Category Archives: Parenting Tool

When A Student Avoids School Work

 

Recently a client’s father was concerned. His child was avoiding schoolwork and becoming very anxious when it was time to complete school or homework. He was at a loss as to why this was happening.  So we had a chat about the patterns of behavior and ways to help.

When kids refuse to complete a school task there is always a reason. No, it is not because they are “lazy” or “bad”. It may take some digging, but finding out why this is happening can help you set up a plan to help your child.

Is there a trigger in the schoolwork?

Sometimes children are unable to complete a task because it is considered gross, scary, or has a topic/word they feel uncomfortable around. Adjust the assignment when possible. If writing about ducks triggers a child, change the topic to a different animal. If writing by hand is a trigger because it hurts or feels weird due to sensory issues, then allow typing or allow the child to speak the words instead.

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Is executive functioning an issue?

Executive functioning skills must be strong in order for children to complete multi-step tasks, especially if they must figure out the steps to complete a task. If a child needs to write an essay, they will need to come up with a topic, outline the main idea and details, create sentences, edit the writing, then turn it in. This can be an overwhelming task if executive functioning skills are not yet strong. Help by sitting together to make a to do list, in order, for the activity. Break the task into different hours or days. Do something fun in between as well to have a break from the difficult task.

Is there anxiety because it is a new task?

Many times people become worried or anxious over a new task. This can occur for clear reasons or simply be a feeling with no clear reason. Either way, it is important to recognize the anxiety and how bad that feels. Ask how you can help. Offer alternatives when possible such as a different topic, different way to show understanding of the material, and offer a longer amount of time in which to complete each stage of the task.

Is there anxiety because someone is demanding the child complete the assignment?

When someone appears oppositional it may be due to anxiety, Pathological Demand Avoidance, or Oppositional Defiance Disorder, as well as other reasons such as feeling ill. Be a teammate rather than someone who demands immediate compliance. What steps can you take together to assist without doing the work for the child? Will taking short breaks in between every 3 sentences written help? Will drawing work more easily than cutting and gluing a project? Think outside of the box if possible. Give time between a task and the completion time for a task. Consider writing it down or using graphics and pictures to show what to do in steps, then give time to complete the task. Pressing the issue and repeating oneself to a child can build pressure in the child and trigger a feeling of unworthiness, anxiety, or even opposition in some kids.

Does the child not see the value in the activity?

Sometimes people need to see the link to everyday life or their goals before a task seems worthwhile. Consider using hands-on activities, creative presentation options, mentorships, real life experience through field trips, etc. These activities can help students see why topics such as division are necessary to their every day lives and motivate them to tolerate or willingly ask to practice life skills and academic activities. Sometimes a new perspective or having someone who is not mom or dad say that a topic is important can help as well. AN internship may be an additional step if a mentorship is working well for your child.

Is distraction happening even when the child is interested?

Distractions can cause a  lot of stress for teacher and student, parent and child, leaving everyone stressed and tired. Consider adding in a favorite type of music at a low volume if our child works better with background noise, but consider taking away sounds like tv or music if they distract. You may want to try using a white noise machine or headphones to block sounds, depending on if your child does better with or without background noise. Remember that becoming distracted easily is not usually something a child can control so punishment and anger will not solve this issue. Take a breath, or 10, then come back to the issue and help your child get back on task. If a task is taking a long time, consider completing the task in short bursts of time. Break down the task. You can also talk to your health care provider if you are concerned about a special need being present and request a referral for testing. If there is a special need, there may be medical and therapy alternatives available to assist your child. This is your choice and I cannot recommend that you do or do not. However, if concerned, consider this option.

Helping our children become life-long learners can be a challenge. Sometimes things do not go as planned, Instead of becoming agitated because our children are seemingly not listening, let’s consider why their tasks are not being completed and work with them to solve these issues. Alfie Kohn and Dr. Ross Green have fantastic books which address some of these issues.

 

For evaluations and consultations, contact Melissa, The Reading Coach!

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed. Photograph by Alexandra Islas

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed.
Photograph by Alexandra Islas

 

I earned my master’s degree in reading and literacy as well as an ESE graduate certificate. I hold a current teaching certificate and am working on my dissertation for my PHD in general psychology. As a consultant and reading coach, I focus on early childhood education, elementary education, reading and literacy, study skills, thematic units, and social skills. Additional services include public speaking, transcript preparation, and more. I look forward to putting my teaching experience and degrees to work for you.

Please contact me with questions or to request services.

You can also contact Melissa, The Reading Coach at 407-712-4368

Making Use of Sick Days – Get Your Kid to Rest

You know how it goes. Your little one has a cough or fever. Kiddo isn’t miserable, but definitely needs to relax, rest, chill out, whatever you want to call it. Unfortunately, your child is not interested in resting. She isn’t sick enough to want to sleep or rest, but sick enough to annoy the stuffing out of siblings, pets, and sometimes even mom or dad.

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What’s a parent to do?

Below are some ideas that let your child do something fun, or even educational, while resting.

