Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Different learning styles, why not behavior styles too?

As I mentioned in a previous post, our challenge at school is not so much learning but behavior. A so-called "invisible" special need as the lady below coins it. Brady may do well academically, but he doesn't respond to direction and discipline the same way as other kids.

Here's a quote from a post at the blog Easy to Love Hard to Raise about 25 Things Parents of Children with Special Needs Want Their Kids' Teachers to know:
  1. Children with “invisible” special needs, like ADHD, PDD, SPD, PBD, FASD, OCD, Anxiety,  ODD, Autism, Asperger’s, and many others manifest their disabilities behaviorally. It is EASY to blame the parents for these behavioral problems. It is ACCURATE to see these behaviors as a result of their brain dysfunction.
Here's the key phrase to me: "manifest their disabilities behaviorally." It is so true and the list of 25 things is absolutely spot-on. I am amazed the more I research the number of other parents going through what I have.

I guess it's no wonder. According to this article, 11 percent of school age kids are now diagnosed with ADHD, and something like 1 in 5 boys. That's 20 percent!

Here's the thing, we've accepted since the 1970s that kids have distinct and different learning styles. Some learn from what they hear, others from what they see, and still others from what they do.

Now maybe, since so many kids are struggling in today's classrooms, we can accept that they have different behavioral-response styles as well and there's no one-stop approach to teaching them the skills to live within the rules. 

As most any parent with a child diagnosed with ADHD will tell you, traditional methods of discipline, punishment and consequences do not work for their child  or at least not for very long. And the reason may be this, which I found at this article: 

"A decrease in dopamine in the reward pathway causes problems with motivation. This means that patients with ADHD need more rewards for positive behavior to change their negative behavior. In addition, the lack of motivation may keep you from doing something you find boring, which contributes to the inattention problems of ADHD. Nora D. Volkow et al., authors of "Motivation Deficit in ADHD is Associated with Dysfunction of the Dopamine Reward Pathway," measured personality and dopamine levels in ADHD patients. Compared to the controls in the study, the ADHD patients had lower scores in impulse control and achievement, as well as reduced dopamine availability at dopamine receptors."

So Brady has, for example, an egg allergy. Therefore we adapt what we give him. We don't use egg. We substitute. We get creative.

I believe this same idea should be applied as it relates to behavior problems. Motivators need to be different. Methods need to be different. And you have to be ready and willing to change things up because these kids quit responding to things that used to work before. What works for everyone else may not work for them.

Rewards and positive words go very far, as do patience, understanding, calmness and consistency. This does not mean, by any means, that we let them off the hook. We expect them to try, to improve, to learn and to grow. Same as it is with reading, writing and math.

But it does mean we should approach them differently, treat them as unique individuals and don't try to stick square peg in a round hole. If you have a child with ADHD in your class, see what can be done to help them learn the rules of behavior right alongside learning the rules of the 3 R's.  

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