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The ILAUGH Model: Social Thinking

 by Michelle Garcia Winner

 The ILAUGH Model of Social Thinking is a core (and critical) framework created and developed by Michelle Garcia Winner to help professionals and parents understand and think about the struggles faced by those with social learning challenges. The Framework is based on an extensive literature base of both seminal and current research and represents the foundation of all Social Thinking concepts.  ILAUGH is an acronym for the research-based concepts that contribute to challenges in those with social learning issues across academic, community, vocational, and social contexts.  The sections of the ILAUGH are not only grounded in the literature, but also represent a rich clinical base. Although the ILAUGH Model is divided into six key areas, there is commonly an overlap between and within each of the sections.

I = Initiation of Communication

(Kranz & McClannahan, 1993; Rao, Beidel, & Murray, 2008; Whalen, Schreibman, & Ingersoll 2006)

Initiation of communication is the ability to use one’s language skills (verbal and nonverbal) to start (or initiate) something that is not routine.  This can be in the form of difficulty asking for help, seeking clarification, executing a new task, and entering and exiting a peer group.  An individual’s ability to talk about his or her own topics of interest can be in sharp contrast to how that person communicates when in need of support or clarification. Yet, these two skills – asking for help and understanding how to join a group for functional or personal interaction – are paramount for future success in the workplace, academic endeavors and relationships.

L= Listening With Eyes and Brain

(Jones & Carr, 2004; Klin, Jones, Schultz, & Volkmar, 2003; Kunce & Mesibov, 1998; MacDonald et al., 2006; Marshall & Fox, 2006; Mundy & Crowson, 1997; Saulnier & Klin, 2007

From a social perspective, listening is more than just receiving auditory information. It routinely requires the integration of visual information with auditory information within the context in order to understand the full meaning of the message being conveyed, or at least make an educated guess about what is being said when the message cannot be interpreted literally. This is also referred to as “active listening” or whole body listening (Truesdale, 1990). Classrooms depend heavily on having all students attend nonverbally to the expectations in the classroom.

Many individuals with ASD, as well as others with social learning challenges, have technical visual processing strengths, but may struggle to comprehend information presented via the dual challenges of social visual information (reading nonverbal cues) and auditory processing.

A = Abstract and Inferential Language/Communication

(Adams, Green, Gilchrist, & Cox, 2002; Happe’, 1995; Kerbel & Grunwell, 1998; Minshew, Goldstein, Muenz & Payton, 1992; Norbury & Bishop, 2002; Rapin & Dunn, 2003; Simmons-Mackie & Damico, 2003)

Most of the language we use is not intended for literal interpretation. Our communication is peppered with idioms, metaphors, sarcasm and inferences. Societies around the world bestow awards to writers, and even comedians, who are the most creative with language. Each generation of teenagers and young adults leave a trail of new slang for consumption – most of which is abstract.

Abstract language has also crept into the digital, mass and social media markets. Our commercials, web banners, print flyers and video clips are full of abstract information that require all of us to interpret and infer the meaning. Do people really mean what they say in advertising? How do we know a good deal from a sham? It’s incredibly complicated and yet most of us can easily understand the underlying meaning.  And, it is a mistake to assume that individuals with strengths in factual knowledge, but underlying social thinking challenges, understand the non-literal use of language so prevalent in our society. In fact, many don’t!

Active interpretation of the motives and intentions of others emerges in the first year of life and expands in complexity thereafter. Children learn that mom’s tone of voice speaks volumes and that attention to only her words can miss much of her message. As children grow developmentally, they understand that message interpretation depends heavily on one’s ability to “make a smart guess” based on past experiences, what they know (or don’t know) about the current person and situation, and the communication clues available. Language users assume their communicative partners are trying to figure out their messages. By third grade, neurotypical students understand that we are to infer meaning rather than expect it to be coded literally.

Individuals who struggle to interpret the abstract/inferential meaning of language also routinely struggle with academic tasks such as reading comprehension of literature (e.g., interpreting a character’s thoughts, actions and motives based on the context of the story) and written expression.

U = Understanding Perspective

(Baron-Cohen, 1995; Baron-Cohen, 2000; Baron-Cohen & Jolliffe, 1997; Flavell, 2004; Frith, & Frith, 2010; Hale & Tager-Flusberg, 2005; Kaland, Callesen, Moller-Nielsen, Mortensen, & Smith, 2007; Spek, Scholte, & Van Berckelaer-Omnes, 2010)

The ability to interpret others’ perspectives or beliefs, thoughts and feelings across contexts is critical to social learning. It is central to group participation in the social, academic or vocational world. Individuals with social learning challenges are often highly aware of their own perspective, but may struggle to see another’s point of view.   

To understand the differing perspectives of others requires that one’s Theory of Mind (perspective taking) work quickly and efficiently. Most neurotypically developing students acquire a solid foundation in ToM between the ages of 4 to 6 years old. Perspective taking is not one thing, it represents many things happening all at once meaning it is a synergistic and dynamic process. A definition of perspective taking can include the ability to consider your own and others:

  • Thoughts
  • Emotions
  • Physically coded intentions
  • Language based intentions
  • Prior knowledge and experiences
  • Belief systems
  • Personality
  • While considering all of this with regards to the specific situation being considered.

The ability to take perspective is key to participation in any type of group (social or academic). It is also a critical component when interpreting information that requires understanding of other’s minds, such as reading comprehension, history, social studies, etc. However, like all other concepts explored in the ILAUGH model, one’s ability to take perspective is not a black or white matter.

