Professional Development

Workshops/How To Work With Families » Child Focus


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The following suggestions may be helpful to the whole family, and the school as they begin to view James' behavior and development in the light of his strengths.

  1. At school, establish a regular class meeting time, starting with an explanation that the class is working on a plan for everyone, including James.  There are family rules, specific activities to establish specific steps:

Step 1 – Because teachers and parents want a more cooperative and normal academic environment, they want to give compliments to children when they catch them being good.  Practice showing the children, exactly what that means.

Step 2 – When someone isn’t doing what he or she is supposed to do, no problem, they will need to have “floor time” nearby (or sitting on a stare – not a time out) until they can get calm.  Practice showing the children exactly what calm is and what is looks like (model it).

“Floor Time but close by” is a more intense correction approach than “time out.”  It has been shown to help alter autistic-like and behaviorally-troubled young children.

Step 3– James needs a large amount of cueing, prompting, signaling and remindingof what is expected and anticipated.  Nothing can be left to

“oh, he knows, exactly what I mean,” or “he’s done the same thing a thousand times, he’s just trying to get attention.”  While this is true, it is also probably true that every time he does even familiar acts, it seems to him as if he has never done it before.  This notion that young children naturally reinvent mental images over and over again helps parents and teachers to understand children’s need for constant prompting and reminding and practicing.

Step 4 – Make a list with children of activities (not food) that they each like to do in their free time, and tell the children this list will be kept handy for reward  accomplishments when parents and teachers catch them being good.

Step 5 – Parents and teachers need to concentrate on relating to each child when he or she feels strong and competent.  They need to teach by modeling, the skill of asking permission, rather than raising hands or interrupting.


           2. A speech and language communication system needs to be started in which James gets    
               what he wants only as a result of verbal “asking or telling” – no guessing what he means, no
               getting him food or other needs, unless words and gestures accompanying 
words are
               used.  A household-and-schoolwords-scrapbook that stresses classroom and home
would be an excellent activity, as a means of getting full sentences, details, and
               descriptions from James and the other children.    James is putting all his social and
               intellectual energy into interactions that are often devoid of specific information.

           3. Always question whether drug therapy may be off-setting the cognitive mental and
               emotional spurts in development associated with this age of rapid mental and
               emotional acceleration.  
Think of rules, board games, and social peer activities normally
               associated with seven and eight year-olds’ play, and think how interference from drugs
               may be masking James' ability to figure out how to start and complete his work.  Consider
               a sensory-integration curriculum to determine the extent to which a lack of integration
               is interfering with learning behavior(s). 

           4. At school, James' random acts that seem intentional, but meaningless (like touching and
               taking food) require that someone help him translate those acts into intentional ones.  He
               is probably getting very random responses to his random acts, which is not a good match,
               either at home or at school.  James needs adults who can model eating, conversing and
               interacting, and who can translate “taking or touching” into acceptable responses. 

            5. At school, James' extreme behavior needs to be drawn into a more normal range.  “Floor
 play, following extreme behavior, is one effective way to accomplish this.  James needs
                thinking time, not time out, to motivate him to cooperate and comply.  “Floor time” means
                James is uses the time to think about the situation that has occurred.  This gives him time to
                think and collect himself, without disrupting other children in the classroom.  This
                encouragement strategy works more quickly than “Praise and punishment” techniques to

James' self control.  The goal at school is that James feels strong and competent, not shame-faced and vulnerable.

Ask Dr. Susan