Improving Routines and Behaviors for Toddlers Through Elementary

Morning routines, evening routines, and even weekend routines… this is an ongoing challenge for parents of young children. We know the importance of keeping kids on a consistent schedule, but it can be quite stressful making the process smooth. As a mom of two young kids and a child therapist, including one toddler, making this process easier was important to me. As a therapist, I also saw this to be a struggle for many parents of the children I was seeing.

The Challenges with Routine

  • Distractions. The temptation for the kids to want to play instead of eat dinner, and for me to watch the news instead of prepare dinner, is one example of how distractions affect us at my house.
  • Stress. Getting yourself and the kids ready in the morning is no easy task and often very stressful. You do “what you have to do” just to get out the door on time.
  • Change. There’s no getting around the fact that changes in your family/life happen and adjustments have to be made. New babies are born, job schedules change, kids start new extra curricular activities… all requiring a modification to your routine.
  • Lack of Energy. I don’t know any parent who feels they get enough sleep and with all the activities of life today, disregarding a routine is very tempting, especially when you kids are resistant (bath, bed, etc.).

Continue reading “Improving Routines and Behaviors for Toddlers Through Elementary”

Autism and the Benefits of ABA Therapy: A Guest Post by Spectacular Kids!

Autism and ABA

Autism is one of those words that was once rarely heard of, and now it seems to be all we hear. 1 in 88 children are now diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder; an alarming number, which has made drastic changes from the 1 in 150 reported in the year 2000. What is Autism? How did my child get Autism? What can we do to help? The questions are endless, and while scientific advances are on the rise, we are still limited in our knowledge of how Autism manifests, and why we continue to see this increase in prevalence.

 Autism is a developmental disorder, characterized by developmental delays, most apparent in language and social interactions. Since Autism is considered a “spectrum” disorder, characteristics differ from individual to individual. While some diagnosed with Autism may engage in tantrums and aggressive behaviors, exhibit little to no language, and show little interest in social engagement, others may have average language skills, show no aggression, and enjoy social interactions. As the saying goes, “Once you’ve met one individual with Autism, you’ve met ONE individual with Autism.” With an increase in awareness, parents are asking more questions, screenings are being done at 18 months, and professionals are creating Autism Assessment Teams to get thorough and comprehensive evaluations complete as early as possible.

The types of therapies available for an individual diagnosed with Autism are endless, however, those most often recommended include Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). ABA, the only scientifically validated method of therapy for working with individuals with Autism, is a comprehensive therapeutic method, which encompasses: language, social skills, cognitive skills, self-help skills, fine & gross motor skills, and the management of problem behaviors. Throughout treatment, data is collected on all aspects of the treatment plan to ensure changes are made as needed to maximize success. Due to the extensive nature of the skills addressed in ABA therapy, it is most often recommended as an intensive approach; some individuals receive between 15 and 30 hours of therapy per week (intensity of services is determined after the initial evaluation). While ABA is generally done in a one to one setting, some groups that focus on building social skills may also be ABA based.

 Spectacular Kids ABA

Spectacular Kids ABA Therapy & Consulting, LLC, is owned by Dana Harris, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), who has been providing ABA services for 12 years. Spectacular Kids currently provides ABA, Speech, and Occupational Therapy to individuals with and without a diagnosis of Autism or related disorders. ABA therapy is provided on a full-time or part-time basis servicing both in-home and clinic-based clients between 12 months and 10 years. Our Speech and Occupational Therapy services are provided in clinic only by our partner, Brite Success; these therapies service individuals from childhood through adulthood. Our clinic is located at: 3059 Woodland Hills Drive Kingwood, Texas 77339. Contact Spectacular Kids for more information: 1-800-460-7459 ext 207 or visit our website at

Distracter Blasters!

Jill shares a fun way to teach kids ways to battle distractions. This is such a common problem for kids, including those with symptoms of ADHD, and this is a helpful tool for improving their attention!