G = Gestalt Processing/Getting the Big Picture

(Fullerton, Stratton, Coyne & Gray, 1996; Happe’ & Frith, 2006; Hume, Loftin, & Lantz, 2009; Pelicano, 2010; Plaisted, 2001; Shah & Frith, 1993; van Lang, Bouma, Sytema, Kraijer, & Minderaa 2006)

Conceptual processing is a key component to successful social and academic functioning. It is critical to be able to be a part of and follow the group plan or share an imagination.  Due to the fact that information is conveyed through concepts and not just facts, it is important that one is able to tie individual pieces of information into the greater concept. For example, when engaged in a conversation, the participants should be able to intuitively determine the underlying concept(s) being discussed, as well as identify the specific details that are shared. Similarly, when reading, one has to follow the overall meaning rather than just collect a series of seemingly unrelated facts. As with many elements of social cognition, this ability relies heavily on strong executive function skills. As a result, difficulty with organizational strategies often stems from problems with conceptual processing. Weaknesses in the development of this skill can greatly impact one’s ability to formulate written expression, summarize reading passages, and manage one’s homework load, as well as derive the intended meaning from a social conversation.

H = Humor and Human Relatedness

Gutstein, 2001; Greenspan, & Wieder, 2003; Losh & Capps, 2006; Loukusa et al., 2007; Ozonoff, & Miller, 1996; Prizant, Wetherby, Rubin, & Laurent, 2003; Prizant, Wetherby, Rubin, Laurent & Rydell, 2006; Williams & Happe’, 2010)

Human relatedness is at the heart of social interaction. Most of us desire some form of social interaction and our students, clients and family members are no exception. The struggle is having the ability to relate to other’s minds, emotions and needs. Establishing the concept of human relatedness is essential before advancing in any lessons.  Most of the clients with whom we work with have a very good sense of humor, but they often feel anxious because they miss many of the subtle cues that help them to understand how to use their humor successfully with others. It is important for educators/parents to work compassionately with humor to help minimize the anxiety the individual may experience. It is also not uncommon for many to struggle with using humor inappropriately and direct lessons targeting this concept are necessary.

Source Social Thinking: https://www.socialthinking.com/Articles?name=Understanding+Core+Social+Thinking+Challenges+The+ILAUGH+Model&utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=article_understandingcoresocial

Orton-Gillingham tutoring (reading and writing skills) in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com


Rude, Mean, or Bullying? Defining the Differences

by Signe Whitson, in HuffPo Parents

[for Orton -Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH, see below]

A few weeks ago, I had the terrific fortune of getting to present some of the bullying prevention work that I do to a group of children at a local bookstore. As if interacting with smiling, exuberant young people was not gift enough, a reporter also attended the event a wrote a lovely article about my book and the work I do with kids, parents, educators and youth care professionals. All in all, it was dream publicity and since then, has sparked many conversations with people in my town who saw my photo in the newspaper and immediately related to the examples of bullying that were discussed.

I have been brought to tears more than once since the article ran, while listening to parents share their feelings of outrage and helplessness over their kids’ experiences with bullying in school. One gifted but socially awkward middle school student blew me away with his articulate, poised, yet searingly painful accounts of relentless physical and verbal bullying on his school bus. An elementary school-aged girl described how she had to learn to shed her Australian accent within a month of entering U.S. schools because of how she was shunned by her classmates. The commonness of it all routinely astounds me with every new account; the pervasive cruelty makes my jaw drop every time.

It is important for me to begin this article by establishing that without doubt, many of the stories of bullying that are shared with me are horrifying and some are unspeakably cruel. But now, I also want to be honest and share that some of the stories are… well… really not so bad.

Take this story recently shared with me by an acquaintance who read about my professional work:

“Signe, I saw your picture in the paper last week. Congratulations! I didn’t know you worked with bullied students. It’s so important that you do — things have gotten so bad! Last week, my daughter was bullied really badly after school! She was getting off of her bus when this kid from our neighborhood threw a fistful of leaves right in her face! When she got home, she still had leaves in the hood of her coat. It’s just awful! I don’t know what to do about these bullies.”

“Was she very upset when she got home?” I empathized.

“No. She just brushed the leaves off and told me they were having fun together,” she said.

“Oh,” I answered knowingly, aware that oftentimes kids try to downplay victimization by bullies from their parents, due to the embarrassment and shame they feel. “Did you get the sense she was covering for the boy?”

“No, no. She really seemed to think it was fun. She said that she threw leaves back at him, which I told her NEVER to do again! The nerve of those kids.”

“Those ‘kids,’ I clarified. “Was it just the one boy throwing leaves or were there a bunch of kids all ganging up on her?”

“No, it was just this one boy that lives about a block from us,” she assured me.

“Is he usually mean to her? Has he bothered her after school before?” I asked, eager at this point to figure out what the bullying issue was.

“No. I don’t think so at least. That was the first time she ever said anything about him. It was definitely the first time that I noticed the leaves all over her coat. But it better be the last time! I won’t stand for her being bullied by that kid. Next time, I am going to make sure the Principal knows what is going on after school lets out!”

