Archive for September, 2012

Goal-directed Activity

The following goal-directed activity is a really great tool for parents to use with their child in overstimulating environments (grocery store, library, on a walk or a long drive, etc). I like this exercise because it is very quantitative and concrete, engages the child physically and visually, and is most importantly, FUN!
I often use this with children who are easily overstimulated by their environment to ground them back in the present moment (this is great for any child but especially children with ADHD and children on the spectrum).

Here is an example of a more elaborate activity I requested one of my clients to do this weekend:

The Tally Counter (Amazon sells them for very little- something like $2-$3):

A simpler example of this activity can be: “Today on our walk through the grocery store, I want you to count all of the people with red shoes”. Dont forget to establish some rules around staying with the cart.

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When our body takes in stimuli from the environment, which it does continuously, it accesses stored information from memory. Certain bits of stimuli trigger certain memories. The smell of chicken cutlets always brings me back to my grandmother’s kitchen in Rutherford, New Jersey. Just the smell triggers images of my grandmother’s face, the softness of her hands, the layout of the table and the excitement I felt when seeing the incredible spread of food. This associative memory, which cues my brain to access pleasant information, can be used in a more functional way as well.
Think about your child and some of the things that make him happy, help him settle his body down, or help him get out his energy. Using the concept of this mental process, how can you create a home environment that supports your child in a way that helps him access experiences that lead to regulation? One example might be to post pictures of a swing or trampoline on the bathroom door. Much like a post-it on your work desk reminding you to return a call, this image will cue your child to go outside and release some energy. Maybe a picture of your child’s favorite quiet space to read/play games/ or rest can be posted in the hallway to remind her that she has a place to take space if she is feeling overwhelmed or just needs some alone time. A familiar CD playing in the background can cue the start of choice time in the afternoons. Music is also rhythmic – naturally providing the listener with a rhythm they can follow/regulate their body to. This can help your child settle into the after school routine with a sense of calm and a feeling of predictability. Using these functional sensory cues, we are reminded of what brings us pleasure or calm.

Example that I use in my own life:
Every week, I put a new picture of something beautiful in nature on my computer desktop. This reminds me to get out and hike, walk, ride, and experience nature (especially when I’m feeling low).

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The following weekly schedule was created by a wonderful and creative parent for her 4-year-old son. We will call him Jeffery in this example. The schedule uses strictly visuals (I added the text for the reader’s convenience).  This schedule was created to add some structure and predictability to Jeffery’s daily life (which was shifting from the spontaneous summer schedule to the more regimented school schedule). The small picture of the boy (green dot over his face) in the upper left hand corner of the picture can be moved from activity to activity/day to day (using velcro). This often helps the child link the schedule to their actions directly (no complicated explanation necessary).

When Jeffery entered my room with his new schedule, he was so proud to show me. He went through each picture, telling me what each image represented, showing great mastery over the events of his week.  Since implementing the schedule, Jeffery’s mother reports that the morning routine has been much smoother and transitions have become less difficult. Please feel free to use this as an example for how to set up a visual weekly schedule with your child.

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Example Morning Routine

School is starting up again, which means that you (as parent) desperately need to get your child back into a morning routine. Do this not only for yourself and your child, do it for his teacher :).

Here is an example of a simple morning routine ( a few too many steps for my liking) that I recently made with a parent. I would strongly suggest this be posted somewhere very visible in the home (refridgerator comes to mind, the child’s bedroom door or dresser table). The pictures that accompany the writing are essential. Remember that your child often thinks in pictures and will most likely be able to reference the visual in his or her memory much more clearly then the text.

If you have a morning routine that works and would like to share, please post it in the comments section. We can all use ideas when it comes to this crazy time of day.


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