Determining Your Discipline Technique

Now that we are in the toddler years with an active and independent little boy, discipline has begun, and it’s in full speed!  Our little guy literally looks at us and smiles before doing exactly what we instruct him NOT to do. Sometimes I get frustrated and other times I have to turn away so he doesn’t see me giggle at his cuteness 😉

I meet many parents in my personal and professional life who do well following the basic rules of consistency and maintaining patience, but knowing which discipline technique to apply is often diffcult.

photo courtesy

Some of the most common methods of discipline out there are:

  • Ignoring the behavior
  • Spanking (Does spanking work? Read what the research says here)
  • Time Out
  • Redirecting
  • Witholding, or taking items of value
  • Positive rewards
  • Grounding

When deciding what method of discipline to use, here are some good factors to consider:

Child’s Personality

Every child is different, so consider your child’s personality, temperament, patters of behavior, and sensitivities when you choose a method of discipline. Some children are so eager to please that just seeing your disappointment is effective, while other children are more strong willed and require a stronger method of discipline.

Reasons for the Behavior

This is always important. Is your child seeking attention or testing limits? Maybe they are overly tired or adjusting to recent transitions in your home? If you can pin point the reason, use this information when you consider your response to their behavior.

Parent Preferences and Expectations

Just like children are not all the same, neither are parents. One parent may be more tolerant of certain behaviors than another, or have a lower frustration level than another. Additionally, parents will have personal preferences for their methods of discipline. Some parents choose not to use time-out and others do. I also know some parents who choose not to use the word “no” around their kids.

Child’s Developmental Age

Obviously what is appropriate for a toddler is not always appropriate for a teenager. I think Dr. Phil has a good age-appropriate discipline list you may find helpful:

Birth to 18 Months


  • Positive Reinforcement
  • RedirectingIneffective:
  • Verbal Instruction/Explanation
  • Time-outs
  • Establishing Rules
  • Grounding
  • Withholding Privileges

18 Months to 3 Years


  • Positive Reinforcement
  • Redirecting
  • Verbal Instruction/Explanation
  • Time-outs


  • Establishment of Rules
  • Grounding
  • Withholding Privileges

4 to 12 Years


  • Positive Reinforcement
  • Redirecting
  • Verbal Instruction/Explanation
  • Time-outs
  • Establishment of Rules
  • Grounding
  • Withholding Privileges

13 to 16 Years


  • Positive Reinforcement
  • Verbal Instruction/Explanation
  • Establishment of Rules
  • Grounding
  • Withholding Privileges


  • Redirecting
  • Time-outs

This is a topic that could be a blog all by itself, but hopefully these basic guidelines are a good start!


5 Factors That Influence Discipline Strategies

Dr. Phil’s Age-Appropriate Discipline Techniques

50 Activities and Games Dealing With Anger

background courtesy

Over time, I have come across many anger-related activities from websites, blogs, and more. I decided to gather them all in one place and came up with a list of 50. If you have any other tools targeting anger, please share with the rest of us!


1. Angry Paper Toss

2. Creating a Calm Down Box

3. Deep Breathing Activities

4. Angry Tornado

This anger management activity can show a client how anger can build up inside a person. It can also show the client that when they feel an angry tornado building up inside of them they can use coping skills to help defuse the anger.

5. The Tower

With this activity the play therapy client will create a “visual” of their problems being locked away in a tower and come up with solutions to solving these problems. If the play therapy client is not ready to create a solution to the problem the client can still benefit by visualizing the problem locked away in the tower. The play therapy client can become empowered by separating themselves from the problem that is locked away in the tower.

6. Anger Control Problem Solving Cards

Anger control cards define problems experienced in a variety of settings and enable children to develop self-awareness and behavorial skills.

7. The Angry Octopus Activity

8. Anger Management Flip Book

9. Calm Down Sandwichesphoto of a strategy sandwich

The ingredients – some meat and cheese, two tomato slices and a piece of lettuce – represent the things that we’ve talked about trying when the worries start to overwhelm.

10. The M&M Anger Game

11. Power Cards

Power Cards are highly visual and they contain short blurbs or lists of information that will help a child in various situations that he may come across.

12. Don’t Be Caught Being Angry. Be A Smart Fish.

13. Anger Map

14. How Big Is Your Anger Worksheet

15. Don’t Be An Angry Bird and Cool Down Strategies

16. Balloon Anger Activity

17. When Sophie Gets Angry

After reading When Sophie Gets Angry–Really, Really Angry…, we played a game with the tree pictured. I gave students examples of things that made them or Sophie angry and had students put a leaf on the tree for their response.