While I always want to be careful not to minimize anyone’s experience (it’s the social worker in me!) and a part of me suspects that the sharing of this particular story may have been simply this parent’s spontaneous way of making conversation with me in a store aisle, I hear these “alarming” (read: benign) stories often enough to conclude that there is a real need to draw a distinction between behavior that is rude, behavior that is mean and behavior that is characteristic of bullying. I first heard bestselling children’s author, Trudy Ludwig, talk about these distinguishing terms and, finding them so helpful, have gone on to use them as follows:

Rude = Inadvertently saying or doing something that hurts someone else.

A particular relative of mine (whose name it would be rude of me to mention) often looks my curly red hair up and down before inquiring in a sweet tone, “Have you ever thought about coloring your hair?” or “I think you look so much more sophisticated when you straighten your hair, Signe.” This doting family member thinks she is helping me. he rest of the people in the room cringe at her boldness and I am left to wonder if being a brunette would suit me. Her comments can sting, but remembering that they come from a place of love — in her mind — helps me to remember what to do with the advice…

From kids, rudeness might look more like burping in someone’s face, jumping ahead in line, bragging about achieving the highest grade or even throwing a crushed up pile of leaves in someone’s face. On their own, any of these behaviors could appear as elements of bullying, but when looked at in context, incidents of rudeness are usually spontaneous, unplanned inconsideration, based on thoughtlessness, poor manners or narcissism, but not meant to actually hurt someone.

Mean = Purposefully saying or doing something to hurt someone once (or maybe twice).

The main distinction between “rude” and “mean” behavior has to do with intention; while rudeness is often unintentional, mean behavior very much aims to hurt or depreciate someone. Kids are mean to each other when they criticize clothing, appearance, intelligence, coolness or just about anything else they can find to denigrate. Meanness also sounds like words spoken in anger — impulsive cruelty that is often regretted in short order. Very often, mean behavior in kids is motivated by angry feelings and/or the misguided goal of propping themselves up in comparison to the person they are putting down. Commonly, meanness in kids sounds an awful lot like:

• “Are you seriously wearing that sweater again? Didn’t you just wear it, like, last week? Get a life.”
• “You are so fat/ugly/stupid/gay.”
• “I hate you!”

Make no mistake; mean behaviors can wound deeply and adults can make a huge difference in the lives of young people when they hold kids accountable for being mean. Yet, meanness is different from bullying in important ways that should be understood and differentiated when it comes to intervention.

Bullying = Intentionally aggressive behavior, repeated over time, that involves an imbalance of power.

Experts agree that bullying entails three key elements: an intent to harm, a power imbalance and repeated acts or threats of aggressive behavior. Kids who bully say or do something intentionally hurtful to others and they keep doing it, with no sense of regret or remorse — even when targets of bullying show or express their hurt or tell the aggressors to stop.

Bullying may be physical, verbal, relational or carried out via technology:

• Physical aggression was once the gold standard of bullying– the “sticks and stones” that made adults in charge stand up and take notice. This kind of bullying includes hitting, punching, kicking, spitting, tripping, hair pulling, slamming a child into a locker and a range of other behaviors that involve physical aggression.

• Verbal aggression is what our parents used to advise us to “just ignore.” We now know that despite the old adage, words and threats can, indeed, hurt and can even cause profound, lasting harm.

• Relational aggression is a form of bullying in which kids use their friendship–or the threat of taking their friendship away–to hurt someone. Social exclusion, shunning, hazing, and rumor spreading are all forms of this pervasive type of bullying that can be especially beguiling and crushing to kids.

• Cyberbullying is a specific form of bullying that involves technology. According to Hinduja and Patchin of the Cyberbullying Research Center, it is the “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices.” Notably, the likelihood of repeated harm is especially high with cyberbullying because electronic messages can be accessed by multiple parties, resulting in repeated exposure and repeated harm.

So, why is it so important to make the distinction between rude, mean and bullying? Can’t I just let parents share with me stories about their kids?

Here’s the thing; in our culture of 24/7 news cycles and social media sound bytes, we have a better opportunity than ever before to bring attention to important issues. In the last few years, Americans have collectively paid attention to the issue of bullying like never before; millions of school children have been given a voice, 49 states in the U.S. have passed anti-bullying legislation, and thousands of adults have been trained in important strategies to keep kids safe and dignified in schools and communities. These are significant achievements.

At the same time, however, I have already begun to see that gratuitous references to bullying are creating a bit of a “little boy who cried wolf” phenomena. In other words, if kids and parents improperly classify rudeness and mean behavior as bullying — whether to simply make conversation or to bring attention to their short-term discomfort — we all run the risk of becoming so sick and tired of hearing the word that this actual life-and-death issue among young people loses its urgency as quickly as it rose to prominence.

It is important to distinguish between rude, mean and bullying so that teachers, school administrators, police, youth workers, parents and kids all know what to pay attention to and when to intervene. As we have heard too often in the news, a child’s future may depend on a non-jaded adult’s ability to discern between rudeness at the bus stop and life-altering bullying.


Signe Whitson is a licensed therapist, national educator on bullying, and author of three books including Friendship & Other Weapons: Group Activities to Help Young Girls Cope with Bullying. For more information or workshop inquiries, please visit www.signewhitson.com

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/signe-whitson/bullying_b_2188819.html

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edward 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Dealing With Child Temper Tantrums

By Debbie Pincus MS LMHC

[O-G Tutoring in Columbus OH: see below]

Why are temper tantrums so difficult for parents to handle? Besides the fact that they’re loud, annoying and embarrassing, we often feel it’s our job requirement to make our kids act the way we feel they should behave. If we can’t do that, we feel ineffective. We also don’t like the judgments that we imagine others are making of us when our kids are out of control. We don’t know what to do, but feel we must do something—after all, we are the parents.

