Thursday, November 29, 2012

Getting Your ADHD Kids Off The Refrigerator and Onto Learning

Homeschooling a child with ADHD is a challenge. These children are easy to love, but hard to raise.  However, there are many blessing along the way for both you and your child, in more ways than you can imagine.

A good “rule of thumb”:  don’t try to apply typical educational strategies to your atypical child.  Stop thinking in terms of “what works for most children”; instead, through experimentation, find out what works best for your child.

Here are some teaching tips to try out:

·        Keep your child moving as much as possible.  If you require this child to sit perfectly still and look at you intently, chances are they will not be able to listen.  In fact, they may implode!  They NEED to be moving while listening.

·        Have them do two things at once, i.e. play with silly putty, turn screws into wood, sweep or mop the kitchen floor while listening.

·         Play games such as:
  • Toss-It: Use an object for a throw-and-catch game to obtain answers, i.e. I say “A”, and then throw a beanbag to the child.  He says “B” and throws it back.  You can learn the books of the Bible, multiplication tables, provinces and capitals using this game.
  • Hop-On-It: Put cards on the floor with words on them, i.e. noun, verb, adjective, adverb.  Call out a word and the child has to jump on the correct word.
  • Jumping Jacks: Spell words or recite math facts while doing jumping jacks.
·      Allow the child to respond orally.  These children usually are “writing-haters”. Keep in mind that the object is to learn the lesson material.  Writing does not HAVE to be incorporated into each learning activity.

·        Set up a study carrel.  Use a big tri-fold cardboard stand (these are often used for science fair projects and can be purchased at Staples) that blocks out distractions. 

·      To enhance focus, try allowing earphones with instrumental music, i.e. calming classical music, guitar pieces, and orchestral selections.

·       Don’t do every problem in the book.  If the child has mastered the concept after completing half the page, circle several more and let this suffice for the lesson.  Move on from what they know, and concentrate on what they have yet to master.  The child will think he has been given a “break” because he doesn’t have to do them all.

·       Provide a checklist of the day’s assignments. Children like to know what’s coming.  They like to check off each assignment as it’s completed.

·       Adjust your speaking volume and intensity.  A very animated and upbeat style may be overly stimulating. Having a low-key teaching style may prove to be more effective.

·     Use a timer and make a game of it.  Ask how long they think it will take them to complete a task and then set the timer.

·     Squeeze more information into shorter blocks of time.

·     Let them stand while studying, and use an exercise ball for a chair. (Note: try the Hokki stool for dynamic seating - 

·     Give rewards generously for on-task behaviour. Children with ADHD love praise and rewards.  Set goals. Start with short periods of time and work up to a longer duration before giving a reward.

    Although these children may be exhausting, take time to see their God-given gifts and talents.  Remember that they are special and are destined for something wonderful, often that which is impossible for those calmer, non- refrigerator-climbing, regular-energy level children.  Delight in their boundless energy and tireless enthusiasm for life. Who knows, they might become rock-climbing enthusiasts or world famous mountaineers!

Resource suggestion: an “outside-the-box” approach

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Let's Talk About Dyslexia: Hunters and Gatherers of the Oral World

Children with dyslexia often have trouble pulling out the right sounds when they are speaking.  It’s not that they’re not smart and don’t know the meaning of words, it’s a problem of getting out the word with the right sound combination.  They may say, “It’s on the tip of my tongue,” and what comes out will be a different word than intended.  For example: A little boy was crossing the street with his dad and saw several people jaywalking.  He looked up at his dad and said, “Those Presbyterians should be more careful.”  Of course he meant pedestrians, but the wrong word came out.

Context Matters
If there is an overall theme to building word power for children with dyslexia, it is this: context matters.
They will more likely understand and remember information by relating facts to larger ideas.  In order for information to be understood and remembered, it needs to be attached to an idea.

Picture Thinkers
Many children with dyslexia are kinesthetic learners; they are ‘picture thinkers’. Therefore, learning a new word might involve having the child make a three-dimensional modeling-clay or play-dough representation, either symbolic or realistic, of the word.  The process of creating the image, stores the word’s meaning in a different part of the brain, generating a visual association. For example: the word ‘through’ might be represented with play-dough by creating a train track with a train passing through a tunnel.

Acting out Words
Children with dyslexia also benefit from acting out words.  Having to bring a word to life is a little like a game of charades.  It requires an understanding of the word in a deep way, and involves grasping the meaning of the context of the word.

Include in Adult Conversations
Another way to build vocabulary is to bring children into the conversational world of adults.  Being included in adult conversations at the dinner table, in the car, or while the family is discussing an important issue benefits all children.  Conversational inclusion is particularly valuable, however, to children with dyslexia. They are the hunters and gatherers of the oral world.  Because it is harder for them to access knowledge by reading written information, they typically develop strong listening skills.   Engaging in sophisticated discussions helps them build their knowledge and word banks while developing transferrable conversational skills.  Talking with adults challenges children to use higher-level critical thinking skills and vocabulary.  Children with dyslexia crave context.  Conversations with adults offer them a context for ideas and words, two currencies that they will trade in throughout the remainder of their lives.

Intentional Lines of Questioning
Lines of questioning are likely to lead to rich conversations.  If you ask for a retelling of events or for a summary of the day, you challenge them in two important ways: word retrieval (remembering the best word to describe things) and sequencing (ordering events).  Ask how they feel about an issue, why they thought a problem occurred, or why they did or did not like something.  This line of questing helps children to think critically.  They are required to make connections between their life experience and the experience of others, make predictions, and organize their thoughts.  Plan to include new vocabulary words that you can easily introduce into conversations with your child.  Talking with adults offers children an opportunity to practice their oral expression, clarify application of new words, and ask questions in a safe environment. 

Rich Environments
Hunter-gatherers need fields and forests teaming with life. They need opportunities to hunt down a new word, expression, or idea; an exciting new conquest. When your hunter-gatherer brings home a new conquest, celebrate!