18. Anger Gage

19. Cooling Off a Hot Temper: Reset The Thermostat

20. Books That Help Kids Deal With Anger

21. Relaxing Rice Jars

22. Anger Control Puppets

The Anger Management Puppet Set includes 3 Puppets, a CD of recorded script and catchy original music, and a separate guide. The two scripts and one CD that are designed to help counselors, teachers, or parents teach children about how to be a good sport and how to deal with anger. These puppets are suitable for small and large hands are quite durable. They are made for long term use.

23. Hidden Heart Group Activity

For people to recognize and understand that the anger they keep on the inside affects how they live their lives. To help people recognize the good things that they have in their hearts and to encourage them to share this part of themselves with others.

24. Anger Management Cards

Give these cards to students to use throughout their day. Have them place their thumb behind the card and watch for the color change to reveal how calm they can make themselves. Four useful steps to anger control are provided on the back of each card.

25. Turtle Time Relaxation Technique

26. Humortunities: Using Laughter Meditation to Let Go and Relax

27. Fun and Easy To Make Relaxation Flip Books

Kids had fun practicing these, and it was inexpensive to reproduce laminated flip books to send home with clients.

28. Mind Movie: The Relaxed You

29. Sailing Through the Icy Fields of Anger (online interactive tool)

30. Squeeze Your Angries Out (online interactive tool)


1. Escape From Anger Island

Escape form Anger Island™ is designed with the busy counselor in mind, and it can be played in just 15 minutes. There are six skills in total, and one skill is the focus of each 15 minute session. Kids can play multiple times to learn all six skills.

2. Anger Blob Cards

These cards depict different elements of the anger cycle. Using appropriate cards in a variety of activities discussed in the accompanying booklet will facilitate awareness of the causes of anger and help to work out ways to overcome those triggers. For use one-to-one or with small or large groups.

3. Anger Control Dominos

In this new game, players have fun playing dominoes while learning to manage their anger and problem-solve in a thoughtful, assertive, and respectful way.

4. Berenstain Bears Keep Your Cool Card Game

This game is intended to introduce the concept of anger management to children, while encouraging them to talk about things that bother them. The game is played like the familiar children’s card game of War, but with a peaceful twist!

5. Keep Your Cool Game

The game can be introduced with two included short stories about “Self-Control Seth” and “Bad Attitude Brittany.” Also included are ideas for reinforcing the concepts presented in the game.

6. Stop That Angry Thought Card Game

Here’s a deck of cards that teaches children how to manage their anger. Using two internal dialog techniques—Thought Stopping and Self-Talk—kids can stop anger in its tracks. By simply playing cards, they learn to envision a stop sign whenever their anger is triggered and to replace their angry thoughts with more positive responses.

7. Angry Animals

Angry Aardvark, Cranky Crab, Furious Frog, Mad Meerkat, Peeved Pig, and Raging Racoon teach children how to respond to anger in healthy ways. As they move from the Anger Volcano to Tranquility Beach—with occasional visits to the Time-Out Tent—kids answer game card questions about behavior, responsibility, sibling rivalry, conflict, and relationships. Along the way, they learn that anger is a natural feeling, neither good nor bad. It’s the way one expresses anger that matters.

8. Smart and Angry

Smart and Angry is a therapeutic and educational board game designed to teach young people specific skills that will help them look objectively at anger-provoking situations and react in a thoughtful, assertive, and respectful way. It is not the anger that gets kids in trouble, but rather the actions they take when they are angry, that determine whether they can solve the problem or make things worse. In addition, many people misread situations and become angry when it is inappropriate.

9. Peacetown: A Conflict Resolution Game

10. The Anger Solution Game

11. Remote Control Anger Control

12. Positive Ways To Handle Anger Card Game

The Positive Ways to Handle Anger Card Game is played like the classic Old Maid card game. There are 20 sets of matching cards that show positive, safe ways to handle angry feelings. Each game includes playing instructions, information about anger and how to use the game as an educational tool.

13. The Berenstain Bears Keep Your Cool Bingo

14. The Berenstain Bears Keep Your Cool Card Game

15. Stop That Angry Thought Card Game

16. Exploring My Anger Board Game

17. Anger IQ (Adolescence through Adult)

The Anger IQ game educates players about the hazards of irrational thinking associated with anger, and gives them practice avoiding them by using a set of principles for dealing with anger. Players will translate this rehearsal of responsible decisions made under conditions of anger to the real world. This combined use of CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and Social Learning Theory is particularly effective.

