Behaviour Modification

Whilst medication can play a part in providing 'windows' of attention in order for children with AD/HD to learn, these are crutches rather than cures and need to be used alongside some form of behavioural intervention. Personally I dislike the terms 'behaviour modification' or 'behavioural intervention'. As parents, we naturally and automatically carry out these 'interventions' daily - and not only with our AD/HD children. However, children with AD/HD have often received a diagnosis after several years of conflict with family members, difficulties at school and much negativity. Our job as parents is to avoid that spiral of negativity and devise strategies that work towards changing children's behaviours and building back up their self-esteem.

There are many books outlining specific details of behaviour modification plans so I am not going to discuss these at any length. What works for one child does not work for another, but one thing that is important for all is consistency. In our household, this is where we always get into difficulties. In the face of particularly difficult behaviours from Joe and after a 'debriefing' session, the other children and I often set up behaviour plans with tick charts and reward schemes and Joe responds very well to these. However, all too soon the charts are destroyed, the elder children forget the scheme and things degenerate into the familiar negativity and behavioural difficulties. Even in a large family such as mine, these problems have to be overcome and the other children now realize that consistency in Joe's behavioural programmes is pivotal to family peace (and my sanity). Joe most certainly still has his moments, but all in all he is doing very well and I am extremely proud ofhim.

It is widely known that children with autism are very visual but the same techniques are rarely applied to children with AD/HD. Whilst Joe has excellent language skills (understatement!), like many children with an autistic spectrum 'difference', his auditory processing skills are very weak and he is a very visual learner. I have made schedules for Joe to follow and these make a vast difference to the stress levels in our life. When he comes in from school I merely hand him a marker pen (dangerous thing to do but it works) and he proceeds to work through his laminated 'home from school' routine, ticking off each task as he performs it. In a morning he follows his 'morning' routine and each weekend he works through his 'tidy the bedroom' chart. These schedules are made with both pictures and words and the fact that each activity is broken down into steps seems to help him focus on his task and stop him wandering off or forgetting what he is doing.

Many children work well with reward schemes such as earning tokens towards a bigger reward (Joe being one ofthem). One thing to remember however is that it is not only the child who needs to learn to change his or her behaviour. As parents, we too need 'behaviour modification'. We need to learn to lavish praise on our children for all the good things they do, and bite our tongues when the children maybe try, but do things in a different way to how we want. When they have been kind to their sibling or even not been nasty, then praise them. When they have not answered back or argued, then praise them and let them know that you have noticed. Any attention for an AD/HD child is better than none, and sometimes negative attention is actually preferred because it is more predictable. It takes no small amount ofwill-power and determination to only comment on the good things.. .however that is what is needed. After a few days of feeling very strange as you praise your child for something, however small, on a regular basis, the changes in the whole family are evident. One way in which I try to boost Joe's self-esteem (it also serves as a useful reminder ofhis good points when he is getting me down!) is for him to have a 'record of achievement' book. In fact all of my children have one. The records of achievements have certificates, including ones given by me. Only good comments (school reports are kept separately) are recorded, and lots of his drawings, stories and achievements all give him something to look through and feel good about himself. Something we all need!

I can only apologize again for the fact that I seem to be jumping from one topic to another but as I have said, that is exactly how life is here...a hilarious, infuriating and chaotic blend of ages, abilities and personalities. I have so far written primarily about the two youngest boys and therefore about autism and AD/HD, these being their predominant diagnoses. Whilst Joe and Ben certainly make the most noise and the most mess in the Jackson household (well I am not so sure about the mess - the teenagers run a close second!) and autism, AD/HD, sensory and motor problems all merge to create a volatile and spectacular combination, the presence of hormones in abundance produces a firework display that wavers between brilliance and peril-ousness. My job as a parent is to teach the children to live and learn how to get along with each other, whilst being ready to run if someone lights the touch paper that is likely to result in an explosion.. .a far too regular occurrence and one in which unfortunately, Luke is usually the one to blow!

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