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ADHD Article December 2000

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December News

Just a reminder that with a third of the school year about over, it's time to review the goals set forth in any IEP's or section 504 plans and make sure they meet with your expectations. This year, my son's IEP team informed me that the board of education for California set forth some new rules and they now expect special education students to do more than just "color". I also noticed a change in how his IEP was written. Along with goals for the year, they also set a "halfway" point as to where they expect him to be. His halfway point is January 19, 2001 so I plan on meeting with them at that time to see how he is progressing. Remember, you can change the contents of an IEP or section 504 at anytime so if things are not working as well as you'd like them to, address these issues now while you still have time to accomplish your child's goals with the remainder of the school year. No sense leaving an IEP or section 504 plan that isn't working in place.

New List

My Girlfriend Cara Filipeli and I have created a new list called A Circle of Friends. We felt a place where we could share daily happenings, contests and sweepstakes information, freebies, vent, give support for each other, chat, share programs that we find useful, recipes etc would be a great idea. We belong to several lists and do a great deal of surfing and thought we could share some of the best and most interesting things we come across the net on one list. To subscribe to A circle of Friends, send a message to

 Join A Circle of Friends! 

I also want to take time to thank Sandi, owner of FreebieFinders. She has one of the best lists out there for freebies. The List has lots of friendly people and she also sends out envelopes full of coupons every once in a while. To join Freebiefinders send a message to


For those of you interested in the benefits of Biofeedback, a new company has been formed called Biofeedback Home Training Inc. This company was created so that EEG biofeedback machines could be leased for home use bringing EEG biofeedback to lower and middle income families. For more information and all the details on this program, visit

The Parent Coach: The Column For Proactive Parents

Dr. Steven Richfield

A parent writes, "I'm becoming increasingly worried about our twelve year old son's problems with impulsivity. I don't think he would ever hurt anyone on purpose but he's very big and strong for his age, and he has ADHD. He can sound, and even act, very threatening at times. What should I do about it?"

Childhood impulsivity appears in decisions, actions, and statements. It can be compared to a chemical accelerant that speeds up reactions to events. It is stored up and lives in a dormant form until something in the outside environment strikes. This can be thought as the precipitant or trigger. Once the precipitant arrives on the scene, there may be breakthrough in the form of aggressive actions, such as throwing a shoe, or hostile comments, such as belittling a family member. In the midst of such a breakthrough there is little room for the voice of reason to be heard.

Impulsivity narrows a child's perceptions, making it difficult for them to see the "big picture." It acts as a blindfold with a tiny hole in it. So much is blocked out except for the small space afforded by the hole. One can think of that small space as the strong feelings that block out everything else.When I explain this concept to kids, I ask them to remember a time when they felt so angry that they "couldn't see" how their behavior was going to lead to consequences. I also emphasize the triggers and causes to such "blindfold behaviors," such as a critical teacher, refusal of their request by a parent, or the annoyance of a younger sibling. In these cases, wounded pride and difficulty tolerating frustration are the causes. This is an important distinction because kids would rather see the trigger as the cause, and therefore, blame the teacher, parent, or sibling, i.e. "It's the teacher's fault. If she didn't say that about my report, I wouldn't have told her to shut up."

Consider these coaching tips when approaching a child with impulsivity problems:

*Avoid placing yourself in a power struggle with an impulsive child. Remember that impulsivity is like energy waiting for a catalyst (kind of like a landmine)- don't make yourself the catalyst! Approach in a nonpunitive, nonthreatening, and nonadversarial manner. Try not to get into an "either/or" situation where you issue a request and immediately follow it up with the threat of a consequence. Don't get lulled into the belief that the harsher you sound the more they will comply; often times, it's just the opposite. Parents get stuck defending angry and arbitrary positions, such as "You either sit down and listen to me or you're grounded for the week.!"

*Give them room for healthy impulse discharge when they need it. One of the ways that kids burn off their impulsivity is through physical activity, listening to music, playing video games, walking out of the house when you are trying to have a conversation with them, and so on. Sometimes this can prevent a meltdown and preserve a channel of communication once they return. Try not to interfere with their access to these routes especially when you pick up signs of imminent impulse breakthrough.

