The biggest lesson I learned when working with children who lacked focus and attention was that if I could engage the children’s fingers or hands in their learning, their focus would go wherever their fingers went. Follow the fingers became my motto! Read more about this concept.
Child1st addresses the needs of children with short attention spans by delivering concepts instantly through visuals, minimizing the need for protracted focus, engaging the hands and body of the child in every concept he/she learns, and by providing short lessons with a minimum of auditory direction. In the Easy-for-Me™ Reading Program, children learn everything using their hands and bodies. The program depends on visuals to deliver new information and allows plenty of time for hands-on work that engages the learners. The EFM Reading Program also includes extensive use of markers and whiteboards in the process of learning to read, drawing the attention of children and providing them with the ability to reflect back and work out their own learning.
Tips for teaching children with ADHD
Above, I shared about using a child’s body as a way to help him/her stay focused. I’ve learned some other strategies that have helped my students that I want to share as you teach a child who has trouble staying focused.
How can I help my child discover tricks to help him/her focus?
I grew up in a time when we were supposed to sit in our desks and face forward and pay attention, so when I started to teach, I arranged my desks in rows, and expected my well behaved students to sit, face forward, and pay attention. One of my first graders taught me that while this arrangement might be convenient for the teacher, it was not workable for him. We worked together to come up with a new arrangement that did not disturb the rest of the children, yet still allowed him the freedom to learn in the way he needed.
Moving more to the center with visual learners
I’ve written a lot about how traditional teaching methods are perfectly suited to left-brained learners, and how right-brained children seem to be in the minority. Short of doing a massive overhaul of our educational system (don’t hold your breath on that one!) what can we do? I want to share some ideas of how to help children develop the stronger connections between the hemispheres in the brain that will enable them to succeed in school.
Do we have an ADD society?
We know that children’s brains are rapidly developing from birth, shaped by the experiences they have. We also know that our experiences dictate not only which neural pathways are formed and strengthened by frequent use, but also which ones end up being pruned because of disuse. The first ten years of a child’s life provide a window of opportunity for brain development that is unmatched in an older person. It is critical for us as parents to pay very close attention to the experiences we provide our developing children so that we can ensure they grow and develop to their greatest potential. We know about brain development in theory, but I am not sure the extent to which we understand the implications of our modern society on the brain development of our youngest generation.
Why is a multisensory teaching approach best and what does one look like?
What does it really mean when we say multisensory? The accepted, traditional teaching techniques typically used in the classroom meet the needs of (left-brained) sequential learners. Concepts are introduced in a step by step sequence and are practiced and reviewed using drill and memorization; children must also show evidence of their learning in a particular time frame. This is all very good for children who are left-brained or sequential learners. The problem is, of course, that while the approach to teaching is great for those children who are sequential, every learner is taught this way and this traditional approach is ineffective at best for all the non-sequential learners.Read more.
A must read for parents with children labeled ADD
Parents, if you suspect your child has ADD or ADHD, or if he’s already been diagnosed, a must read is the book Right-Brained Children in a Left-Brained World by Jeffrey Freed, M.A.T., and Laurie Parsons. Just drop into your local bookstore and at least read the preface and intro. See if you can find your child described in those pages and see the wonderful hope extended to you if you do find your child described.
Try before you buy: FREE SnapWords™ to download
We have free samples of our sight word cards available for download on our website. Try them out with your students before investing in the complete resources!
List of sight words for kindergarten (and up) to download
We’ve created an index of which sight words are in each of our lists so you can compare to which words your child already knows or your district requirements and see which lists would be the best fit for you.Child1st online for more resources.
July 26, 2012
August 1, 2012 – Shady Oak Learning will be the first-ever licensed center in Texas to offer Brain Workout™. This thinking skills program trains students to develop stronger attention, memory, and comprehension. "We are pleased to offer this specialized training for families in Fort Worth,” says Pam Jarvis, M. Ed., founder and director. Brain Workout™ was started in Colorado by Jerry and Paula Perron 16 years ago.
Ms. Jarvis, a former special education teacher with the FWISD, became interested in the program 10 years ago when her youngest son started experiencing difficulties in school. “We were staying in Denver for a short time, and I sought out help for my son. I was surprised and intrigued when Paula and Jerry evaluated him and told me the causes of his struggles. After seeing Paula’s proven strategies for helping students achieve, I knew that at some point in time I wanted to have a place where this kind of help was available to students in my area. I was familiar with traditional methods of helping students through tutoring, but the Brain Workout™ helps students make lasting changes in their brains to become better listeners, problem solvers and test takers.”