18. “I Was So Mad” Anger Game

This game helps children learn how to stay cool and not blow up when they are angry. The object of the “I Was So Mad” Anger Game is to help children learn positive ways to control and regulate themselves when they are angry.

19. Anger Bingo for Teens

20. Mad Dragon: An Anger Control Card Game

feature imageThis fast-paced therapeutic card game helps children control their anger in the moment, practice effective anger management techniques, and understand what anger looks and feels like. Mad Dragon plays like the popular card game Uno.

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For more information on my clinical practice, please visit 🙂

Kingwood Counseling and Play Therapy

Own Your Feelings With “I” Statements

background freedigitalphotos.netThis morning I was loading my toddler into the car and he was crying over not getting his way (shocking, right?). I caught myself after saying “You make mommy feel sad when you cry like that.

Can you figure out why I didn’t like how I said that?

What’s wrong with this statement?

I believe words can be very powerful, especially when we use them on a regular basis. When I told my son that he MAKES ME FEEL sad, I am implying he has some sort of control over my feelings. In a way, it’s placing blame on him for his mom’s feelings. Bad news!

What should I have said?

Benefits of Using I-Statements in Communication

  • Practicing and Teaching Boundaries: Healthy boundaries means that I own my own thoughts and feelings. Other people do not control my thoughts and feelings and I don’t control the thoughts and feelings of others. This is an important and valuable lesson for my kids, as welll as maintaining my own psychological health. Boundaries are so important I am working on a blog post devoted to this very topic.
  • Improves communication and conflict resolution: Using I-statements keeps the person you are communicating with from being on the defense. You will be better able to resolve conflict using I-statements, rather than stating “you did this” and “you did that!”
  • Great for all ages and communication levels. You can use this communication technique with anyone and any age. The example I gave above involved communication with my toddler and you can’t get any more basic that that!
How To Use I-Statements:

Start by identifying your feelings- mad, sad, frustrated, etc.

I feel …

State the reason you feel this way or what happened that led you to those feelings.

When …

Try to identify the reason you the person’s actions led to those feelings for you.


Let the person know what you want instead.

I would like…


Your spouse snaps at you during dinner and it really hurt your feelings. Here’s an I-statement to use with this scenario:

I feel hurt

When you snap at me like that

Because I worked hard to cook this nice dinner for us.

I would like you to use nicer words and tone with me, and to know if something happened today that has led you to be in a bad mood.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Just like anything else, the more you practice I-statements, the better you will become at this very effective communication tool. Use this technique with your friends, family, spouse, and kids. You can also make learning fun with a game!

Use your I’s is one of my favorite therapeutic games. I play this with my younger clients and families and I also recommend this game for parents to play with their kids. You can buy it online at The players draw from a stack of cards with various scenarious that challenges the player to identify how they would feel in that scenario and turn it into an I statement. It is a great tool for teaching 1. Feeling identification, 2. Turning these feelings goointo an I statement, and 3. Role playing to practice the communication tool.

More good references on this subject:—6-Tips-For-Effective-Use&id=10259

So, go out and use your I’s today! 🙂

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Determining Natural Consequences for Inappropriate/Unwanted Behaviors

Determining Natural Consequences for Inappropriate/Unwanted Behaviors

Many years ago, I was given some informal training in the Love and Logic parenting techniques. Like most information sources, I integrate and use the ideas that fit my values and circumstances. Love and Logic actually taught me several good parenting techniques that stick with me as a parent and therapist.


One of the main premises of the Love and Logic approach is to allow your child to experience “natural” consequences for their actions. The concept of natural consequences is not exclusive to Love and Logic so there are a lot of good resources to learn about the idea behind natural consequences and how to apply them. I found Education World offers a good description of the purpose and usefulness behind logical consequences and Empowering Parents describes the benefits of natural consequences.

A natural/logical/related consequence is basically allowing your child or teen to experience a consequence that relates most closely with the action. Sometimes, the consequence is so natural that there is really no need for additional consequences to be determined by the parent. For example, if they play too rough with a toy and the toy breaks, they no longer have that toy unless they buy another one. Another example is that if they are up too late the night before, then they will suffer being tired the next day, miss their school bus, etc.