*The underlying issues are one of the keys to helping them control their impulsivity. As their world becomes more demanding, children experience more pressure and potential for impulsivity. Many times impulse breakthrough follows a distinct pattern.Take note of these patterns and gently bring it to their attention. Suggest that they can take several deep breaths, give themselves time to cool down, or use relaxation exercises when they feel their impulses building.

* Listen careful and offer a little advice. Most kids don't have patience for long and involved explanations about themselves. Parents must strive to make sense out of their impulsive behavior without sounding like a know-it-all. No matter how ill-advised or irrational the behavior, there is some rational thread embedded in the story. Our job is to listen carefully, find the thread, and make our child aware of it in a nonthreatening manner.

The more that we can designate the steps that lead to their acting out, the more able they will be to see it coming, and take preventive action before the point of no return.

Dr. Steven Richfield is a child psychologist in Plymouth Meeting, PA .
His column appears monthly. He can be contacted at or 610-275-0178.


Instilling Those Wonderful Values
by Howard Glasser

The thrust of the thinking and intervention in this next step is to further heighten the level of successes and to capitalize on the momentum and opportunities created in the first step. Here's where parents, teachers and others who work with children can instill some of the cherished values that are dear to their hearts.

When parents are asked about the positive qualities and life skills that they find important, most begin with: using a good attitude, showing responsibility, being respectful, being cooperative, getting along with others and using good manners. A handful of additions typically follow: playing nicely, being helpful, making an effort, expressing feelings in appropriate ways, making good choices, using self-control, showing compassion and more.

In other words, any quality that fits in your family's value system, any quality that may be valued in the broader scope of the community and basically any quality that you would like to see occur more often, could be considered.

One of the existing myths is that these qualities can be largely in-stilled through lessons or lectures. However, we find, especially with difficult children who are extremely experiential in nature, that information about life is not internally organized or absorbed unless it has relevance or context in the child's personal retrieval system.

Upside Down and Inside Out In many ways, our traditional methods of instilling lessons of this nature are upside down and inside out. We attempt to teach the rules when they are being broken and we attempt to teach important positive qualities of life when they are not happening.

We typically attempt to give a lesson on responsibility or self-control when the child is not using responsibility or self-control. We tend to give lessons on not whining or not hitting when the child is performing the misdeed. The receptivity to the lesson is low at these moments.

The larger problem with bringing up these qualities when they are not being used is this: we ultimately wind up rewarding the very behavior we least wish to reinforce. Given our heritage of parenting ways and means, it is relatively easy to wind up making a big deal when a child is not using a good attitude, or self-control, or good manners or respect.

Even if we deliver a world class lecture or reprimand or appeal to our child's sensibilities, we wind up giving a great deal of emotional energy to the problem. Any way you slice it, five minutes of reprimand or five minutes of lecture translate to five minutes of energetic reward of your time attached to the problem behavior.

We can certainly continue to give lectures, but we must reserve them for when they will shine light on aspects of the desired qualities, even when they emerge just a little bit. When aspects of the undesired qualities rear their heads, the only real choice we have is giving a consequence, without the payoff of our energy. More on that when the timing is just right.

Imagine a folder in the desktop of a computer. In the folder are two items. One is disrespect and the other is respect. If we habitually point and click on disrespect, the wisdom of the computer will always follow our lead and bring us down the pathway of disrespect. It will have no other way of operating, unless we begin pointing and clicking on respect.

Children operate in a similar fashion. They follow our lead as they learn, assimilate and eventually integrate the values we introduce to them. What we point to and click on and what we give energy to is what is deemed important. Unfortunately, if the only times we go into the "values" folder is when things go awry, then the child will come to think that it is the negative side of the value that we truly love.

Children readily equate what we put our energy into with what we love. That's how they decode our behavior. We may mouth the words that clearly state that disrespect and irresponsibility are unacceptable and undesirable. However, if we put our energy into the negative side of those qualities rather than the positive side, our children will unfortunately come to feel that we "love" the disrespect and the irresponsibility. If we water the weeds, the weeds will grow.

What we choose to put our energy into is the nutrition that largely determines what grows and what doesn't. It is also the basis for children's deciphering what we truly love and how they can best obtain quality time. Some children come to believe, on the basis of our actions, that they can get the best quality time when they are misbehaving. Some children feel those are the only times when they can get solid one on one, heart to heart, emotional exchange. Regardless of the negative venue, many will seek the closeness and the intensity.