See this sample video.
More than ever, many teachers and parents feel increasing pressure for students to perform in critical thinking and high stakes testing. Studies have shown that students who fail to experience sufficient movement, or who experience developmental delays in visual perception, tracking, balance, and gross-motor skills, and fall behind in school need sensory-motor remediation, not content remediation. The Brain Workout offers a unique solution because it is based on principles of neuroscience which show the close connection between movement and learning. The customized activities strengthen thinking abilities, build mental stamina and increase cognition.
Students can see improvement in as little as two months and most can complete the program in about six months. Ms. Jarvis added, “We are excited to be able to train students in these skills that will enable them to be confident lifelong learners.”
For more information about Brain Workout™, contact Pam Jarvis at [email protected] or on the Shady Oak website. Distance testing and remediation suggestions for those not in the Fort Worth area is also available.
July 13, 2012
According to the CDC, 3%-7% – or 5.4 million – of school-aged children have been diagnosed with ADHD. In addition, the CDC also reports that 66% of the children with an ADHD diagnosis have been treated with medication. Medication seems to usually be the first course of action when a child is not performing well at school and at home. But is the need for medication always indicated? Is it always the best option? Here are a couple of negatives to the widespread treatment of ADHD with stimulant medications.
- Some experts believe that the negative long-term effects of taking stimulant medication far outweigh the benefits of taking the medication. According to NeuroCore, a treatment facility for people with attention difficulties, long-term use of Ritalin or other stimulants can result in decreased cardiovascular health.
- Several other conditions mimic the symptoms of ADHD, such as stress, lack of sleep, anxiety, and the like. Because much of ADHD screening involves observing behaviors, other conditions can be confused with ADHD, resulting in a child being misdiagnosed and then taking unnecessary medication.
Is it really ADHD?
I believe that before we label a child with anything, we first must exercise due diligence and learn as much as possible about the challenges the child is facing, what might be causing those difficulties, and what we can do to help them without resorting to testing and labeling or medication. There are things we can do to help children with attention difficulties without resorting to medication as a cure-all. Here are some thoughts:
- Sleep is a big issue when it comes to attention or the lack of it. A child who does not get to bed early enough will not be able to listen and focus the next day. A very predictable bedtime routine will help with this. Use earplugs, white noise machines, and a calm orderly bedtime routine. Darken the room, avoid stress near bedtime, and try to avoid anything that will stimulate the mind of the child before bed, such as wild car chases on TV or discussing a troublesome situation with the child.
- Structure is your friend when you have a child with attention or self control issues. Someone I read over a decade ago (I wish I could remember who it was) suggested that in order to prevent undesirable behaviors, we train children beginning at a very young age on how to behave in every situation they will encounter. The author called these situations “frames.” One frame is called “How we behave at the table.” Instructions can include things like, “stay seated until your food is gone,” “wipe your mouth with your napkin,” “take your plate to the kitchen when you are finished,” or whatever else your family decides is important. There are many other frames. Bedtime, riding in the car, being in a store with a parent, getting dressed, taking care of one’s things, preparing for school in the morning, eating at a restaurant--and the list goes on and on. Explicitly teach your child what you expect him to do in each situation. Structure and information is your friend and will be his as well.
- Lessen the stress and you will see a calmer child. Some things that often bring stress to a child include loud, agitated discussions between parents, hurrying too much, too much packed into a day, not enough time to have free play, not enough physical movement, pushing a child to perform, competition, and the list could go on and on.
In his book A Mind at a Time, Mel Levine M.D. claims that children with ADHD are struggling with deficiencies in the area of mental controls, and that these mental controls fall into three broad categories: control over mental energy, control over intake of information, and control over output. (See page 57 and following.) These controls affect every part of life from social to academic.