And of course, on a deep level we want our kids to learn how to calm down and act “normally.” When they’re not able to do that because they haven’t yet figured out how to manage their own frustrations, it can sometimes cause us to have our own tantrums, which only adds more fuel to the fire. And when we feel a sense of helplessness, we often react by getting angry or giving in—and then we feel controlled by our kids’ behavior. But attempting to manage our anxiety by trying to control their responses never works. I think it’s better to focus on dealing with our own feelings of helplessness, embarrassment and frustration when our kids are having a meltdown.

Remember, you’re just trying to be the anchor in the storm that’s calming the system down. If one person in a system can stay relatively calm, that is the best way you can quiet any kind of upset or tantrum.

Sometimes parents ask me if there are ways to stop child temper tantrums from happening. I don’t really think there are—I think it’s natural to have tantrums. We adults have them all the time. We can lose our temper when someone cuts us off in traffic or when our kids don’t listen. Maturing is all about managing our emotions more effectively, and it’s a lifetime project. In my opinion, we can’t prevent tantrums, but we can impact how often and how long they go on by the way we respond to our children’s outbursts.

I think when our children feel that we need them to behave “our way” in order for us to feel calm, it’s a natural reaction for them to become defensive. You’ll see an attitude of, “Oh yeah? Nobody can tell me what to do.” Ultimately, they will just shout louder and create more of a scene.

We feel uneasy when we see our kids struggle, or be upset or uncomfortable, and this compounds the situation. As a result, we try to manage the anxiety that this provokes in us. When we yell or give in, we’re relieving our own distress rather than helping our children develop self control.

When Your Child Has a Tantrum in Public

When your child has a temper tantrum in front of others, there’s an extra element of embarrassment and shame that we feel as parents. I understand how that happens—it’s natural to react that way. We often think that being a good parent means having well–behaved kids all the time, so we imagine others are judging us by that standard.  But as Total Transformation creator James Lehman says, “You are not a mind reader. If you try to imagine what others are thinking, 95 percent of the time you’re going to read something negative there. That’s because whenever we’re negative, we interpret other people’s perceptions of us as negative.”

Look at it this way: the tantrum really isn’t about us, it’s about our child. While it’s easy to personalize your child’s tantrum and feel like it’s about you when it’s happening, trust me, it’s really about your child. Try asking yourself at those times, “What is most important, what others think of me, or what I think an effective parent would do right now?”

If you’re in public or with others, you can simply explain that your child is having a hard time, excuse yourself and move out of the situation. Leave the room, go to the car, or go home. Do whatever you need to do quickly and matter–of–factly. Remember, you don’t want to give the tantrum attention, either positively or negatively.

What to Do Before the Next Tantrum

Hold on to your principles: In a relaxed moment, sit down and think about how you want to behave under the worst kind of stress. This is really key, because if you’re going to go by your “emotion of the moment,” you’ll often end up losing your cool. Consider how you want to react, and hold that picture in your mind. The next time your child acts out, do your best to remain true to that image of yourself. It may take some practice, but eventually you’ll be able to do it.

Know what you can handle: Be realistic with your expectations. Know what you—and your kids—can handle. If you try to go on 15 errands instead of one, many young kids will not be able to deal with it. If your child is a little bit older, let him know what you expect; prepare him for what’s coming. You can say, “If you fall apart or start yelling for something, this is what’s going to happen.” Tell him what his consequence will be—and stick to it. If you are going to a store and your child tends to want everything in sight, provide him with a way to cope with his frustrations. For elementary school kids, I think it’s helpful to have them bring a pad of paper and a pen and make a list of things they want. They can put things they see on their Christmas or birthday list. Smaller kids might draw pictures of what they’d like. I think it’s helpful to have a little tool box, so to speak, of things for your kids to do so that they can help themselves stay calm.

Try to avoid your child’s “triggers” if you can: Try to avoid triggers that you know will set your child off. If your children are older, you can teach them to observe themselves. Do this by pointing out what you see happening. You can say, “I know when you come home from school and you’ve had a bad day, you tend to take it out on your little brother. What can you do instead of yelling at him and picking a fight?” Your child might say, “Well, I can spend some time in my room listening to music instead.” Your goal with your child here is to try some new things to avoid his triggers, and teach him how to see what sets him off in the process. Physical triggers are also very common. For younger children especially, make sure they’re getting proper rest and food and that they’re not over–extended.

Plan ahead and give yourself a pep talk: If you know certain things trigger your child’s tantrums, plan ahead. Say to yourself, “We’re going to the grocery store, and I know what typically can happen there. So I’m going to warn my child and talk about what my expectations are ahead of time. If he has a tantrum, I’m going to stick to my guns.” Help coach him on ways to handle those triggers and let him know what you’ll do if he cannot manage his frustration. With younger kids, from toddler to the age of six, you may have to just physically pick them up and move them out of the store. Prepare yourself for that eventuality.

Be a good role model: Be a good role model in terms of your own behavior. How do you feel when you’re frustrated about something? What you do with those feelings is something your child is going to learn. Decide how you will behave, no matter how your child behaves. Step away from your own emotions to figure out thoughtful responses to these difficult situations. Ask yourself this question: “How can I calm down when my child loses it?” instead of “How can I get my child to calm down?” No one can control how another person feels, period. And the more you try to manage your child’s reactions, the more he’ll probably act out.