[Cartoon: Staying up late and falling asleep in school]

I found some great examples and explanations on natural consequences here.

Child’s Behavior Natural Consequence
Stays up late and is late for school She feels tired the next day, the teacher is angry and makes her stay after school.
Refuses to wear mittens Her hands get cold.
Refuses to eat dinner She feels hungry.
Smokes marijuana She feels “high” and gains acceptance from peers. She may be suspended from school if caught.
Shoplifts clothes at store She gets free clothes. She may be caught and arrested.
Plays with cigarette lighter She burns her hand or possibly sets the house on fire.
Leaves toys out in the rain The toys rust or are stolen.

Sometimes, natural consequences don’t work and there are a few rules of thumb you can use to decide if you need to interject alternate, but still logical, consequences:

  • If you interfere with a natural consequence it will not work. For example, by fixing a later meal after your child refuses to eat dinner, you will stop the natural consequence of hunger. You are also encouraging the unacceptable behavior by responding with special attention. Similarly, by forcing your child to wear a coat, she will not experience the natural consequence of being cold.
  • Your child’s misbehavior can be encouraged by a natural consequence. For instance, shoplifting without being caught results in free clothes.
  • Something you see as unpleasant, like cold hands, may not matter to your children.
  • The natural consequence may be too dangerous. Never allow the natural consequence to endanger the health and safety of your child. For example, playing with matches may lead to a fire.

Natural consequences only work if they are undesirable to your child and you do not interfere!! 

Coming up with alternate, logical consequences, can take some creativity at times. I found some helpful examples here.

You Break It –You Fix It
Children take some responsibility for fixing, as best they can, any problem or mess they have created. Some examples:

  • One child accidentally knocks into another on the playground. She stops, apologizes and offers to help the other child get up.
  • A student knocks over a tray of food carried by another student. He helps clean it up and perhaps offers to go back and get new food.
  • A child hurts the feelings of another. She participates in “an apology of action” by writing a note, including the hurt child in a friendly activity
  • A student is part of a conflict. The students involved participate in a conflict resolution process.
  • A student wastes class time talking to a friend, looking out the window, trying to avoid the task. He makes up the time at another point during the day.

Loss of Privilege
In classrooms in which children help generate and construct the rules together, a sense of shared responsibility and trust exists. When students do not “take care of the rules,” the logical consequence might be to lose a privilege. Examples:

  • A student waves scissors around. She loses the use of the scissors for the remainder of the art period.
  • Two children talk instead of working. They have to sit by themselves.
  • A child rocks his chair or sits way back in his chair. He sits on the floor or stands for the remainder of the lesson or activity.
  • A student plays unsafely on an outdoor structure. She has to choose a different area of the playground to use during the rest of that recess.
  • A student speaks rudely to the teacher. The teacher refuses to listen to her until she changes her tone of voice.
  • A student rolls his eyes or calls out during a morning meeting. He has to leave the group.
  • A student fools around on line. She has to walk with the teacher.
  • A student logs on to an acceptable Web site while doing research. He loses computer time for the rest of the period (or week).
  • Students go to the bathroom to gossip about classmates. They lose the privilege of going to the bathroom together or without an adult for the next couple of days.

Time-Out or Take a Break
A student who is on the verge of losing control and beginning to disrupt and disturb their own and others’ ability to learn is asked to leave the scene and “take a break.” The student may return when he or she appears to have regained controls and is ready to participate in a positive way. Time out might be instituted when a student

  • whispers to a neighbor while another student is sharing information.
  • ignores the quiet signal.
  • calls out answers, denying others the chance to think.
  • makes a snide remark about another student’s response to a question.
  • persists in argument or negotiation with the teacher after clearly being told to stop.
  • whips the ball when the instructions are for underhand throws.


I also want to share the concept of delayed consequences that I know from Love and Logic. The idea behind delayed consequences is to purposely hold off on determining (or at least declaring) the consequence for a behavior. This will work with children who are capable of remembering that they have a punishment coming. It would not be ideal for a toddler because they are too young to comprehend the delay.

When a child does something inappropriate, tell them that you will “talk to them about their punishment later” and tell them “not to worry too much about it now.”