Control over mental energy. Mental energy is required for thinking, focusing, planning what to do, listening, and working at a task. If a child is lacking in mental energy, ironically the result is hyperactivity. The child will need help bringing his/her focus back to where it should be. The tricky part about focus, however, is that too often in school children are expected to sit, listen, pay attention, and work for hours at a time. They are just not equipped for this kind of focus. In addition, too often the work they are given is dry, boring, under-stimulating, and irrelevant. We want those behaviors in place, but we demand the desired behavior in place of enticing the child with learning activities that are fresh, exciting, relevant, and hands-on. Some tips for keeping content vibrant:
- Teach in short blocks of time. Fresh, new content should be limited to 10 to 15 minutes and then time to use the new information so that learning will deepen.
- Involve the children in hands-on learning as frequently as possible. Don’t tell them; let them figure things out using their hands and concrete materials.
- Use the element of surprise. Hook them into the lesson in a way that grabs their attention. This might be a story, a novel object, or a question that attracts the child to your content.
- Novelty is your friend. Take the lesson to another room, into the hall, out on the driveway, or on the porch. Tape sight words or math facts in a line down a hall and let your child hop and skip as he learns.
- Break tasks into specific parts to be done in sequence. Short bites.
- Supply cold water to keep the brain hydrated and the child alert.
- Let him stand up to work, swing her legs, or walk around the room while reading.
- Provide ample physical activity that will pump oxygen into the brain.
- Provide a challenge with specific goals to shoot for and applaud achievement.
Control over intake of information. Any environment is full of things to pay attention to. Visual elements, sounds, movements all vie for attention. Children with attention challenges need help with selecting what to pay attention to. They can learn to help themselves with this if you talk to them about what to focus on. Here are some simple tips:
- I can use my index finger to point to the place on the page I need to be paying attention to. For example, when working a math problem, I will point to it with my index finger. This tells my brain, “Pay attention to THIS.”
- When doing work that requires focus, I will sit facing a blank wall free of visual distraction.
- If sounds keep sapping my attention, I can use headphones or earplugs to block out sounds.
- When doing a page of math problems, I will cover all but one line with paper to block out all the other problems. As soon as one problem is done, I will point to the next. At the end of row one, I will jump up, touch my toes or walk around the room once, then come back and slip the paper down to uncover the next row.
- When my teacher is speaking, I will look at her face and ignore everything else. (Teacher, keep it short and to the point!)
- When I hear my teacher giving me directions, I will whisper/repeat what he said to myself so I will pay attention to it. (Teacher, consider writing your directions on a whiteboard for those children who absorb directions better if they are not oral).
- I will keep everything off my desk when I am working, and I will shine a lamp right on the place I need to focus.
Control over output. This is one of the most distressing aspects of hyperactivity in children – the lack of impulse control, the failure to plan ahead, and the discordant choices they often make. But children can learn to help themselves if we spend time with them and give them very specific, concrete tools. Children can understand their own areas of challenge and must understand if they are to help themselves. We often say, “Look before you leap,” or “think before you speak.” But this is the very thing that many children don’t do well. Here are some ways to help children help themselves in the area of their actions and choices.
- Before I act, I will STOP, count to five, and then I will ASK myself, “If I do this, what will happen?” The challenge is to teach the child to pause. Tapping his hand against his leg for five beats is a tangible way to create some thinking time. It can be a physical routine that becomes a habit. Before I act, I will STOP, TAP, ASK.
- Before I act, I will realize that I have many OPTIONS for what to do. I might not want to do the very first thing that comes to mind. If someone calls me a name, my impulse is to slap them, but I am going to STOP, TAP, and ASK myself if there are other options available to me.
- As I am working I will PACE myself. If I have a page of math problems, I will need 15 minutes for the whole page. This means I need 5 minutes for each row. I will point to each problem, and if I tend to go too slow and fall into a daydream, I will be careful to immediately point to the next problem. If I have the habit of rushing very fast and making a lot of mistakes, I will slow down. When I finish one problem, I will look at it one more time to make sure I did it right.
- When I am doing something, I will ask myself “How is this going?” Does it look good? Am I rushing so fast that I can’t read my own writing? If I am dusting the furniture, am I getting ALL the dust?
- When something goes really super well, I am going to pay attention to what I did that made it work well for me. That way, the next time I have similar work, I can look at my notebook to see what I did that helped me out the most.
