluation to find out if your child is Twice Exceptional, meaning she’s gifted and struggles with learning in one or more areas. Sometimes gifted children have autism characteristics, as well.

Giftedness is determined by IQ testing. If a child doesn’t make the IQ cut-off for giftedness, the school district may consider the overall creativity, verbal adeptness, interest in advanced subjects, or advanced musical or art abilities to include the child in gifted programming. Many parents are reluctant to say, “My child may be gifted.”  Please, please respond if your child is showing signs of giftedness. These children often get overlooked and become discouraged in school, leading to behavior issues. They are vulnerable to depression and anxiety when their learning needs go unrecognized. School personnel who are not attuned to gifted characteristics may not recognize what is causing misbehavior or withdrawal, so it’s up to parents to call attention to this issue, and ask for testing. Again, this is your right and your responsibility.

This can be a dizzying collection of information if you’ve never had to deal with it before. Do not blame yourself if you feel you should have addressed these issues earlier. You could only do what you knew how to do!

If you need help sorting these topics out, parent coaching is the ideal way to get that help. Information on coaching is here.  Please write tina@parentingmojo.com or call 651-453-0123 for an appointment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PostHeaderIcon To Change the Behavior, Change the Child’s Motivation

To Change the Behavior, Change the Child’s

Motivation

Copyright © 2011 Tina Feigal

Children of all ages are motivated by their internal urges (hunger, fatigue, mood, preference) which are influenced by outside forces (time constraints, siblings, friends, parents, grandparents, and teachers.)  We forget that the internal urges and outside forces are frequently out of sync. To gain the best cooperation possible, our own instincts tell us that we should deliver the expectation, and the child should comply, and if compliance doesn’t occur, we should use anger to make it occur.  As we fail to consider the child’s inner urges, and only consider our own perspective, we keep running the same script over and over with no improvements.  A simple request turns into a major tantrum or disrespectful scene, and behavioral storm clouds start to gather. Harsh language, slamming doors, threats, and physical attacks follow what parents thought was a reasonable request.  What happened here? 

To know the answer to this question, we need to study the child for signs of what’s motivating him or her, in other words, what are his current internal urges?   Often some internal negative message, such as “I’m not a good kid, so why should I act like one?” or “I only want my way, and I don’t care what anyone else thinks,” make a child behave the way he does.  When a child feels this down, compliance is just not in the offing. 

Considering the motivation for behavior is a much better way to actually get the results we want.  Now some people think this might be coddling the child.  I would argue that with all human beings, listening to internal motivation results in better performance, so why not use this in parenting difficult children? The real “magic” here is to lift the child up so that he feels seen. 

Children with ADHD, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, Attachment Disorder, Giftedness, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and a variety of just plain hard behavior need to be regarded as having their own internal agenda, based on the messages from children’s bodies.  If we fail to see them as having these internal urges, we will be in non-stop combat mode. 

So the next time you have a request, consider the child’s internal urges before you deliver it, and include an acknowledgement of the child’s inner state in your words.  It can look like this: “I realize you hate to be rushed, so I am going to allow extra time for us to get out the door in the morning.  You can take your time getting up and dressed, so you can feel more relaxed. We can leave at 7:30 without having to hurry.”  The child’s ability to comply is directly related to the amount of sensitivity to his internal urges.  The outside force of the need to be on time for school, camp, or practice now seems less foreboding, and he is free to cooperate. You feel better, too, knowing you have a technique to use that’s compassionate and gets positive results. 

To create success with your child at home, click here to learn about parent coaching.

Copyright © 2011 Tina Feigal

PostHeaderIcon What Your Child Can’t Tell You

What Your Child Can’t Tell You

Copyright © 2011 Tina Feigal, Parent Coach and Parenting Speaker
 
You have probably heard the phrase, “All behavior is communication.” The more I think about this, the more I see that it is a crucial thought for raising children. I want everyone to emblazon this idea where they will see it every day. Children misbehave because they lack the communication skills and insight to tell us what’s really happening. It’s our job to look beyond the behavior to the root feelings.
When a child whines, it is not because she likes the sound of whining. It’s because she lacks the maturity and experience to say, “Mom, Dad, I am frustrated right now because you are asking me to hurry for school, but I am a kid and I’m just slower.” Instead, she’ll exhibit all kinds of unwanted behaviors: whining, delaying, arguing, and even getting physically aggressive.
When a grade-schooler refuses to do his homework, it’s not likely that he is simply lazy. His behavior is communicating that he is discouraged in some way. Our first impulse as parents is to make him seethat he needs to get the work done so he can be successful. We remind, cajole, threaten, and eventually explode. Our first impulse would be much more helpful if instead, it was to determine what to do about the discouragement.
When a teenager doesn’t listen to our advice, it’s not because he is just being a jerk. His behavior is communicating that he is in a new phase of development. He needs to make his own decisions, and we are inadvertently calling him incompetent whenever we advise him. He takes it as an insult every time we make a suggestion. He can’t say, “Mom, Dad, I appreciate that you care about me, and that you are more wise than I am. But I need to make these decisions myself because I am becoming a young adult, and that’s what young adults do. Please bear with me as I struggle and even fail sometimes.” So he leaves the house in a huff, giving the door an extra hard slam for emphasis. We would be much better off if our first impulse was to support him in his decision-making, rather than tell him what to do.

It’s essentially a short-cut. If you want cooperative behavior from your kids, take the short-cut by training your mind to see what’s beneath the communication. Practice seeing your child’s innocence first, and working to understand what lies beneath the foul language, the time spent with the door locked, and the “interesting” style of dress. You will find a vulnerable, changing child who simply doesn’t have insight yet. That’s our job as adults … to gain the insight and act accordingly.

Rather than exhibit anger over disrespectful behavior, acknowledge there’s an emotion that the child cannot express directly lying just under the surface. Kids get hurt a lot easier than most adults realize, so they are compelled to protect their tender hearts by lashing out. If we don’t give them cause to protect themselves (by seeing what’s really going on) they won’t have to be so defensive.

So the next time you see a child “acting out”, ask yourself what’s being communicated. It will be an emotion that the child is too young or too immature to express directly, such as hurt, frustration, disappointment, hopelessness, or something else you can help to identify. Then address the child in those terms, rather than with your own irritation. Say, “You seem upset. Want to tell me what’s up?” or “How about you take some time in your own room until you feel better and we can talk?” or “I remember being your age and feeling that same way. Sit down, and let’s try to make this better together.” You are getting to the root emotion, rather than placing judgment on the child’s behavior. Congratulations! You are on the short-cut to better communication and better behavior with your child.

Copyright © 2011 Tina Feigal