 Then add an evil laugh right after (Muuuaaahhhhaaahhaa!). Just kidding, but it is sort of implied!! 🙂

The Love and Logic Institute describes the Problems with Immediate Consequences:

1. Most of us have great difficulty thinking of an immediate consequence while we are teaching.

2. We “own” the problem rather than handing it back to the child. In other words, we are forced to do more thinking than the child.

3. We are forced to react while we and the child are upset.
4. We don’t have time to anticipate how the child, his/her parents, our administrators, and others will react to our response.
5. We don’t have time to put together a reasonable plan and a support team to help us carry it out.
6. We often end up making threats we can’t back up.
7. We generally fail to deliver a strong dose of empathy before providing the consequences.
8. Every day we live in fear that some kid will do something that we won’t know how to handle with an immediate consequence.

So, if you are not sure about what natural or logical consequence you want to use immediately when the inappropriate behavior is identified, then use this idea of delayed consequences. It will give you time to come up with something just right and still have a little fun! 🙂


Book coverGrounded for Life?! is for parents who feel responsible for their teen’s hair, clothes, bedroom, grades, and behavior. Tracy offers a process for parenting that helps parents distinguish the important issues for healthy teen growth. As a mother of six and a longtime middle-school counselor, Tracy shows you how to communicate effectively with teens.

Book CoverGo to Your Room!: Consequences That Teach tells you why many consequences don’t work and how to start selecting ones that will help your child learn to do better next time.

The New Approach to Discipline:  Logical ConsequencesThe New Approach to Discipline

Also check out the Love and Logic website for a host of resources for children of all ages, parents, and educators!


Coming up with logical consequences can be difficult sometimes. If you have some creative ideas to share, or a behavior you need help with in determining a consequence, please share!

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Boys Need Men, and Other Lessons I Learned From the Elephants!

Years ago, my dad shared this CNN story with me, South Africa Reins In Its Young Elephants. I found it such a fascinating story and wonderful analogy for our young men today, that I continue to reference it all these years later. Please read the story for yourself, but I can share a summary.

The Story of the Elephants

The CNN story, written by Dean E. Murphy in 1998, is about a group of wild elephant bulls on a game reserve in South Africa. The elephant bulls, considered teenagers in elephant years, were being extremely aggressive. The elephant bulls were terrorizing the reserve by killing rhinos and chasing off safari visitors. One man even lost his life to one of the aggressive, young elephants. I can just imagine the chaos!

Reserve officials were perplexed by the strange behavior of the elephants and began contemplating the reasons for this behavior and possible solutions. You see, these elephants were orphaned at a young age and relocated to this reserve. It turns out, there were no older elephant males on the reservation. Officials determined that the male elephants had no role model for appropriate behavior.

The park finally introduced a handful of elder elephants to the area. At the time the story was written, the unruly behaviors of the elephant bulls had already decreased significantly. Wow, even the animals learn from their elders!

The Lessons:

Children Need Positive Role Models. I’m not the first person to tell you how much it means that you model good behavior for your children, boys and girls! They watch our every move and listen to our every word!

More Boys Need Men In Their Lives. I see more and more young boys in my therapy office without this male figure in their life. These boys yearn for their father and appear to be seeking guidance from anywhere they can. Moms serve a precious and irreplacable role in their lives, but they can’t serve as the male figure. William Bennett, a blogger with CNN Opinion, wrote in his article Why Men Are In Trouble, “For boys to become men, they need to be guided through advice, habit, instruction, example and correction. It is true in all ages.”

We Can Learn From Our Elders. I think today we really do not place enough value on learning form our elders. Whether we are young or middle-aged, our elders can teach us a lot about life. When I was pregnant with my first child, I read many books, hoping to be prepared for this new chapter in my life. When my baby finally arrived, I found the most valuable lessons came from my mother, my aunt, my grandmother, and my friends. Their experience taught me more than any book I read! Our younger generations are facing life today with the same mentality… learn what you need to from the internet. Unfortunately, there is so much more we can teach them. But first, we have to teach them to value the lessons what we have to offer.

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Steps to Improving Attention in ADHD

1. Medication Management

The inability to focus and concentrate for individuals with ADHD has a neurobiological basis, meaning there are known biological and chemical differences in the brain of an ADHD child than from other children without ADHD.  This brief video offers a good explanation. Therefore, it is so important to find the right medication and dosage. It may take ongoing visits with the psychiatrist to find the right prescription, but it is an important step towards successfully treating the symptoms. If you are not sure about medicating your child, you may find my post on medication helpful.