If we give three hours a week of focused, undivided, excited attention to football or anything else, our child will witness that and will often explore his options until he finds a way to compete.

Sometimes, the only other ticket in town is obtained through acting out. We now want our child to see that the ticket is on the other side of the same coin. We want him to see that he can get us focused and excited about all the positive aspects of the qualities and skills we value. The burden of proof is on us. And we must provide these lessons in the context of the child's actual experience.

Schools and religious organizations are also notable for attempting to teach lessons out of context. Certainly lessons on valued qualities embedded in interesting stories, fables, lively discussions or role plays can touch a child's life. However, literature is still removed from personal experience:

It is an artificial version of an experience.

If the only time we connect the qualities we cherish to actual experience is in the middle of when a problem is happening, then we have an unfortunate situation, especially for the difficult child, who is set up to make frequent and intense challenges to the limits.

If you were a difficult child, what would your relationship with responsibility or respectfulness or cooperation be if the only time you heard those words was when you were having a problem? They would eventually sound like dirty words.

One reliable way we can help children to believe in themselves and to believe that our valued qualities are truly within them is to massage aspects of those qualities when they are actively happening, even if those instances are in underdeveloped states of emergence. Every plant was once a seed. This can be called coaching or mentoring or even gardening the qualities that you wish to see grow.

The good news is that all of what's been said points in an encouraging direction. First, we as a society still very much have positive qualities that we value and wish to convey to our children, and second, we as adults very much see ourselves in the role of teacher. That is indeed good news.

It could be otherwise. The framework to move forward is present, even if the tools that we have been given to construct the valued qualities are in need of revision.

In other words, if you as a parent or a person who works with children have the desire to teach positive qualities and life skills to your children, we can help you.

Let's focus on positive lessons. Is it possible to add new context when these qualities are being introduced? Is it possible to embed the lesson in an actual experience so that the message has increased impact? You bet.

It's actually very easy. It builds very smoothly onto the new context of experience that we've already begun. It just requires another little bit more cleverness and creative thinking along with good old application.

Giving the Moment New Meaning

We want to be in a position to reformat any given moment with our child and be able to make it into a successful experience. We want the lessons we wish to convey to have context and real meaning. That is an empowered position.

A disempowered position is one of waiting for positive experiences to happen and having a limited view of when and where those kinds of successes take place. An empowered position is one of co-creating those experiences in a determined manner.

If you are not sure about the emotional energy you can reflect when your child is going along in an ordinary manner, ask yourself if you're pleased when your child isn't causing problems. If the answer is yes, then you have some emotional excitement to reflect. Or, conversely, ask yourself if you are upset when your child is acting out. If the answer is yes, then you have some emotional excitement that can generate powerful successes. Just tap into your emotion and let it show.

Saying "Thank you" more often to your child might be of some help, and adding some hint of real pleasure in your voice along with it might get more positive events to occur. However, if it's your core desire to help your child reinvest his or her fund of energies and intensity into successes, then a slightly more intense strategy is called for. Bring on the transformation.

Experiential Recognition is a technique that calls for uniquely capturing a moment. You create for your child's benefit a positive picture of an event that is either presently unfolding or that has been completed in the recent past. And you re-frame that moment in such a way that the child not only can digest it as a nutritious experience of success, but in a way that lets her perceive your excitement in connection with a positively valued behavior.

You are using your parental creativity to enrich an experience that might otherwise have passed unnoticed or been given no thought, especially by the child.

Here are illustrations:

Brandon is playing a video game. He thinks his mother hates the game. She approaches him, does a Video Moment, and adds some Experiential Recognition:

"I see that you are very focused and that you are using a lot of concentration. I really like the effort you are making."

She values those qualities and is thus enhancing those qualities. She is creating a specific lesson on effort and concentration in context of an actual experience.

Hannah has tried to use words to get Alex to stop chasing her, but he continues and she walks away frustrated. She thinks she has mishandled the situation. Here are several possible approaches applying Experiential Recognition:

"Hannah, you made several good choices. Even though Alex didn't stop, which looked frustrating, you used your words very well and then you made another good choice to walk away when he didn't listen. I'm proud of you." Or: "I really like the self-control you just used. You could have gotten very angry when Alex didn't listen. You stayed cool and handled your feelings very well by walking away. I also like that you tried to use your words first. I value that."