What to Do When Your Child Goes into Tantrum Mode

Here are some rules of thumb I’ve found to be effective when you’re in the eye of the storm and your child has gone into tantrum mode.

Get yourself to zero: The first order of business is to get yourself under control; get calm, rather than trying to get your child under control. Put the effort there. Take a walk around the house, count to 100, take your own timeout. Call a friend. Do whatever you can do to get yourself under control, but again, try not to lose your temper. Remember, you’re just trying to be the anchor in the storm that’s calming the system down. If one person in a system can stay relatively calm, that’s the best way to quiet any kind of upset or tantrum.

Remember that you’re not responsible for getting your child under control: Remember, you are not responsible for the choices your child makes. Rather, you are responsible for how you choose to handle those choices. Try not to get engaged by your kids’ angry outbursts.  If it doesn’t capture you, it won’t capture them. Stay focused on staying calm. Do not react by yelling, worrying, hovering or giving in—all typical things that we do as parents.

Try not to lose it and have your own tantrum: This will only serve to escalate your child’s anger and frustration, and make him feel more defensive.  Remember, anxiety is contagious, and so is calm.

Do not give into your child’s request: If you give in to your child’s requests when he has an outburst, it will set up a pattern where you create more tantrums. In effect, you’ve taught your child that the best way to get what he wants is to scream, yell and be out of control.

Isolate your child: I don’t mean to put your child into an isolation booth, but rather, put your younger child in his room or in some spot where he can have a timeout or cooling off period and learn how to soothe himself. Make sure you’re not continually engaging him in his tantrum.

Fake it if you have to: There’s an old saying: “Fake it till you make it.” While you ultimately want to get calm, I think it’s okay to fake it until you get there. Of course you feel terrible inside: you’re embarrassed, upset and frustrated, but try saying to yourself, “I’m not going to react to these feelings because this will not solve my problem.” So in other words, you don’t have to be truly calm at first. You will have uncomfortable feelings, but it’s what you do with those feelings that matters. (And in the end, that’s the same thing we’re trying to teach our kids.)

Remind yourself that it’s your job to teach your child: Remind yourself that you are the teacher. Your children can’t handle these strong emotions yet and it’s our job to help them learn how to do that. Remember, they are testing you—and believe it or not, they truly want you to win this particular test. On the surface, your child really wants you to give in, but on another level, he wants to see that there are strong parents in the room. Kids want to know that their parents are sturdy, strong and reliable and are people who mean what they say. They don’t want parents who are going to fall apart. They need us to stay anchored so they won’t drown.

What to Say During the Tantrum

Be clear and calm: Be clear and firm with your child. They want to see that you’re in charge and that somebody is in control. That’s going to come through your voice, expression and body language. You want to communicate that you are not losing it in any way. Keep your center and be very firm. You can say, “We are not staying here. We can come back when you can pull yourself together. We are leaving now.”

Use empathy: When your child is in the middle of a tantrum, I think it’s important to be empathetic but not give in or lose it. If it’s appropriate, you can say, “I know it’s very frustrating, I understand you wanted to get this video game today.” Empathy opens people up to being able to hear us; if we don’t start with that, it shuts things down. I don’t mean that you should spend lots of time delving into your child’s feelings, but a tone, a look or a word of empathy can go a long way when your child is frustrated.

The little question you should ask yourself: Ask yourself “What do I want to do in this situation?” Rather than “What do I want my child to do.” Just that little switch in thinking often makes a big difference. Because again, if I’m going to be working hard to get my kids under control, it’s going to be a very different outcome than if I’m working hard to get myself under control.

When Kids Don’t Learn How to Manage Their Emotions

If you give in to your child when he has tantrums—or throw one yourself in reaction to his outbursts—as he grows older and reaches adolescence, this will often turn into a chronic power struggle. Sadly, I’ve seen it many times in my practice. And temper tantrums in older children are no laughing matter. Your teenage son will become relentless ; he won’t take no for an answer. Your tween daughter will wear you down and become an expert at manipulating you. Or your child might become aggressive and fight with you all the time. What these kids learn is that they can get things by intimidating other people. They will not have learned how to regulate themselves so therefore their behaviors will be very reactive and extreme. And believe me, these power struggles do become battles.

Just look at a two–year–old throwing a tantrum and imagine what a 20–year–old will look like. You might see him punching the walls, yelling, calling you names and intimidating you, and storming out of the house. And if you react in turn, on and on it goes. But here’s a secret: it just takes one person to stop this pattern, and then the whole thing settles down. So decide not to hit the ball back next time. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you when your child acts out. That will ultimately help your child to manage his strong emotions and frustrations.

So think about building relationships for the long term, rather than changing annoying behaviors in the shorter term. A lot of times, we just want to get our kids to stop the tantrum or acting-out behavior. We think, “I can’t stand this anymore!” or “They’re fighting all the time. It’s driving me crazy!” If we simply want to get somebody to stop doing something, we can probably get them to do it, but we may hurt our relationship with them in the long term. On the other hand, if we want to work on a relationship that is going to have longevity ten or twenty years from now, we have to think of it in terms of building on it every time we respond to our kids. We need to thoughtfully respond to them so that we keep the relationship intact. And the way we can do that is by trying to influence them rather than control them. Influence comes through respecting our kids and their choices, and not getting mad at them or taking it personally when they have tantrums. In my opinion, this is the best road to building a strong relationship with our children.