2. Gradually Improve Skills
Set smaller goals first based on their current functioning levels. For example, if they can successfully follow a one-step direction, set your first goal for following two-step directions. If you expect huge advances in a short period of time, it can lead to frustration, disappointment, and low self-esteem for the child.
3. Games to Make Learning Active
Our teachers reading this article already know this about learning. Active and fun learning is more effective, more memorable, than static learning. For individuals with ADHD,  it takes a lot more stimulus to maintain attention. The more stimulating, or interesting/fun/active, the greater chances you have to maintain their attention! Here is a great site with some fun ideas for attention-improving games. One of my favorite games to improve attention is Stare!.
4. Set Clear Goals and Expectations
Setting clear goals and expectations is important for all areas of the child’s life. This includes chores, routines, and grades.  “Clear” is an important factor here. If you tell your child they must be “good,” that can mean different things to different people. What does “good’ mean to you? When establishing expectations for a clean room, be specific. What are your expectations for a clean room- bed made and dirty clothes put away? Giving some thought about your expectations and communicating these clearly will improve likelihood that everyone is more successful.
5. Reward Good Performance
As much as we would like to believe that people will be motivated by a sheer internal motivation for self-improvement, this is not often the case, especially when it comes to kids and adolescents. Growing up, I was rewarded with $5 per “B” and $10 per “A” and remember how good it felt to meet goals. You don’t have to limit rewards to money though. Time for video gaming or a trip to a favorite restaurant is also a good motivator. Talk it over with you child and come to an agreement that works for your family. Sandbox Learning has some good ideas in this article.
6. Keep a Structured Routine
Routines are important for all kids, but especially for individuals with ADHD. Daily and weekly routines establish consistency and sets clear expectations. Check out this article on for some more information on establishing routines.
8. Homework/Work Habits
Practicing good homework habits is so important to success as an individual with ADHD. I’ve listed a few tips below, but there are more good homework tips here.
  • Schedule regular breaks. Set a timer for every 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or 45 minutes, depending on the person.
  • Set short term goals, such as completing 10 out of 20 questions, then taking a break, and completing the next 10 questions.
  • Find an environment with little to no distractions. Even the desk space should be tidy, not cluttered.
  • Play background music. This goes against what many people believe to be non-distracting, but many people find that certain music actually enhances attention.
  • Have fidgeting items handy.
9. Find Appropriate Fidgeting Tasks
Fidgeting can actually be helpful to maintaining attention, but it’s important to find appropriate outlets.
  • Chewing gum while reading
  • Pacing back and forth while memorizing flashcards
  • Rubbing a smooth stone or doodling while in class

For more ideas on fidgeting activities, visit and!

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Which Feelings Will You Choose To Surf This Week?

Feelings are much like waves. We can’t stop them from coming, but we can choose which one to surf.
Author Unknown

I came across this quote on Pinterest this week. Not only is it a great quote, but so appropriate for summer! It got me to thinking about how many feelings, and variations of feelings, we have in a given day. Just today, I have felt excited, nervous, frustrated, thankful,  busy, bored, optimistic, and worried. These are just a few that I can recall at the moment. You may be wondering how someone could have all these feelings in one day!! It surprises me too when I see it written down. Take a moment yourself and think of all the feelings you have had from the start of your day to the end of your day. You may be surprised how many emotions you experience.

Emotions really are like waves! They come and go and there is not much we can do to control them. However, like the quote says, we can choose which ones we will surf. We can decide which emotions we are going to allow to stay with us for a period time.

And just like the sport of surfing, this kind of self-control takes practice. Learning to be self-aware and seek control over our thoughts and emotions can be work, but does get easier. If you find yourself surfing a wave of emotions that are bringing you down, bring this visual image of waves to your mind. Think about your feelings as waves and decide which ones you want to surf and which ones you don’t. If you don’t see any good feelings flowing in, try some visual imagery of the waves and name some of them “happy,” “content,” “relaxed,” and so on. Claim some of those positive waves for yourself and imagine yourself surfing the wave of contentment or joy or peace… you choose!

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