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Thursday, October 15, 2009

My Joke Answer Is...

If you work with AD/HD children, you know how easily they get bored. It's a balancing act to find work that challenges them without being so simple their attention wanders or so difficult that they become frustrated. My personal goal when teaching is to try and have the child working in an area of strength and achieving success about 80% of the time at a minimum. The more difficult work (in our case, things like listening tasks without visual or tactile cues) takes up about 20% of the time. I want my children to learn to sit down for sustained periods of time. They do need to listen without having a bunch of props to grab their attention. So I work on those things but make sure that they are experiencing success in their assigned tasks at least most of the time. One of the aspects of AD/HD that makes finding such a balance tricky is that our kids may perform differently from day to day or in various settings. This is especially true if the AD/HD is comorbid with other learning disabilities. So how can we tell if we are accomplishing the goal of challenging our children without frustrating them? Sometimes we just have to read the body language and listen to what our children are saying. "This is stupid" may well translate into "I don't understand and I feel stupid." "I'm bored" may mean "I need to move around and find ways to alert myself again". A child who looks droopy may be fatigued on a task and needs to switch to something else for awhile and then come back to the first task. In my daughter's case, I often get unmistakable clues by how she responds to a question. If she is muttering under her breath, I am challenging her and approaching melt-down levels. If she answers matter-of-factly, I am usually right on with getting her to think but not frustrating her. Since Beckie likes variety and creativity, if I don't provide enough amusement in our lessons she will often deliver it herself. I knew she was not feeling challenged when I asked her a question and she gave it a few second's thought before replying, "My joke answer is..." and then went on to tell me the real answer. This was Beckie's way of letting me know she knew the correct answer but it was not very interesting to her and her joke answer spiced things up a bit. The longer you work with a child, the better you become at reading their cues and figuring out when you are challenging them too much or not enough. Don't worry if you don't feel like you have a good grasp on it yet. In my experience, children show us over and over again what they need until we recognize it. If we don't catch on right away, they will give us many more opportunities.

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