Julio, who has alienated many peers by pushing the limits, is playing soccer with a small group on the playground. The game has just started and Julio has not yet shown his normal aggressive attitude. He can honestly be told:

"Julio, I notice that you are using a respectful attitude and that you are being cooperative. That's an excellent choice." Or: "Julio, I appreciate the positive control you are using. That is very helpful to your teammates."

Yes, these comments are truly being pulled out of the sky; out of left field, so to speak. However, that is part of the nature of creativity. A child like Julio might otherwise believe that he is screwing up as usual. He certainly could have the impression that the only way to generate attention and interesting adult and peer reaction is to stir up trouble.

When kids like Julio are not causing trouble, our natural reaction more often than not is to feel relief and to take advantage of the break by doing other things that need to get done.

To form an opinion of himself other than he's always causing trouble, the Julios of the world need us to stay very conscious and determined. By so doing we provide new experiential evidence that he indeed participates in positive ways.

He's not very likely to form these new opinions on his own. He needs our help in creatively sorting his experiences out loud, providing affirming and acknowledging documentation.

Experiential Recognition: Critical Points

Experiential Recognition "freeze frames" a picture of success for your child in a meaningful here-and-now instant. This strategy heightens the level of successes given to your child. This level of recognition tremendously expands your child's perception that he or she is valued and recognized for positive behaviors and creates for him or her a heightened perception that it is not necessary to go to the trouble of acting out to get noticed.

This strategy provides clear, specific feedback to your child regarding values, behaviors or attitudes that are considered desirable. This form of experiential, moment-centered and heart-centered teaching is our choice as the most effective means of shaping positive values for the difficult child.

It allows you to transform a relatively neutral experience in your child's mind to one that is positive. It gives the desired quality con-text. Focusing on successful behaviors rather than undesirable ones gives you greater influence as well as the most mentoring leverage with your child.

Experiential Recognition provides parents with an instant tool that takes only seconds and yet has an enduring effect.

These acknowledgements expand your child's ability to take in positive self-information and thereby build self-esteem. Each acknowledgement gives a direct experience of being held in esteem.

Experiential Recognition should be done opportunistically, as often as possible (several times per hour, if possible, during time spent to-gether).

This technique is like a video playback that heightens your child's level of perceived success. It also begins preparations for effective consequences because this step begins the process of defining the true distinctions between desirable and undesirable behaviors.

Experiential Recognition: Prescription

Try to find several instances of Experiential Recognition per hour that you are with your child, keeping these freeze frames short, specific and positive.

Focus on times when your child is acting appropriately alone or while interacting with others.

Be creative in pointing out both small and big positives. Both count equally in the process of teaching and supporting your child. In fact, in the beginning, the small behaviors may even count more to your child.

Teach this recognition technique to other adults who are care providers for your child or significant contacts. The more support and positive pictures given by others, the faster the transformation will occur.

Remember, You are assisting your children in figuring out what to make of experiences in different situations. Don't assume that he knows that he is doing okay. A child who has been living out a predominantly negative pattern of behavior for some time may well be under the impression, at any given moment, that he or she is doing something wrong, or not doing anything particularly positive. Help such a child size up both new and familiar situations in a favorable light. Adding a dash of emotion to your description, along with some appreciation, will deepen the healing effect.

And once again, keep Shamu and the tollbooth attendant front and center in your consciousness: Where are you going to start the rope and how are you going to choose to view the things you see?

Keep in mind that every desirable quality has many facets. A positive quality like respect or good attitude can be caught and given recognition from many angles. Each angle is an opportunity to teach nuances of that quality as well an opportunity to show your love.Like polishing yet another facet of an incredibly precious gem, the more attention to detail, the more it shines.

Extracurricular and Non-Academic Services under Section 504

by Phil Stinson, Esq.

Any school (public or private) that is the recipient of federal funds cannot discriminate against a student based on the student's disability, pursuant to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Most students with ADHD are qualified students with a disability pursuant to Section 504. Eligibility under Section 504 is a case-by-case determination, and is determined by a team at your child's school who must determine whether the disability substantially limits a major life activity (such as learning).