In the early stages of learning to STOP, TAP, and ASK, it might help to have something visible with which to cue the child. You could hold up a red ping pong paddle for a silent and visual reminder to stop. Or, you might find a red knit glove, stuff it tightly and affix it to a dowel and use that as a friendly stop sign. The main thing is to begin the practice of teaching your child to self regulate. When your child no longer needs you to hold up the stop sign, her own reminder can be something she comes up with. Whatever she chooses to use as her reminder is great. She could wear a smooth pendant under her shirt, a simple band around her wrist – what the object is does not matter.
Start small and finish well
As with any skill that is new, it will take time to develop a habit. Children aren’t Olympians at age two. They start to become Olympians by taking a few little steps and falling a lot. But over time, with practice, by repeating new habits until they become second nature, the skills become refined and result in success!
January 27, 2011
A: Our stylized signt word cards (SnapWords™) are one very effective tool for teaching active children to read. The back of each card includes a body motion to deepen learning and give kinesthetic learners something to tie the meaning of a new word to. The visuals on the front of each card also make learning instant, enabling active learners to glance at the stylized word and pick up the meaning in a snap instead of having to sit through tedious drill and practice. One short look is sometimes all the attention an active learner may be able to give, so instantaneous learning is important!
Our stylized alphabet cards are designed in the same way to tie the shape and sound of each letter together, and include body motions for deeper learning connections.
The Illustrated Book of Sounds & Their Spelling Patterns and the supplemental Sound Spelling Teaching Cards are also great for active children since the materials group all the sounds in the English language together by sound pattern so that a global learner (a category many active children fall into) is able to easily grasp the word patterns. The Illustrated Book of Sounds & Their Spelling Patterns replaces ineffective memorization of words and phonics rules with kid-friendly patterns and visuals. Students are engaged in listening to sounds, finding patterns, and learning through cartoons and story bytes. The Illustrated Book of Sounds & Their Spelling Patterns demystifies reading by giving students the tools they need to decode unknown, difficult words with ease.
June 10, 2010
I think as we view any topic this weighty, it is helpful to achieve balance by looking at many factors at one time, factors that have a serious impact on the discussion. Many people question the frequency of diagnosis of ADHD – does the child really have problems in his brain functioning, or could it be that life experience has contributed to his inability to control himself and remain focused? It is not a coincidence that the rise in ADHD diagnoses coincides with the withering of old-fashioned free play, and with the explosion of electronic media as play and entertainment for children. There is also no mistaking the fact that the new hot topic in education, executive function, deals with the issues of self-regulation, self-control, self-discipline, and impulse control-- all skills that can be taught. From my point of view, several inter-related factors impact children and the way they develop. This is how I see the relationship between the various occurrences:
The Role of Free Play in Building Executive Function
Check out this article from NPR entitled “Creative Play Makes for Kids in Control.” The setting is an early childhood center in New Jersey. The basis for all that is done in the school has to do with teaching and reinforcing executive function skills in the enrolled children. The article cites the loss of free play as a major factor in the loss of executive functioning in children.
“For most of human history, children played by roaming near or far in packs large and small. Younger children were supervised by older children and engaged in freewheeling imaginative play. They were pirates and princesses, aristocrats and heroes.
“But, while all that play might have looked a lot like time spent doing nothing much at all, it actually helped build a critical cognitive skill called executive function. Executive function has a number of elements, such as working memory and cognitive flexibility. But perhaps the most important is self-regulation — the ability for kids to control their emotions and behavior, resist impulses, and exert self-control and discipline. Executive function — and its self-regulation element — is important. Poor executive function is associated with high dropout rates, drug use and crime. In fact, good executive function is a better predictor of success in school than a child's IQ.”
Two things stand out to me from this quote: one, that free play helps develops the critical skill called "executive function" and that the lack of it can have such devastating lifelong consequences.
The NPR article ends with this statement: “She [Adele Diamond, executive function researcher] and several other researchers argue that children's reduced self-regulation skills may be showing up in the numbers of kids diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
‘I think a lot of kids get diagnosed with ADHD now, not all but many just because they never learned how to exercise self-control, self-regulation, the executive functions early,’ she says.”