Read more: http://www.empoweringparents.com/dealing-with-child-temper-tantrums.php#ixzz3h8TwuuOO

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Discussion Circles Provide “Restorative Justice” at Schools

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Sixteen schools in Milwaukee are taking part in a “restorative justice” program.  Students with issues sit in a circle where all sides present their views and then talk about how to work it out, according to Jack Orton’s article in the Journal Sentinel.

Around ten people, mostly other classmates, sit in a circle around an object such as electric candle.  You can’t talk unless you’re holding on to a ball which is passed around from one to another.

Everything that is said is confidential, and no one can speak without respecting everyone else.

The conversation starts with an icebreaker: what’s your favorite food, for example.  Then down to business, with one of the kids leading the discussion.  The leader follows a process in which everyone gets to present their side and talk about the impact  the problem had on them.

Finally, there’s a discussion of what ought to be done and how to get to a point of trust and respect.

Work it out, right?

According to kids as well as adults who are involved in this disciplinary approach, most of the time you do work it out.

Audubon Technology & Communication Center High School, as of last week, reported there had been only four suspensions so far this year, among about 100 ninth-graders at Audubon.

At Milwaukee Public Schools this year, there is a big push to reduce suspensions.  A national consulting team came in last year and determined that MPS had one of the highest suspension rates in the country.

“Restorative Justice”

The conversation circles are using principles of what is called restorative justice.  The goal is not to punish, but to get students onto a path of making better choices, understanding the impact of what they do, and dealing with other people in a more productive way. 

The hope is that kids will learn something, change their ways and not just miss classes for three days.

MPS is participating in a campaign called the Safe School/Healthy Student Initiative.  It has been funded by an $8.5 million  four-year federal grant, and is creating coalitions involving numerous community organizations including police and fire departments as well as juvenile justice and mental health officials. 

The goal is to promote more coordinated and effective ways to deal with aspects of children’s lives that don’t directly involve academics but indirectly affect learning in big ways. 

One student at Audubon says, “We’ve become more like a family and not just kids who go to school together.  We’ve grown up big time in the last few months.”

The new approach has resulted in kids giving more thought to the effect of what they do and say.  This year, there is much less of the he said/she said friction, says that ninth-grader.

Social studies teacher Marvin Williams feels, “It helps them think about the decisions they make, how they affect others.”

And Principal Barbara Goss says the big reason for success is the 100% buy-in from the staff.

Students Take the Lead

Last summer, about half dozen or so students took part in training in the program.  They are often the core figures in the discussion in the circles.  Teachers have said that often students speak more strongly to kids who caused problems than staff members themselves might. 

Hearing it from people their own age has great impact on the offenders.

It is true that sometimes the circles don’t work.  One teacher described a student who had had multiple violations and just wouldn’t accept responsibility for her actions.

But, says the teacher Lois Calloway, “I know she heard what we had to say.”  And if she had simply been suspended, there would never have been the conversation.

Overall the the effort has been hugely successful, says Goss, although there is still much work to do.

There has been improvement across MPS .  Kristi Cole heads the safety and health campaign.  She says the new approaches are really taking hold at schools like Audubon.

And is the climate in the schools improving?  “Without a doubt,” she says.

sole source: online article by Jack Orton in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on 3/18/09.  www.jsonline.com

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards  614-579-6021   or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Bad Behavior: Teach Lagging Thinking Skills

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In “Lost at School: Why Our Kids with Behavioral Challenges Are Falling Through the Cracks and How We Can Help Them,”  Ross W Greene writes that kids with social, emotional and behavioral challenges lack important thinking skills.

From Chapter two: “Kids Do Well If They Can,” here are some thoughts.

Diagnoses may be called for, and medication may be useful.  But in every case a diagnosis is simply a name game.   It doesn’t really tell you what skills are lacking or what to do about that, says Greene.

According to Greene, the problem is lagging skills — skills that normally developing and maturing brains have mastered automatically.

Sometimes the demands being placed on a kid exceed his capacity to respond adaptively.  The result: he challenges the world around him.  We need to teach him the skills he lacks.

Take a look at some of the judgements we like to make:

  • He just wants attention. Greene says we all want attention.  If a kid is seeking attention in a maladaptive way, doesn’t that suggest that he lacks the skills to seek attention in an adaptive way?
  • He just wants his own way.  Again, says Greene, we all want our own way, and most of us are able to accomplish it adaptively.  But that requires skills often found lacking in these kids.
  • He’s manipulating us.  Greene feels this very popular response about behaviorally challenged kids is misguided.  Competent manipulation requires various skills — forethought, planning, impulse control and organization — which are typically lacking in these children.  Kids most often described as being manipulative are those least capable of pulling it off. 
  • He’s not motivated.  Greene finds this to be a form of the old “kids do well if they want to,” which he contends ought to be reframed as “kids do well if they can.”  Why would a kid not want to do well; why would he choose not to do well if he has the skills to make that happen?
  • He’s making bad choices.  Asks Greene: are you sure he has the skills and repertoire to consistently make good choices?
  • His parents are incompetent disciplinarians.  This is also popular, admits Greene, but it fails to take into account the fact that most challenging kids have well-behaved siblings.  And this statement doesn’t help anyone at school deal effectively with the child while he’s in the building.
  • He has a bad attitude.  But, says Greene, he probably didn’t start out with one, and “bad attitudes”  tend to be the by-product of countless years of being misunderstood and overpunished by adults who didn’t recognize a kid lacking crucial thinking skills.  Kids are resilient, he thinks; they come around if we start doing the right thing.
  • He has a mental illness.  Even if the child meets diagnostic criteria and may even benefit from psychotropic medication, Greene feels this description is a nonstarter.  “Mentally ill” is a limiting way to describe people with social, emotional and behavioral challenges.  Call it “problems in living,” and assist in teaching adaptive thinking.
  • His brother was the same way.   So it’s the gene pool.  But we can’t do anything about that, and chances are his brother lacked the same important thinking skills.

