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Back to school for 2013!

Around the United States school bells are ringing once again as the Labor Day holiday marks the last days of freedom for most school page kids. Some parents are excited to see the school doors open while others dread what is to follow. With school comes anxiety and frustrations which make life a living nightmare for some children with hidden disabilities such as ADHD and learning challenges.

Just some tips to help make the year start on a positive note. Always make time to listen to your child. Even a brief conversation let’s your child know you care. Make it a policy you can check the book bag. When dealing with kids with ADHD, it is a given they will forget to give you important notes and homework. With the policy of mom or dad checking the book bag it reduces the frustrations. It also encourages children to start taking the initiative to start giving you stuff to avoid the book bag search.  On some occasions, slip a nice note of encouragement to your child. Nothing embarrassing, just a little note of encouragement or acknowledging a proud moment.

If the teacher/s use the internet to post grades or assignments, be active in checking these sites from time to time. For your information, these sites have loggers so teachers and administrators can see how active you are in checking on your child. This does make a difference when you attend conferences and other meeting about your child. Also, technology doesn’t lie or forget so do not try to say you did when you didn’t. Your child will know. Despite how much staff try not to be vocal about opinions, if you are not keeping up with the options the school provides more often than not they will let your child know.

Lots of great information on Creative Tidal Wave about learning solutions. Check back over previous blogs on focusing ideas, behavior management, and communication. If you have a certain situation you wish to find solutions for, please send me a message and I will address it a blog.

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The Reason For YOU

Only Paige“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium; and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, not how it compares with other expression. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open.” – Martha Graham

What an impact statement! If we raised our children with this statement in mind can you imagine what great things they would accomplish? We are each unique. No matter what challenge or issue you have a purpose no one but you can do because it takes the exact skills, knowledge, and unique twist that only you can bring.

When I work with clients, friends, and students I remind them that with every challenge comes a gift that is unique to them. It is our mission to take a journey to uncover the gift given and develop it. Many people are not aware of their gift. Actually, most people have more than one gift but it takes discovering the first to uncover the rest. Often people do not see the gift as it is but link it to the challenge. ADHD folks have a drive like no other. This drive and persistence can actually be a gift in another setting. One must find how the gift is best used by not focusing on the negative. Kids with learning challenges may not excel in one area but might have an uncanny ability in another if the text is read to them so they can comprehend. Learning disabled kids often think “out-of-the-box” making it possible for them to see problems and situations in a way most folks do not. They  are often excellent problem solvers given the opportunity to bounce ideas around. So, do not think a challenge means you have not gifts or exceptional abilities. You are unique despite what others say based upon a test score or an IQ test. Test do not determine your abilities other than on one particular day and moment.

Challenge those you meet to rise above and share their gifts. If they haven’t found their gift then help them discover what is unique about themselves. If everyone focused on what makes them unique and shares their true being with others, what a wonderful world it would be.

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Why your child with ADHD or learning challenges should play sports

Sports and games

Sports and games (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are the obvious reasons such as learning team work, running off excessive energy, and developing social skills. Some least expected gains from participating in sports might shock you. Did you know most high school and college programs are required to monitor grades? Due to the high demands of eligibility to play sports many schools offer afterschool tutoring programs for athletes. Coaches become very proactive to keep players’ grades in safe zones. Often coaches will spend time mentoring and providing guidance during tough academic times for struggling athletes.

Another less known benefit of participating in sports comes from spotting learning challenges by the way students respond. As a special education teacher, my husband, a coach, would talk to me about a situation observed while a student was running a play. I have stepped in to lend my area of expertise. Some of the issues found were vision perception problems, eye-hand coördination, and undiagnosed dyslexia. A playbook is not always easily read and learned by students with hidden disabilities. I have often stepped in to color code and adapt playbooks for football players.

Athletes with some visual perception problems will often shy away from fast balls coming directly towards them. Working with the Wii gaming system can help improve the eye-hand coördination as well as the shy away response. As with all gaming systems, the sports games build in speed and skill. Having a virtual ball come at your repeatedly can help develop more confidence while building reaction time and coördination. For students who have problems with foot work, the Just Dance games can help. Even Guitar Hero helps with visual processing and eye-hand coördination. The more these areas are developed the more those skills will likely transfer to the sports field.