(Please note that if ill, you won’t want your child to make something for others and you will want to sanitize all toys which may be reused or toss out anything that may communicate a disease to others after your child uses it. This is where the dollar store play dough or homemade playdough make a lot of sense. Toss it when finished without too much frustration over replacement costs.)
  1. Watch a documentary
  2. Write a story on a piece of paper or a computer/tablet/etc
  3. Draw a picture
  4. Use stickers to create a picture or story
  5. Play a computer game
  6. Play a board game
  7. Use beads to make a bracelet
  8. Sit and build with blocks
  9. Use kinetic sand or playdough
  10. Make sensory bottles and use them to look at and relax
  11. Make letter, number, or dice bottles and play a game
  12. Use tangrams
  13. Read books together
  14. Mix colors to make new ones or use watercolors to paint

Hopefully these ideas, as well as your own, help your child slow down a bit while healing from illness. Remember to secure the caps to bottles or other small pieces for safety and supervise your child as well.

Feel free to let me know your ideas as well. I’d love to hear them.

The Value of Alternative Assessments

These days high stakes testing and school accountability mean that teachers, parents, and students have less room to vary lessons, tests, and proof that learning has occurred. While it is important to prevent systematic racism, which is the reason many reformers have historically given when pushing a one size fits all standards and accountability framework, it is also important to recognize that not all students will feel motivated within this framework. This is why it is highly important to provide a variety of options for showing that learning has occurred.

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you are a student with special needs or a child who is not interested in pencil and paper options which are predictable and somewhat boring in the eyes of some people, then alternative assessment options will be more likely to keep you interested and to show where you have improved as well as where you still need to work on a certain concept.  After all, standardized tests do not often provide immediate information with which to inform instruction in a meaningful and emergent way. By using continuing assessment tools which often have the opportunity to change in presentation, you not only allow students to show their strengths, but a teacher or parent is more likely to quickly see gaps in learning and how to fix these gaps. The goal should be mastery, not passing a test with a C grade or higher. This makes alternative assessment options useful, interesting for the learner, and appropriate in both brick and mortar school and homeschool education models.

How do I begin?

Many people ask how to go about moving away from canned lessons and toward flexible assessments. Canned lessons can be good if they allow for flexibility when students need this. However, many times teachers must change lessons quite a bit in order to meet the needs of all learners in their care. If you must use canned lessons, don’t’ worry, you can still use flexible assessment options most of the time. You may already have some of these options written into 504 Plans or IEPs which you currently use for some students.

What does alternative assessment look like?

For example, if a student needs to give an oral report, but has anxiety, allow the student to choose a newscast style report where it is recorded first, a small group presentation, or a large group presentation. Also, give the student the option of a podium and stool in order to help support the student should he or she decide to give a live presentation.

If a student with low muscle tone needs to show you how to add with two digit numbers, don’t focus on the writing component. Instead, allow for the option to type, draw large pictures, have extra time to write numbers, use a stencil, or show using a poster board and objects glued on. This way the child can show understanding of the concept, but not be bogged down with pain in the hand due to low tone.

Sometimes gifted students, and others, become bored with the same routine. They may have a lowered attention span or refuse to complete a task due to being bored. Instead, try asking the student to create a newspaper that offers solutions to math problems like the ones through which you are currently working. Another option is to allow the student to create a physical project, like a science project or photography project, to illustrate the skill he or she must master.

The goal is not to copy the ideas listed here, but rather find options that both test a skill and allow students to do their best work without feeling as if the task is either above or below them. By adding a dash of creativity, a list of options, and allowing students to try something new, you are enabling both learning and constructive criticism which will help them to learn, grow, and succeed.

For further information

If you would like more information about education or behavior management, sign up for my email list. If you feel that a consultation would benefit you or your family, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I am happy to provide advice and behavior plans in order to help your home or classroom work efficiently and in a positive manner. Remember, you can do this. 🙂

 

About the author

Photograph by Alexandra Islas

Photograph by Alexandra Islas

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed. is a former teacher, behavior coach, and tutor who works with families and students to help them reach their full potential in a peaceful, positive environment. Melissa’s educational experiences paired with real world experience give her a unique perspective when working with families to achieve their behavioral and educational goals.  Please contact Melissa with questions or to request services.

Phone Number : 407-712-4368

Email : lissa_kaye54@yahoo.com

 

Parenting Tool: Try It Again

again 2

A couple of years ago I began using a picture routine list with my son in order to help him transition from one part of our day to another. It helped with his meltdowns for a short time and then the schedule went to the trash can after a couple months of less than stellar results. As he grew older, he had less transition related meltdowns and I slowly forgot that we once created a schedule for him.

Fast forward to last week. Due to some changes in our lives, my son began having difficulty during our morning and evening routines. He knows the steps of getting ready for his day and getting ready to sleep, but was melting down quite often yet again. I decided to go back through the strategies we tried before in order to find one that helped.

I asked my son if he would like to help me create a new picture schedule for both our morning and evening routines. He agreed. There we sat at 9 PM looking through free photos we could download for our charts. Not only did he feel important, he also felt in charge of his routines. They are the routines I prefer, too. It was a matter of putting the routines on paper again so he could easily refer to them when needed.

Images courtesy of David Castillo Dominici, winnond, SOMMAI, Serge Bertasius Photography , Sira Anamwong, and foto76 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Images courtesy of David Castillo Dominici, winnond, SOMMAI, Serge Bertasius Photography , Sira Anamwong, and foto76 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Since creating the new and improved routine lists, he has had less meltdowns, enjoys trying to read the words we chose to include with the pictures, and reminds me what he has not yet completed. We worked as a team, which means we both won.

The moral of the story is that sometimes a strategy will work for a time, not work, and then work again. Sometimes a strategy won’t work at all, then you try it again years later and it works. Never say never to a peaceful, respectful strategy.