Month: July 2011

The Pathology of Exuberance

George is a five and a half year old boy. He’s one of those types who’s quite bright, but hasn’t yet learned how to contain his exuberance or spontaneity. For example when George is in his pre-kindergarten class, he has a lot of trouble holding back whenever the teacher has a question.  George can’t contain his exuberance and enthusiasm. (Since George was the type of child who religiously watched shows on Animal Planet, he was a storehouse of knowledge that he couldn’t wait to share.)

 At home, his older siblings look at him like he is a little bit off. When they watch TV together or play on the Wii, George frequently starts jumping up and down during exciting parts, excitedly flapping his arms. It’s almost like every cell of his body becomes energized by what he watches. These behaviors bother his siblings.
George comes in to see me for an evaluation. 
I am charmed by George. He is fun, spontaneous, knowledgeable and exuberant. When I have George put blocks into different patterns, he exclaims, “Wow, Dr. Rich. I like doing these! This is fun!”
I know everyone is going to look at George like he is ADHD when George gets to kindergarten
You may not remember this era, but there was a time when kids like George weren’t considered “disordered.” 
They were just exuberant. 
Sure their exuberance might get on some people’s nerves and may be a bit hard to contain, but that’s the cost of doing business with children. There will always be Georges in the pack.
For now, George is not disordered in my book.  George is five and a half years old and loads of fun.
There will be time enough in life for George to “curb his enthusiasm.”


Create Your “Home IEP”

I know it’s summer and you don’t want to be thinking about school, but I thought in these dog days of summer you could create your own unofficial “Home IEP.” This Home IEP would be your own blueprint for the coming school year.

To write your Home IEP,  I’d suggest you go outside in the shade, pour yourself a glass of iced tea, and spend some time reflecting. What are the things that would represent real change for your child (and you as the parent) if they were done by the end of the year?
Here are a few sample goals for the child and parent (set to 85% mastery level) to help jog your thought process:
  • With minimal whining, child will manage homework independently.
  • Child will ask for assistance when needed only after attempting on his/her own.
  • Child will put papers in folder or binder for the next day 85% of the time.
  • Child will spend a half hour a night reading a book at his independent level before playing video games or going on internet.
  • Child will get self out of bed, get dressed and ready for school with minimal parental input.
  • 85% of the time, the parent will recognize that it is the child’s problem.
  • Parent will reduce yelling 85% of the time and speak in more objective, matter of fact terms (e.g., “Gee, I’m sorry you didn’t cooperate, now we are not going to the store for that thing you wanted.”).
  • When child forgets books at school, parent will reduce tendency to rush to school to get forgotten books.
  • Parent will reduce frequency of emailing teacher to once every other week (at the most).
  • Parent will only use a labeling term (e.g., ADHD, Dyslexia, Autism, Asperger’s, Sensory issues, etc.) once every other day.
  • Parent will only check grades on the school’s internet site once a month.
If any of these apply, feel free to include them in your own “Home IEP.”


Paper Books & Traditional Media – Musings on Going Old School

Originally published as “Summer Rain and the Golf Shack – Going Old School”

Paper books and traditional media still have a tangible value, just like the wood they're made from.

Last night my friend Joel and I tried to get in a few holes of golf, but torrential rains led us back to the little shack that was trying to be passed off as a clubhouse, at this point – because Joel and I both wanted to continue to play golf, I kind of wish we brought all our different golf nets to have a little more fun indoors.

As we dried off, I noticed something you don’t see very often. Behind the counter a high school student wasn’t tapping on a smartphone or flicking through his iPad.

He was reading a book!

Seeing him reading took me aback for a second. I don’t see too many paper books in kids’ hands these days. I couldn’t stop myself and had to speak to him, “Wow, you’re reading a book,” I said to him, sounding almost stunned.

It turns out it was Edith Hamilton’s classic book on mythology, the same edition I had on my shelf for many years. “Yeah,” he said, “This book explains almost everything you need to know.” (Not only was he reading it, but he sounded enthusiastic.)

Summer rain. A kid reading paper books in a dumpy shack. It brings me back in time.

So old school.

On a related note, many mornings these days I see a 20-Something kid regularly in the local coffee shop. Whenever I see him, he is buying a coffee and a newspaper!!!!!! (Seriously, when was the last time you saw a 20-something kid buying a newspaper?)

I see this kid a lot and each time it throws when I see him with his coffee and newspaper. I am always tempted to say something to him kind of like I did with the kid in the golf shack, but refrain for fear he will think I am a strange old coot.

Talk about old school.

These two encounters jolted me back in time, leading me to bring back memories of senior year in high school in New York City.

We were allowed to leave the building during lunch. I did a lot. There was a deli on 16th St. and 2nd Ave in Manhattan. On most days, I got the NY Post (which was a very different paper back then) and head to the deli, where I read one great columnist after another. I am in heaven. The NY Post, Pete Hamill (my favorite columnist) and corned beef. It doesn’t get much better – except maybe when it is really raining and school is almost out for summer.>

Summer rains make you go old school.

School Bus Blues #1: “Riding Shotgun”

Nine year old Ashley was having a terrible time of it on the bus. For whatever reason, there were other kids who were always snickering at her. Once she gots on the bus, she sensed that they were always whispering things about her. 

She was never sure what the snickers were about, but she usually heard things like “fat,” “dorky,” and “she’s so gay, she still likes playing with pretty ponies.” Sometimes she got papers crumpled up and tossed at her or an occasional spit ball landing in her hair.   The bus driver wasn’t much help, nor was the bus aide. They never seemed to see anything and all they did was yell, which was totally ignored by the kids. 
When I spoke to Ashley about it, my sense was that she needed some kind of protection. But, what?
I then got the image of the old stage coach days and thought it might help if someone could ride “shot gun with bulk ammo” with her, someone like one of the tougher or “cooler” kids on the bus.  My theory was that if someone sat next to her who was a tougher type, that no one would mess with Ashley. The ridiculing would diminish. In fact it might just go away all together.
I asked my dad who was a retired principal at the time, what he thought.  I knew that the Ashley types were his “bread and butter,” and I wanted to run my idea by him. He really loved helping the “underdog kids,” but he also was really good with the “tough” kids and understood how to get them on board. Whenever he had situations like this, he would make a wonderful marriage of the two extremely different type of kids.   
When I told him about Ashley, here’s what he said:
“The principal can call in one of the tougher types on the on the bus (boy or girl) to ride stagecoach, like you say. 
The principal could say something like this to the kid: “Look, I need a big favor from you. (Tougher kids love it when you appeal to them for help.)   Ashley’s getting teased by a bunch of kids on the bus and they are making her life miserable. I wonder if you would be willing to sit next to her on the bus. I don’t want you to get into any fights or even to say anything to them – I just want you to sit next to her. For your help, we’ll work out a deal where you can get out of one of your classes once in a while for a free period. I think you’ll feel really good helping Ashley out.   What do you think?”   
That’s exactly the “shotgun strategy” that I was thinking about, and hearing this helped validate it for me, even if it was a bit unorthodox and perhaps a little “politically incorrect.”
After I spoke to the principal who agreed to give the strategy a shot, he appealed to a pretty tough kid named Angela to ride shotgun. Angela loved the idea.
There was no way that anyone would begin messing around with Angela.   Angela took her job very seriously.
Snickers stopped.
No more crumpled papers or spitballs flying toward Ashley. 
Everyone was happy.
All of this because a tougher kid agreed to sit next to one of the ones everyone was ridiculing.
Sometimes simple solutions, can have great impact.



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