Determine Which Skills are Lagging

For example, a child might have difficulty handling transitions, shifting from one mind-set or task to another.

This lagging skill is called a “shifting cognitive set,”  and is required any time a person moves from one task to another — gathering supplies and books from his locker to getting down to work in class.  Some kids are more likely to be baffled and struggle when life demands that they shift cognitive set.  They need to learn how to shift gears efficiently, and it’s a skill many challenging kids do not yet have.

If we want to help a kid whose challenging behavior is precipitated by demands for shifting set, we have a skill to teach.  [See Chapter 4 and 5 of the book.]

Some children have so much difficulty mannaging emotional response to frustration that they can’t think rationally. This is called “separation of affect.”    It means he can’t separate his emotions about a problem from the thinking he has to do to resolve the problem. 

Kids skilled at separating affect tend to respond to problems or frustrations with more thought; but those who lack the skill respond with more emotion.  Those children need to learn how to put emotions on the shelf so they can think rationally.

Analyze the Situations Where Behavior Occurs

Besides identifying skills that need to be taught, a second piece of information is needed: when and where do problems occur?

A “situational analysis” can give you invaluable information about the triggers or antecedents of troubling behavior.  It may be circle time, or recess, or a certain other child, or just the word “no” (and what it is the adult is saying “no” to…).    These situations are setting the stage for maladaptive behavior.

New Lenses, New Tool

Greene’s mantra throughout the book is

Behind every challenging behavior is an unsolved problem or a lagging skill (or both).

Lagging skills are the WHY.  Unsolved problems are the WHO, WHAT, WHEN  and WHERE.

Greene offers his assessment tool called ALSUP (Assessment of Lagging Skills and Unsolved Problems).  The ALSUP is a list of the lagging skills a child needs, along with a section for listing unsolved problems or triggers.

He suggests bringing a copy of the ALSUP to meetings in which a child’s challenges are being discussed.  Why?  Greene contends all caregivers of a particular child must achieve consensus on and list the problems that seem to be precipitating the challenging behaviors. 

Why consensus?  Because if caregivers have disparate notions about what’s getting in this child’s way, there can be no coherent treatment.  The time devoted to hashing out and coming to a consensus about a kid’s lagging skills and unsolved problems is worth it in the end.

Once everyone has a handle on this child’s lagging skills and unsolved problems, they’ve taken a major step toward fixing things.  The kid’s challenging episodes are now going to be highly predictable.  Caregivers and teachers will be able to be proactive.

You may discover that this child has a long list of lagging skills and unsolved problems.  Prioritize the skills you’re going to start teaching and the problems you’re going to start helping him to solve.  You can’t do everything at once.

Greene feels that children who haven’t responded to natural consequences don’t need more consequences.  They need adults who are knowledgeable about how challenging kids come to be challenging; who can determine which skills are lacking and which problems are setting the stage for maladaptive behavior; and who know how to teach those skills to solve the problems.


The nine chapters are titled “School of Hard Knocks,” “Kids Do Well If They Can,” Lesson Plans,” “Let’s Get It Started,” “Bumps in the Road,” “Filling in the Gaps,” “Meeting of the Minds,” “School of Thought,” and “Lives in the Balance.”

In addition, the book includes the Assessment of Lagging Skills and Unsolved Problems (ALSUP), a Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS) Plan, Sources, Books Cited and Other Recommended Reading, and an Index.

“Lost at School: Why Our Kids with Behavioral Challenges are Falling Through the Cracks and How We Can Help Them,” by Ross W Greene, PhD, is published by Scribner, 2008.  ISBN 13: 978-1-4165-7226-8.  The price (hardcover) is $25.00.

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or email   aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Web Sites to Stop Violence and Bullying

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This week’s offerings from EduHound’s “Classroom Tools and Tips”  deal with violence prevention:

  • National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center  —  A Federal resource for professionals, parents and youth working to prevent violence committed by and against young people.  www.safeyouth.org
  • Stop Bullying Now!  —  Practical research-based strategies to reduce bullying in schools.   www.stopbullyingnow.com
  • Kidscape:  Dealing With Bullies  —  Helping to prevent bullying and child abuse.  www.kidscape.org.uk
  • NEA: National Bullying Awareness Campaign (NBAC)  — Its goal is to reduce, and eventually eradicate, bullying in America’s public schools.  www.nea.org/schoolsafety/bullying.html
  • Maine Project Against Bullying  —  A survey of bullying behavior among Maine third graders.  http://lincoln.midcoast.com/~wps/against/bullying.html
  • STOP cyberbullying — Information about cyberbullying, how it works, and how to deal with cyberbullies.  www.stopcyberbullying.org

source: www.eduhound.com Eduhound Weekly is a magazine for teachers offering valuable edtech resources to incorporate into K-12 classrooms.

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Bullying in Fayetteville and Somewhere Near You

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In the NY Times, Dan Barry writes:


All lank and bone, the boy stands at the corner with his younger sister, waiting for the yellow bus that takes them to their respective schools. He is Billy Wolfe, high school sophomore, struggling.