That pretty much sums up the connection between executive function and ADHD-like symptoms: children who never learned to self-regulate will exhibit traits that look very similar to those of ADHD and may be one cause in the increased number of ADHD diagnoses.The Role of Electronic Media as Entertainment
Along with diminishing free play and executive function, a big factor to consider on the increasing diagnoses of ADHD is an increase in electronic media. I cannot emphasize enough the harm we are doing our children by letting them use so much electronic media for entertainment and also increasingly for school. The reason this habit is so costly is borne out in the stunted development of thousands upon thousands of children in our country today. At the very time in which their outdoor free play was limited, what took the place of this valuable developmental play time was electronic media which renders the child passive and prone to acting on impulse (after all that is how you win most computer games – you act quickly without stopping to consider). Images shifting so quickly train a brain to be ADD-like and inhibit growth of the all important executive function.
This topic weighs so heavily on my heart and just writing about it pains me. In my global mind’s eye I see a vast map of our United States, and the thousands upon thousands of children who are being reared in an environment that goes counter to the way they were designed to develop naturally. I see kids being medicated in order to bring their behaviors under control. I see them being labeled, failing, and yet their days continuing to be filled with more of what caused them harm in the beginning.What does an environment look like that will result in healthy development?
What makes me saddest is that we have strayed so far away from what a child needs for good development that most of the time we don’t even know what a good environment looks like. It is this reason that motivated us to deviate from our regular line of teaching and learning resources to publish the new series, Eli’s Books. We know that it is critical to be able to show using pictures what healthy child development looks like. I believe that this early preparation is fundamental to success not only in school but in life. Eli’s Books portray what it looks like when a child performs actions that grow his brain and instill executive functioning skills, and also how he learns to have good relationships with others.
June 08, 2010
The number of children diagnosed with ADHD has risen sharply in the past decade. The trend these days is to label, label, label and yet I will be quick to say two things. One is that I understand perfectly how comforting it is to be able to put a name to “what ails her.” However, I will also say that the habit of labeling kids has run amok and is now out of control. Some children that now carry the label of ADHD are the kids who announce to the substitute teacher (as they race wildly about the classroom) “I have ADD and I can’t sit still!” [Which translated is: I have an excuse handed down to me by my parents and my doctor which gives me permission to be out of control!]
Jeffrey Freed, M.A.T., in his book Right-Brained Children in a Left-Brained World states, “I believe the majority of children who are now labeled ADD actually have what Hallowell and Ratey [authors of Driven to Distraction and Answers to Distraction] term pseudo-ADD. They weren’t born this way; we made them the way they are. These children are a product of our fast-paced, visual, over-stimulating culture. Drs. Hallowell and Ratey address the pseudo-ADD phenomenon in their book Answers to Distraction.
‘ADD is like life these days. I [Hallowell] don’t want to sound too high-flown in my claims, but I do believe that this medical syndrome meshes with the gears of current American culture. The fast pace of everyday life, the search for the sound bite, the love of fast food and instant gratification, the proliferation of fax machines, cellular telephones, computer networks, bulletin boards, and E-mail systems, our appetite for violence and action and adventure, our rush to get to the bottom line, our widespread impatience, the boom in gambling, our love of extremes and danger – all these very American traits are also very ADD-like.’ (p 27)"
So it seems that the environment in which these children have been raised has encouraged the development of these ADD-like symptoms.
Because I am not an expert on ADD, I will quote Jeffrey Freed again – an expert who has worked with children diagnosed with ADD for years. Here is what to look at in determining whether or not your child truly has ADD:
- The degree of severity: is the child’s behavior so extreme that it consistently gets in the way of his ability to do well in school, complete tasks, and form normal bonds with family and peers? [I believe a key word in this question is "consistently"]
- Whether the behavior is pronounced both inside and outside the classroom: This is a key point. If you’re taken aback when your child’s teacher suggests he be evaluated for ADD, it could be that ADD-like behavior is only observable in the classroom. Your child may be acting out because of boredom and faulty teaching, not because of an underlying disorder. [The key question here is if the behavior is consistent no matter where the child is.]
Given the fact that our kids are growing up in a very ADD-like culture, it might be worth looking hard at the two points made by Freed before jumping the gun on getting any child evaluated for ADD. Remember, a truly ADD child will go at two speeds: hyperactive or collapse. I would have a few questions in mind when observing a specific child:
1. Is he ALWAYS hyperimpulsive, hypersensitive, hypervisual, hyperactive, and hyperdistractible? Or are there situations in which he can focus intensely on an activity?
2. If there are situations in which she is able to sustain focus on what is she doing? Does it happen to be a game or toy that she especially likes to play with?
3. Is the behavior the same no matter who he is with or what he is doing? In other words, does he have the same activity level and distractibility whether he’s playing a game or doing homework? Is he worse at some times, and if so, where is he when things get worse?
4. Is it possible that her actions stem from frustration or stress? Is she responding negatively to criticism by acting out?
5. Is he in a situation in which he feels destined to fail?
If you do discover that there are times in which the child is able to sustain focus, it is possible that it is not truly ADD at play, but something else. If that is the case and you suspect the child needs some help with behavior issues, the good news is that there are things you can do to help your child work through this pseudo-ADD. It will take some time and creativity, but you can make a big difference in your child's life and behavior. Read a past blog post for some ideas for activities to get your kids off the couch and outside learning this summer.
March 16, 2010
In a previous blog post, Follow the Fingers, I shared about three students I worked with, each of whom had real problems with maintaining focus. Each of them had different issues: flickering attention, wandering attention, and attentional gymnastics where the child seemingly could not sit still. Here I want to share a few more ideas to try as you teach a child who has trouble staying focused.
Focus Follows Fingers
The biggest lesson I learned when working with children who lacked focus was that if I could engage the child’s hands in their learning, their focus would go wherever their fingers went. Of course this habit also applies to children who are kinesthetic or tactile learners. Visual-spatial learners also benefit from being able to manipulate objects as they learn.
Create a Visually Pleasing Environment for Learning
Children who are ADD and right-brained learners need to be enticed to learn what you believe they should. If their learning environment is sterile, drab, or uninviting, getting them to want to learn will be much more difficult. If you are teaching your child at home, it will be totally worth the effort to enlist your child in creating this environment. If you cannot paint the room, hang colorful images on the wall that appeal to your child.
Make Every Lesson as Relevant as Possible to the Child
Rather than teaching math facts using pencil and paper and sterile problems, find out what your child really likes and relate math to that. For example, teach him how to use money as you shop for groceries, or as he saves up for something he really wants. Set her up with a check register and as you teach her to use it, she will be learning to count money, to add and subtract, etc. Give him a real wallet with real coins to use. If you are studying measurement, study it as you build something that is interesting to the child. If she loves playing with construction sets, study the concepts of perimeter or area as she’s building a house.
Teach as Many Subjects as Possible at One Time
For instance, choose a topic from science, and relate all other subjects to that one theme. If volcanoes are your topic for science, add geography by finding volcanoes on the world map, read books and articles about them, go back in history to study Pompeii, bring math into the mix by creating word problems relating to volcanoes. Let your child have the chance to become totally immersed in the subject. He will do better if he’s had the chance to spend time focusing on one theme.
Incorporate Chances to Move into the Lesson
Any time you can structure learning so that your child is NOT seated at her desk, the better for her concentration. Instead of using pencil and paper all the time, affix a small whiteboard to the wall, door, or tabletop and let the child use dry erase markers to work out problems. If you plan for movement, it is going to be easier to channel the child’s energy. If you are practicing spelling, for instance, use the white board on the wall and try calling out a word. Say, “house.” Your child will write her word on the white board. Have her do a toe touch, and then jump back up to do the next word. Or she could do a body movement that the word reminds her of. For house, maybe it would be tenting her fingertips over her head as if making a roof on a house.
Set Goals for Learning and Mark Progress
Many right-brained children love to see not only where they are going, but they like to mark their progress along the way to reaching the goal. It would be great to decide on specific tasks for each day and write these on colorful cards with a cute picture drawn to illustrate the topic. Break tasks down as detailed as possible. You can attach magnets to the back and display the cards in the order you will accomplish them, or you could put them all into a little basket and let your child select a card that will tell him what his next task is. Each task he accomplishes will get him closer and closer to the goal. The goal should be something he really likes to do.
Use Lamplight to Improve Focus
I know from personal experience that if I am having trouble settling down to start a “desk task,” it helps tremendously to have a lamp on my desk that shines light directly on the spot I should be focusing. If I am already having trouble focusing, then if the overhead light is on, every object in the room demands equal visual attention and it becomes very easy to go off on mental or tactile rabbit trails. This being true, most days find my office light off, but my desk lamp shining away valiantly, pointing my attention to the next task. Try this method with your child if she has trouble settling down to do a task at her desk.
Remove Clutter from the Work Area
I wrote in another blog (Confessions of a Visual Learner) what clutter on my work space does to me. Every little scrap of paper, every object, screams equally for attention. So while I love a visually pleasing room to work in, the space also needs to be conducive to focus. So, in your child's immediate work area, have only the items needed for that task. What will help tremendously is to have places for everything that tends to accumulate on the desk. Part of getting down to work will be putting all extraneous clutter away: pencils in the pencil jar, other books in the to-do basket, etc.
Consider Playing Mozart
I read a long time ago that playing Mozart helps organize one's thoughts for work. A decade ago I was working on three manuscripts. Each time I sat down to write another chapter, the blank paper screamed at me in its whiteness, and its blankness mirrored my own mind. Even a little black dot on the page would have been preferable to seeing nothing on the page. The more time that ticked by without my being able to come up with something to start with, the surer I became that I would have nothing whatsoever to say on the topic. One day I decided to try the Mozart music theory. I actually tried this many times I had writing tasks to do, and while I never was aware of when the words actually started to flow, flow they did. You might consider playing Mozart while your child works.
Take Time to Visualize Every Day
For the right-brained learner, the ability to visualize is not only a gift, it is critical to success in learning. Visualization needs to be practiced and your child needs to understand how valuable this ability will be to him. Words and symbols are not going to be his strong suit, so capitalize on what he does so well already. For example, if you are learning a new word, let the child study the written word for a bit, and then have him close his eyes and see it in his imagination. Give him time to form that mental picture and when he has it in place, ask him what he sees. Have him spell it as he sees the word in his head.
Play Visualization Games
Something your active child will really enjoy doing, which will also help her in school is to play visualization games. Start small and build as you see your child is able to do more. Say, “Close your eyes and make pictures in your head of what I say.” Next say, “You are going to stand up, walk to the window and look out. Next you will walk to the door and close it, finally you will touch your toes and then sit in your chair.” When your child has visualized doing this, ask her to do what she saw in her head. This game will greatly improve your child’s listening and following directions skills, while giving her a lot of practice in visualization.
Let Him Draw Pictures for Solving Problems
Many right-brained children have trouble with math because of how it is typically taught: in little steps with memorization, frequently timed, and children are often told they need to show their work. Try instead explaining the problem and then letting your child draw pictures for himself to solve the problem. Some problems he may be able to solve in his head without being able to verbalize how he arrived at the answer. The last time I took a math class, I was pretty stressed. I had done horribly in math in elementary school, and taking a graduate level math class as an adult many years removed from college days really freaked me out. I would literally experience rapid heartbeat and shortness of breath. I resorted to drawing little pictures that showed me the question and helped me work out the answer. I did this drawing very furtively because I was sure someone my age should NOT have to draw little pictures in order to solve problems. Even today, if I have to add or subtract relatively short numbers, I don’t instantly pull the answer out of my head, I SEE the problem as a visual which would take many words to explain to someone else. When this type of problem solving fails is when there is pressure to hurry and I cannot take my needed seconds to visualize.
Minimize the Use of TV and Other Technologies
Yes, I know; in our day the use of technology is exploding. Technology is creeping into every facet of our lives. The problem with immersing a right-brained learner in technology is that you are only strengthening the right hemisphere and weakening the left. For success in school, your child will need to begin to strengthen the left brain functions more and more, and any technology that does her speaking for her, does her thinking for her, turns life into pictures for her is going to only exacerbate the problems she is already facing with school. Get her outside as much as possible to experience life that way. Involve her in real tasks in the house, making her feel she is a vital part of your little community.
Study Your Child
Set time aside to observe your child intently, taking notes on what you see during times he is engrossed in something and displaying remarkable focus. Write down everything you observe about what he’s doing, and when you have done this a few times, study your notes to learn what those scenarios had in common. Doing this will reveal your child’s learning strengths. The more we as parents learn about our child’s learning strengths, the more successfully we can teach them, and the more we can draw focus away from learning weaknesses and thus build our child’s confidence. A confident, successful child will want to accomplish more!
Dreamers, Discoverers, and Dynamos: How to Help the Child Who Is Bright, Bored, and Having Problems in School
By Lucy Jo Palladino, Ph.D.
"Millions of children--one in five--have what psychologist Lucy Jo Palladino, Ph.D.