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Monday, December 22, 2014

How to Teach Children to Give

As we reach the holiday season, a focus can unintentionally shift onto material items. Many get swept up in the excitement of getting new toys, and as a parent it can be challenging to know how to shift the focus to giving. However, as adults, we can greatly influence the lens through which children view the holidays by examining our own language around this time of year.

To learn more, check out this video by David Maxfield and Joseph Grenny. If you're not able to watch at this moment, allow me to summarize:

These researchers wanted to see if the language that adults use influences the children’s feelings of generosity. To create their experiment, they asked children at a Christmas party to talk to Santa, who was played by a member of their team. They presented two scenarios to two different groups of children. In one scenario, Santa asked children what they were most excited to get for the holiday. In the other, Santa asks what they were excited to give for the holiday. Immediately following this, two children were taken to see one of Santa’s helpers, who was also played by a member of the team. The helper then presented the child with a choice of a big chocolate or a small chocolate, with the understanding that the one they did not choose would go to the other child. That is to say, if the child sacrificed by choosing the smaller chocolate, the other child would have the benefit of receiving the larger option. They found that children who were asked what they were excited to give before they received this choice were 50% more likely to take the smaller candy, therefore giving the larger candy to their peer.

This experiment highlights the importance of cognitive framing, which is the process of using language to impact a person’s interpretation of the information. You might use this when you want to ask for help with a chore and you present it as an opportunity to help. For example, “I’d like you to help out by emptying the dishwasher,” is likely to go more smoothly than, “Why don’t you ever empty the dishwasher? Get to it or no TV.” 

If you’d like to shift the focus to giving this holiday season, think about the language you use and lead by example. Ask what your children are excited to give to others, share how happy you feel to give to them, or even arrange a giving project by volunteering as a family. 

Emily Herber McLean, LPC is a child and family therapist at The Center for Psychological Services. To learn more about her practice, visit www.centerpsych.com.

Friday, December 12, 2014

4 Tips to Deal With Difficult News

Picture yourself in an IEP meeting or conference with a teacher. The conversation turns to a difficult topic concerning your child. You know you want to hear them out but you can feel your blood pressure starting to rise…. Raising kids with learning disabilities and/or attention challenges has its moments. Any parent knows this is true.

What do you do during these challenging moments to help yourself really hear what the person has to tell you? When the listening gets difficult, what do you do to stay connected? You will always be able to determine the value of what they have to say later, but not if you don't hear it now!

Here are four tips to use when the listening gets difficult. With practice, these will allow you to listen deeply despite the frustration you might be experiencing:
  • Listen Non-Judgmentally: Assume the information you are listening to is just one person’s opinion. That opinion matters but it isn’t the end all and be all. Learn to look for the grain of truth in every encounter.

  • Ask for Honesty and Truthfulness: To find clarity about what is being said, ask for truth and honesty – not just nice talk. Nice doesn’t always bring clarity. Nice tries to mollify. If you have a challenging situation, getting to the heart of the issue is more important than cloaking the truth in “nice”.

  • Focus on the Future: When faced with a challenge, it is easy to get bogged down in the details of the past or present. This usually doesn’t help after the basic level of understanding is achieved. Knowing where to direct your energy to make changes is critical. Ask future oriented questions to help determine your next steps.

  • Write Down and Confirm Key Points: When encountering difficult information the emotional component hampers us from remembering what we heard. Confirm what you heard as wrap up for your meeting. Write it all down for reference. Keep all your child’s information in one folder or notebook for easy access.

Using these tips your conversation will be better focused and you will better understand and remember what is said. This makes reengaging easier. Challenges often aren’t solved in one meeting. Solutions are built over time with cooperation and collaboration. As a parent, using these tips will help you connect in the best way possible ensuring solid solutions for all.

Parents, do you have questions about your child with learning issues? You can raise confident capable kids despite learning issues. Reach out for answers to your most perplexing questions! 
Becky Scott

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Magic of Positive Comments: The Magic 5:1 Ratio

As you move into the holiday season the nature of school schedules is such that you will be spending more time with you kids, and your spouse.  Holiday breaks can be wonderful, full of fun trips, time with extended family, hot chocolate and sledding, and warm cuddles in front of the fire.  They can also be filled with messy homes, bored children, and too much time on screens.  It is a time that is ripe with potential for feeling irritable and annoyed.  It is also a wonderful opportunity to work on strengthening the positive emotion between you and your kids, and you and your partner, building up the reserve that can get depleted by the daily grind through the course of the fall.

So Here’s a Strategy to Help You Do Just That… Gottman’s 5:1 Ratio:
John Gottman, a well known researcher on couples and marriages, found that all couples fight; people who live together have conflict.  You and I know that parents and children do as well.  Gottman’s research focused on identifying the factors that made some couples successful and led to failure by others.  Fighting was not the significant factor.  What was more important was the degree to which couples could accentuate the positive and minimize the negative.  Take note, elimination of the negative wasn’t significant or even attainable.  It was an increase in the positive that made a tremendous the difference in the endurance and success of marriages.  Gottman found that stable, happy couples have about a 5:1 ratio between positive and negative interactions.  That is, for every criticism or negative comment there has to be at least 5 compliments or positive comments.