Moments earlier he left the sanctuary that is his home, passing those framed photographs of himself as a carefree child, back when he was 5. And now he is at the bus stop, wearing a baseball cap, vulnerable at 15.

A car the color of a school bus pulls up with a boy who tells his brother beside him that he’s going to beat up Billy Wolfe. While one records the assault with a cellphone camera, the other walks up to the oblivious Billy and punches him hard enough to leave a fist-size welt on his forehead.

The video shows Billy staggering, then dropping his book bag to fight back, lanky arms flailing. But the screams of his sister stop things cold.

The aggressor heads to school, to show friends the video of his Billy moment, while Billy heads home, again. It’s not yet 8 in the morning.

Bullying is everywhere, including here in Fayetteville, a city of 60,000 with one of the country’s better school systems. A decade ago a Fayetteville student was mercilessly harassed and beaten for being gay. After a complaint was filed with the Office of Civil Rights, the district adopted procedures to promote tolerance and respect — none of which seems to have been of much comfort to Billy Wolfe.

It remains unclear why Billy became a target at age 12; schoolyard anthropology can be so nuanced. Maybe because he was so tall, or wore glasses then, or has a learning disability that affects his reading comprehension. Or maybe some kids were just bored. Or angry.

Whatever the reason, addressing the bullying of Billy has become a second job for his parents: Curt, a senior data analyst, and Penney, the owner of an office-supply company. They have binders of school records and police reports, along with photos documenting the bruises and black eyes. They are well known to school officials, perhaps even too well known, but they make no apologies for being vigilant. They also reject any suggestion that they should move out of the district because of this.

The many incidents seem to blur together into one protracted assault. When Billy attaches a bully’s name to one beating, his mother corrects him. “That was Benny, sweetie,” she says. “That was in the eighth grade.”

It began years ago when a boy called the house and asked Billy if he wanted to buy a certain sex toy, heh-heh. Billy told his mother, who informed the boy’s mother. The next day the boy showed Billy a list with the names of 20 boys who wanted to beat Billy up.

Ms. Wolfe says she and her husband knew it was coming. She says they tried to warn school officials — and then bam: the prank caller beat up Billy in the bathroom of McNair Middle School.

Not long after, a boy on the school bus pummeled Billy, but somehow Billy was the one suspended, despite his pleas that the bus’s security camera would prove his innocence. Days later, Ms. Wolfe recalls, the principal summoned her, presented a box of tissues, and played the bus video that clearly showed Billy was telling the truth.

Things got worse. At Woodland Junior High School, some boys in a wood shop class goaded a bigger boy into believing that Billy had been talking trash about his mother. Billy, busy building a miniature house, didn’t see it coming: the boy hit him so hard in the left cheek that he briefly lost consciousness.

Ms. Wolfe remembers the family dentist sewing up the inside of Billy’s cheek, and a school official refusing to call the police, saying it looked like Billy got what he deserved. Most of all, she remembers the sight of her son.

“He kept spitting blood out,” she says, the memory strong enough still to break her voice.

By now Billy feared school. Sometimes he was doubled over with stress, asking his parents why. But it kept on coming.

In ninth grade, a couple of the same boys started a Facebook page called “Every One That Hates Billy Wolfe.” It featured a photograph of Billy’s face superimposed over a likeness of Peter Pan, and provided this description of its purpose: “There is no reason anyone should like billy he’s a little bitch. And a homosexual that NO ONE LIKES.”


According to Alan Wilbourn, a spokesman for the school district, the principal notified the parents of the students involved after Ms. Wolfe complained, and the parents — whom he described as “horrified” — took steps to have the page taken down.

Not long afterward, a student in Spanish class punched Billy so hard that when he came to, his braces were caught on the inside of his cheek.

So who is Billy Wolfe? Now 16, he likes the outdoors, racquetball and girls. For whatever reason — bullying, learning disabilities or lack of interest — his grades are poor. Some teachers think he’s a sweet kid; others think he is easily distracted, occasionally disruptive, even disrespectful. He has received a few suspensions for misbehavior, though none for bullying.

Judging by school records, at least one official seems to think Billy contributes to the trouble that swirls around him. For example, Billy and the boy who punched him at the bus stop had exchanged words and shoves a few days earlier.

But Ms. Wolfe scoffs at the notion that her son causes or deserves the beatings he receives. She wonders why Billy is the only one getting beaten up, and why school officials are so reluctant to punish bullies and report assaults to the police.

Mr. Wilbourn said federal law protected the privacy of students, so parents of a bullied child should not assume that disciplinary action had not been taken. He also said it was left to the discretion of staff members to determine if an incident required police notification.

The Wolfes are not satisfied. This month they sued one of the bullies “and other John Does,” and are considering another lawsuit against the Fayetteville School District. Their lawyer, D. Westbrook Doss Jr., said there was neither glee nor much monetary reward in suing teenagers, but a point had to be made: schoolchildren deserve to feel safe.

Billy Wolfe, for example, deserves to open his American history textbook and not find anti-Billy sentiments scrawled across the pages. But there they were, words so hurtful and foul.

The boy did what he could. “I’d put white-out on them,” he says. “And if the page didn’t have stuff to learn, I’d rip it out.”

source: this is the article written by Dan Barry, in the NY Times on 3/24/08.  www.nytimes.com
Also online: A slide show of Billy Wolfe at www.nytimes.com/danbarry.
tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com