Team sports area great for helping children understand the importance of patience, trouble shooting, and impulse control. All players must depend on each other for a win. Even though there are those that excel more than others, all members of the team are needed for a win, even the bench warmers. Those that do not play much are needed to encourage and support. Never under-estimate the power of a positive motivating team-mate when the chips are down to pick a team back up. Many a losing team have kicked back in at the last second of the game to pull out a win due to a player’s encouragement when the majority of the team had already given up.

Being a part of team has benefits no matter the player’s level of performance. A member of a group helps build self-esteem in children who struggle due to those invisible disabilities such as ADHD, ADD, and learning disabilities. On many a playing field, the disabilities are not noticed. If they are there is often a different sort of acceptance among athletes that is not found in the classroom. Some students with such challenges often are gifted in sports which acts to balance out the struggles happening in the classroom. Having a purpose will motivate athletes to seek help in their academics in hopes to be able to keep up eligibility to move on to the next level. Often colleges hire learning specialist to help with the transition from high school to college level academics. Knowing there are people willing to help and guide an athlete towards making the grades will keep the athlete from becoming depressed. Depressed students with learning and behavior challenges often seek negatives to fill the emptiness and discouragement. This is a downward spiral leading to jail or worse. In my experience as a high school coach’s wife I have seem many lives changed for the positive due to sports. I have also witnessed the downfall of those who dropped out of sports resulting in negative and harmful alternatives.

If you questions the benefits of sports for students with ADHD/ADD and learning challenges trying search the internet for professional athletes with ADHD and learning challenges. Read the hundreds of stories about how sports saved lives and built self-esteem.

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Do you hear what I hear?

Having worked in a deaf school for many years I came to appreciate the sound of silence as well as paying closer attention to sounds in my environment. First, let me make it clear, deaf schools are not silent. Very few deaf are stone deaf, there is some residual hearing though not functional in what we hearing would understand. You do become far more aware of sound vinrations while working in a deaf school because the deaf react to the slightest of vibrations in many cases that we hearing ignore because we focus on the sound.

Hard of hearing have a difficult time in a deaf school because it is so noisy. If the teacher is deaf then there is no one to calm the outside noise of scooting chairs or loud shuffling papers. Often a child would have attention problems which lead to behavior issues. I would go into the classroom to do environmental sound assessments. Again, if you are not aware of sound then you do not consciously adjust for it in regard to others. If you are hard of hearing you may not always realize it is the back ground noise is bothering you. I need to note here many deaf will turn their hearing aids off during class time because of the noise levels. Hearing aides do not filter noise like the brain does, it just ramps it up so it can be heard. Think about a busy subway with the crowd noises and the trains, amplify 25x, that is a certain headache if not a migraine moment in the making. This same effect can happen in the classroom. Can you imagine being a 7-year-old having to deal with such blasting in your head?

As hearing people we often do not consider the noise as a source of problem in the work environment. This is a false assumption. I was in the bank yesterday discussing with a consumer support  representative about my new business. A prime example time to make her aware of the need for environmental assessments to help improve productivity and employee/consumer comfort. There were fax machines, computer pings and dings, adding machines, papers shuffling, people talking, doors closing… the list was endless. Then I directed her attention to some of the employees. You could see the frustration due to the “bells and whistles” going off at sporadic times. The bank music was terrible! I mentioned a switch to a music with  more white noise tones would help solve the problem because it would drown out the other obnoxious sounds that irritate.  The look on her face was shock. She never thought about all the sounds and how they affect others. Now she was super sensitive to all noises and was picking up on the negative side effects.

Working with autistic and extreme ADHD people, this is a crippling issue. They cannot filter sounds so they get the full blunt of the chaos and bombardment of the noise plus a heighten awareness of the sound level. Another place were sound studies are conducted with great success in the outcome of those who are exposed is in the neonatal wards. Premature babies( preemies) are hooked up to all sorts of machines which whirl and beep, often chirp. A study found that this stressed the infants. Measures are taken  in many hospitals to either filter the noise with music or reduce the sound so it is not so startling to the babies. I cannot quote the source but I do remember reading a study that felt there was a link between the extreme noise in the neonatal units to learning problems and ADHD in later life for preemies.

The next time you find yourself getting tense and frustrated take a minute to do a personal sound study of what is happening in your environment. You might just need to step out to a quieter place to give your brain a rest. For every sound your brain is registering the source, the distance, if it is a potential threat, guessing how long it might continue…. all this for multiple sounds while you are trying to get your daily work completed. We are often not aware of how hard we are pushing ourselves because we are not aware of the multi-tasking going on within our minds.

Did you hear that?