Federal regulations require that these schools provide non-academic and extracurricular services and activities in such a manner as necessary to afford disabled students an equal opportunity to participate. Non-academic and extracurricular services and activities include counseling services, physical recreational athletics, transportation, health services, recreational activities, special interest groups or clubs sponsored by the school.

The regulations, case law, and decisions of Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Education offer guidance as to how school district should handle various non-academic and extracurricular services and activities for students with disabilities.

Counseling Services

If a school provides personal, academic, or vocational counseling, guidance, or placement services to its students, the school must provide these services without discrimination on the basis of disability. Also, the school must ensure that qualified disabled students are not counseled toward more restrictive career objectives than are non-disabled students with similar interests and abilities.

Physical Education & Athletics

In providing physical education courses and athletics programs and activities to any of its students, the school may not discriminate on the basis of disability. If a school offers physical education courses or sponsors interscholastic, club, or intramural athletics, it must provide an equal opportunity for participation in these activities must be offered to students with disabilities.


Many complaints have been filed with OCR over the past decade regarding accessibility of school playgrounds. Playgrounds at schools must offer full accessibility to students with disabilities. Surfaces of the playground and walkways leading to the playground must be maneuverable by students in wheelchairs. Most often, schools run afoul of OCR when new playgrounds are built that do not comply with the equal opportunity for participation standards of Section 504.

Band Programs

One recent OCR complaint was brought by a student who claimed that the school band program was inaccessible, because the band practice room was only accessible by way of a flight of stairs on the second floor of a school building. OCR found that the school district's actions were discriminatory and in violation of Section 504.

School Assemblies & Plays

OCR found that a school district violated Section 504, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), by denying participation to an 8 year old student who used a wheelchair, because the school's stage is reachable only by a set of stairs.

Field Trips & Off-Site Programs

In one recent case, a student with a wheelchair was not allowed to ride the school bus with her class on a school field trip. The school told the child's mother that the wheelchair would pose a safety hazard, and required that the mother drive the child to the off-site location. OCR found the school's actions to be a violation of Section 504.

In another OCR case, a school district was required to discuss involvement in a school sponsored annual week-long camping trip in each student's IEP team meeting. Previously, the school district's failure to discuss accommodations had the effect of excluding children with special needs from the camping trip, and, as such, constituted a violation of Section 504.

Summer Programs
One case before OCR concerned a school district that provided a Summer program that was open to all students. Whenever a child with a disability enrolled in the program, however, the school district required that the parents provide "custodial care" for their child with special needs. OCR required that the school district provide additional counselors to adapt and modify the program activities, and to provide additional supervision.
Another case before OCR concerned a school district that held a district-wide graduation ceremony each year for students graduating from each of the district's three high schools. Students with disabilities that attended high school at the segregated special education building were not allowed to attend or participate in the graduation ceremony. OCR found this to be a violation of Section 504.
Late Bus Transportation
If a school district provides late afternoon bus transportation to transport students home after after-school activities, they must likewise provide special transportation to students with disabilities who attend after-school programs and who require a bus with a lift. For a copy of the Section 504 federal statute and regulations in pdf format, go to

Phil Stinson, Esq., is the father of Matthew, age 11. Matthew has Cystinosis (a genetically-inherited metabolic disease). Children with Cystinosis often exhibit poor renal function, photophobia, neurological impairments, and specific learning disabilities. Mr. Stinson - an attorney - is a senior partner at Stinson Law Associates, P.C., a Philadelphia-based law firm dedicated to representing parents of children with special needs in federal courts throughout the country, is Director of the Special Education Law Clinic in Chester, Pennsylvania, is President & General Counsel of the Center for Education Rights, and is editor of, a multidisciplinary internet resource portal. Parents of children with special needs may contact Phil Stinson by e-mail at

Copyright 2000 Brandi Valentine. All rights reserved. This Newsletter is copyrighted by the authors and/or publisher and is registered with the Library of Congress.

ADDed Attractions may be used for non-commercial purposes only and may not be redistributed for commercial purposes without the express written consent of Brandi Valentine.

Appropriate credit should be given to this resource and it's authors if It is reproduced in any form. Brandi Valentine


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