Why 5:1 Ratio?  
Gottman found that positive interactions build up a “reservoir of positive feeling.”  You might liken this reservoir to a savings account into which you are making regular deposits to be withdrawn on a rainy day. Couples who have such reservoirs of positive feelings use some of this when they are criticized, which sustains them through the difficult work of resolving the conflict.  Positive expressions of love, respect, and affection keep love nurtured when they are offered with consistency over time.

What if you Applied Gottman’s Magic Ratio to Your Relationships with your Children?  
For every criticism or complaint you made a point of offering five positive comments.  These aren’t hard to offer, but it may require some attention to do so.  This can be challenging, especially in the midst of a living room that looks like a hurricane hit it with a trail of belongings that follow your children through the house as they lay across the couch with their face in a screen. 

What is the Benefit? 
The benefit would be that parent/child relationships that are inherently positive, provide the foundation needed for a child to develop confidence, healthy self-esteem, and resiliency.  For those of you with a child who has a learning disability or other significant challenge that makes life harder than it may be for their peers, such qualities are all the harder to establish and that's much more critical to their success.  Also keep in mind that when parent/child relationships are not experienced by the child as inherently positive, anxiety, oppositional behavior, and adjustment problems can ensue.  In a relationship where the 5:1 positive to negative ratio is evident, kids are more likely to be cooperative and to listen and respond when a parent does have a complaint. 

Strategies for Success:
So, can you see the value of working on this positive undercurrent in the way you treat and/or hold your child?  To make it a bit easier, here are some tidbits to put in your pocket to offer them throughout these days of holiday cheer, and then well into the winter…

“Good Job”     “I love you.”     “Thank you for…”     “That was nice.”     “I appreciate that you…”

Other ways to contribute to the positive energy savings account include:
  • Do not overlook what seem like small things.
  • Remember that sometimes simply remaining calm and not overreacting can be interpreted as positive and have a wonderful effect. 
  • Pay attention to your child (especially when he or she is doing something positive).
  • Be empathetic.
  • Be respectful and accepting of all feelings.
  • Maintain a positive view of your child.
  • Always be on your child’s side.
You might also pay attention to negative behaviors on your part that warrant a decrease:
  • Eliminate criticism
  • Shed blame
  • Avoid sarcasm
So, I Leave you with this Question: 
Have you said five nice things to your child today?

Be well and happy holidays,

Jennifer Jackson Holden, Psy.D. is managing director of the Paoli, Pennsylvania office of the Center for Psychological Services. www.centerpsych.com drjenniferholden@gmail.com.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Strategies When Schools Refuse to Classify Students with Disabilities

The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) is a special education law that safeguards that public schools attend to the educational needs of students with disabilities. IDEA mandates that schools implement special education services to eligible students as defined in a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). IDEA also outlines specific requirements to assure a least restrictive environment (LRE) and a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) for students with disabilities.

What Can Parents do to Resolve a Dispute with a School?

The Individuals with Disabilities Act offers various options for managing disputes between parents and schools concerning a school district’s delay or denial to evaluate a student because it is
using a Researched Based Intervention or RTI process.  Such complaints would be based on the district’s violation of Child Find.
  1. State Complaints:  This is a written complaint that can be filed by any organization, individual, or group of individuals, claiming that a school district has violated a requirement of Part B of IDEA or the state’s special education law or regulations, including Child Find.  Child Find is a part of IDEA that requires states to identify, locate, and evaluate all children with disabilities, aged birth to 21, who need early intervention or special education services.  State complaints must be filed within one year of the alleged violation.  IDEA requires every state to have a formal procedure for filing complaints. Information on how to file a state complaint should be available from your state’s Department of Education or Parent Training and Information Center.
  2. Due Process Complaints:  This is a written complaint filed by a parent or school district pertaining to any situation concerning the identification, evaluation, educational placement or violation of a free and appropriate public education to a student with a disability. Due process complaints must be filed within two years of the incident, and each state’s Department of Education must offer a model form to assist in filing a due process complaint that meets the requirements of IDEA. Reach out to the Department of Education in your state or Parent Training and Information Center to acquire more information.  
Filing complaints under IDEA, is a serious and time-consuming undertaking.  So before commencing with either of the options outlined above, make sure you are well educated about and fully comprehend federal and state mandates. 

Where Can I Get More Information?

The National Center for Learning Disabilities offers a free copy of Parents Rights in the Era of RTI or go to the NCLD website to learn more.

Cheers, Erica

Dr. Erica Warren, Learning Specialist and Educational Therapist

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz