Tag Archives: ADHD

Analyzing the Options When Your Family Needs Help

I have written a number of articles about family issues, particularly teen issues, for our sister sites, and one earlier this week particularly struck me. I was asked to review Total Transformation, a program by James Lehman MSW (Master of Social Work), LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) for “fixing” a child’s behavioral issues.

Having never seen or used the product and having no preconceptions about it, I found good cause to take issue with it right on the homepage. The observations seem important enough to share here.

These critiques say nothing about whether the program might be useful in a particular case. You may have used it and love it. I’m not commenting about that at all. Rather, I’m making a point about the dangers of presenting a program in the way Lehman does. If you have strong feelings about Total Transformation and/or if you have a child who is struggling, I hope you will read these comments for what they’re meant to do.

The top of the Total Transformation homepage blares out in bold red letters:

Finally! A Step-by-Step Solution that will
Stop Your Child’s Defiant, Out of Control
Behavior—Right Now

Now, the fact that some people who have reviewed the program have said it didn’t work for them (as well as common sense) suggests that this is over the top: it simply isn’t likely—given the diversity of people and situations—that the same program will work for everyone. Why use overblown prose if you have a valuable product? Why not describe what the product can do and admit what it can’t do?

My first point of comparison for programs to help youth is NATSAP (National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs), the members of which are accredited programs that follow NATSAP’s Principles of Good Practice. These organizations are in essentially the same business as Lehman—helping troubled youth—but their websites don’t scream and they don’t over-promise. They make it clear that their programs work for a select population, and the programs are varied in their approach, with some offering a family style setting, some offering a wilderness experience, some providing equine therapy, etc.

But perhaps the most important thing that the NATSAP programs don’t do is that they don’t treat a child sight-unseen. They don’t take a parent’s word for it that the problem is the child (not that a parent is necessarily wrong: just that there may be elements of the situation that the parent may not see): they use their professional expertise to make their own assessment.

Lehman’s assumption, implicit in the homepage—that any child of any person who comes to the site and is willing to pay $327 plus shipping and handling is guilty of willful disobedience that his program can “fix”—would be naive in someone untrained. It is shocking in a professional.

Children are “defiant” and/or “out of control” for many reasons, and quite a number of those reasons need intervention and/or professional treatment. Causes could include ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder), ADHD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), bipolar disorder, depression, substance abuse, learning disabilities, a dysfunctional family, bullying, or abuse, to name a few.

Just because the (presumably untrained) parent sees a problem emerging in the child’s behavior does not mean the child’s attitude is the problem. And it is inappropriate for Lehman to offer parents this solution with the implied promise that it will work in every case.

The homepage of the website reads like a cheap sales pitch, not like the measured prose of a person who has a quality program and will convince you of its value by explaining its good qualities in a rational way. It plays on the desperation of parents who don’t know what to do, rather than addressing them in a considered, responsible way.

If you are ever concerned about a child and in need of help beyond your child’s pediatrician and the network of medical specialists available to you, I suggest you read the NATSAP Ethical Principles

and—if you’re considering a residential program—the NATSAP Principles of Good Practice.

Then, use their program search and go to the websites of a few programs. Even if you don’t use one of their programs—and I am not suggesting that you should or shouldn’t—it will provide an example of the measured prose you should expect to find in the description of a program that is well-conceived and well-run.

And in your assessment of any program, I hope that—having read this post—you will consider the manner that the program is presented as meaningful, indicative of something, and worth considering as you make the best choice you can for your child and family.

Struggling in School?

All parents dread the day that they discover their child is struggling in school. Whether they are struggling with social aspects such as school bullying or peer pressure or academically. Here we identify a few ways in which kids struggle in school and hopefully help you to know better how to help your child so that their school experience is as good as possible. After all, not much learning happens if a child does not feel safe in school or confident in their academic abilities. These problems occur in children in both public schools and private schools.

Social aspects:

* School bullying - Your child may be the victim of bullying or they may be the bully. Be sure you have a clear understanding of your child’s role in things before you take further steps.

  • If your child is being bullied – there are two main reason why kids get bullied (this is not always the case) and they are social status and appearance. Bullies will pick on any child who appears to be different and perceived as being weaker. Bullying can be verbal or physical but it is NEVER acceptable. The best thing you can do for your child is to listen to them, believe them, empathize, help them where you can (with appearance, social skills, etc.) and then work with the school to resolve the problem without making worse for the child. You also need to teach your child the skills that are necessary for dealing with a bully. Often time a school counselor or other child therapist can help your child learn coping mechanisms so that they go to school not in fear but armed with a plan to help themselves. This will increase their self esteem so much if they know they have handled it themselves for the most part.
  • If your child is the bully – make it clear that there is never a time or place for such behavior. Be sure that your child is not learning this type of behavior from you, your spouse or other family and friends that are close. Don’t be fooled. If you get a call saying that your daughter is being a bully you may as well face facts that bullies are girls and boys. Often times we think of boys as being the real bullies and it just isn’t right. Some children who are bullies actually do have personality disorders that keep them from relating with certain peers and their way of handling that is to display poor behavior. You may want to get the help from therapists as well as putting in place a consequence for such behavior to make it clear that you will not accept it.
  • Cliques – we all want a peer group that we feel accepted by and that we feel comfortable but cliques can be a lesser version of a gang in ways. Be sure if your child is part of a clique that you always teach about the important of accepting and befriending others and never leaving other people out or make them feel alienated. If you child struggles because they just don’t seem to have a clique you may want to help them find activities and other after school programs where they can find a peer group that they relate to and can feel accepted in. Schools have many clubs, organizations and activities. Community involvement will also help this.

* Academically:

  • If your child is struggling in their classes with low grades, incomplete work, below average test scores or any other problem you, as the parent, need to work closely with the parent to resolve these problems. You may want to look into tutoring for that child. You may also want to have the assessed to see if there is an underlying learning disability that may make it harder than you realize for the child to complete the tasks expected of them.
  • If you child is a behavior problem in class this not only will affect the child’s grades but the grades of all those around them. It is important to get to the bottom of behavior disorders and find out what kind of help is available to you so that you can help your child be successful in school. If a child is ADD,or ADHD, they may need therapy to learn skills and/or medication to help them focus. The same goes with other disorders. A good place to start is the school counselor but remember to keep pushing on the behalf of your child, you are their only true advocate and if you won’t go to bat for them to find solutions for them who will?

The best thing a parent can do is to be a school volunteer as much as possible without hovering over the child. Show your involvement. For bullies, this will make them aware that you could see what the bully is doing to your child at any time and may lesson the attacks. For kids who do bully, they will think that you may see something and see to it that the child is reprimanded. And if your child struggles in the classwork or with staying on task and other issues, you can make a huge difference by volunteering in the classroom. This frees the teacher up to help more students, even yours. Teachers are overwhelmed with the load they have and too often kids slip through the cracks. Teachers simply don’t have time to get to the underlying issue of why every child does what they do.

Realizing your child is struggling in school for whatever reason is the first step in solving the problem. Just try to be loving and understand through this time as well as firm and resolved. Know that you are not the only parent going through these issues and that there is help if you will just ask your school. If your problems are deeper than the ones discussed here you may want to look at getting your child some serious help. There are many youth programs that can help children and teens in succeeding while helping you as a family unit.

Physical Education in Schools

The No Child Left Behind campaign has brought up many hot topics of discussion within the education community. One of those being whether or not we should have more cirriculum during a school day and less recess breaks. First thing I think is, “What? that is every child’s favorite part of school.” Some of my fondest memories are learning how to jump rope, hopscotch, and manuever the monkey bars. How sad that our children may not have these kinds of memory of school.
Secondly, I wonder where these children are going to get any physical exercise. We are already struggling with a huge childhood obesity problem in our country. Certainly cutting out physical activities is only going to make this issue worse. Which will also create more youth who struggle with eating disorders.
Third, sunshine is proven to help improve our moods and keep us healthy and happy. If we lock these kids in a classroom all day are we not just asking to have to deal with more issues in regards to depression?
Which brings me to last but certainly not least, the teachers, how are they going to handle all of these kids in a classroom for so many hours? And what about their recess break? And with more and more children being diagnosed with such things as ADHD, how do you think that will play out? Our children and our teachers are all going to go crazy! As if our teachers do not have enough stress on them already, let’s keep them inside all day with a bunch of young children being forced to sit still, listen, and learn.
Getting rid of recess can certainly not be the only solution.