School Concerns

School Concerns

At Family-Counselling Services we have been engaged with and worked in the international school system here in the Suisse Romande. We are well-acquainted with the high quality of the academic programs as well as the limitations of the special needs services and discipline systems. We continue to work closely with many of the schools in the Geneva and Lausanne metro areas. We can help you work with your students’ teachers to design family and school interventions. This is especially helpful for children if they are experiencing attention challenges, certain learning disabilities and discipline problems.

10 Challenges in working with Attentional Issues
Challenge #1 (Schools)

Discuss the child’s needs as a school issue and adopt an approach to sticking by agreed rules and providing encouragement. Teachers as well as students need acknowledgement of the efforts and achievements when dealing with attention-challenged students.

Tips on how to deal with this problem

  • Discuss with the child exactly what the problems are in the classroom. Write them down.
  • Discuss with the child exactly when and how these problems occur. Write them down. It is good to define, and thereby limit, the problem instead of leaving it in the realm of the infinite.

Come up with specific remedies for each problem area.

Challenge #2 (Waiting)

Attention-challenged children are “delay averse” i.e. they find waiting – even for a short space of time – intolerable. As a result they find it hard to wait in queues, turn-take in games or conversations, work towards long term goals, raise their hand before speaking, take sufficient time to work carefully (hence the high error rate) etc.

Tips on how to deal with this problem

  1. Try to minimise the amount of time an attention-challenged child is kept waiting with nothing to do.
  2. Encourage the child to ask another student for help.
  3. Ensure the feedback is prompt.
  4. Make full use of the computer as they provide immediate feedback.
Challenge #3 (Thinking before responding)

AD/HD children have difficulty inhibiting thinking before responding. As a result they behave in an impulsive manner and this can lead to dangerous and socially inept behaviour (like saying what they think without having thought much about it) and disruptive behaviour (like shouting out).

Tips on how to deal with this problem

  1. Think of ways to encourage a “stop-think” approach
  2. Think ahead when planning seating, classroom layout, trips etc.
    1. E.g., Don’t sit the child with AD/HD next to the window, the non-class related computer etc.)
    2. Have the child working with the teacher and next to the teacher for appropriate activities.
  3. Build checking responses into work (e.g. accents in French, punctuation in English).
  4. Use visual prompts e.g. when entering or leaving a classroom, “STOP; think what to do when entering or leaving the room”.
  5. Give responsibility whenever and wherever possible.
  6. Take an extra helper on a trip and discuss basic rules with the class beforehand.
  7. Make use of concrete reminders like lists, schedules etc.
  8. Give frequent feedback. Attention-challenged children don’t often see what they are doing as they are doing it. It is only afterwards that they see what they have done. Stop them before it happens, if possible.
Challenge #4 (Attention-seeking)

Children with AD/HD can seem to be insatiable in their demands for attention.

Tips on how to deal with this problem

  1. Give immediate and frequent attention for cooperative behaviour and ignore (as far as possible) minor irritations such as fidgeting.
Challenge #5 (Focusing attention)

Attention-challenged children do not have problems with attention if the task is sufficiently interesting. If the teacher can make the task the most exciting thing in the environment the teacher is the winner! The student will most likely seek distractions in lessons where the child is expected to sit and listen – unless the student is particularly interested in the subject/topic or the teacher is an exceptionally inspirational speaker. Go ahead; let your passion for your subject show!

Tips on how to deal with this problem

  1. Try to make tasks as salient and interactive as possible.
  2. Where the task is not salient but must be done break the page into smaller more manageable units – this gives the child a sense of completion and achievement which can itself become rewarding.
  3. Where possible adopt a multi-sensory or interactive teaching style.
  4. Give the child something to do while listening (underlining main points or key words).
  5. Be aware that the child’s fidgeting may be more disruptive to the teacher than to the other children.
  6. Consider allowing the child permission to go outside for exercise or fresh air at appropriate times and only when necessary during the lesson.
  7. Try alternating interesting with less interesting tasks.
  8. Allow preferential seating (ask children to experiment with seating positions and to report back their findings/experience).
Challenge #6 (Others’ Negative Comments)

Attention-challenged children are often the subject of negative and angry comments. This leads to a downward spiral of events in which behaviour worsens and negative comments increase. Many such children feel they are failing on every front (social, academic and behavioural) and have extremely low self-esteem.

Tips on how to deal with this problem

  1. Positive, truthful comments have a greater impact on the child than negative ones.
  2. Incentives rather than sanctions or punishments.
  3. Incentive plans may work. That is, provide something to the student that is of interest AFTER the tasks are completed.
    1. Don’t bribe them by giving them something beforehand.
    2. Don’t try extracting a promise to “be better.”
  4. Only tackle one or two problems at a time and set realistic targets – this increases the chance of success. Remember to frame the targets as positives rather than negatives.
  5. Look for “islands of strength” and make the most of them.
  6. Start the lesson with a positive comment about something.
  7. Choose one target behaviour, e.g. shouting out, set a realistic target for its elimination, then encourage the child’s success.
  8. Try to discuss problems in private and ensure the child (and classmates) that you like him/her as a person even while the class setting cannot work with the unfocused behaviour.
Challenge #7 (Self-awareness)

Attention-challenged children are poor at self-monitoring and need to be taught to be self-aware.

Tips on how to deal with this problem

  1. Tell the child when things are going well and how.
    1. E.g. “Well done Tom, you are working hard today.”
    2. “You have used your inside voice.” (Rather than, “You haven’t shouted.”)
    3. Your classmates have stayed on task, too.” (Rather than, “You haven’t disturbed other people”).”
    4. The more times a child is told exactly why the teacher is pleased the more the appropriate/acceptable behaviour will be reinforced.
  2. Ask the child how long he/she is able to stay on task. Encourage him/her to try and beat this record.
  3. Encourage the child to know when a time-out is needed, to take a run/breather or take time out to calm down. This first stage of solving a problem is to be aware there is a problem.
Challenge #8 (Locus of Control)

Attention-challenged children often have an external rather than internal locus of control i.e. they feel that events are in charge of them rather than the opposite. This view leads to feelings of helplessness and “giving up” behaviour.

Tips on how to deal with this problem

  1. Take every opportunity to ensure the child attributes success to his/her own efforts.
  2. When the child tries and fails, treat this as a learning opportunity and try to ensure the child tries again and succeeds.
  3. Children taking medication need to be re-assured that it is them, and not the medication, that leads to improvements – just as children who wear glasses are still responsible for their achievements.
Challenge #9 (Organisation)

Attention-challenged children have problems with most aspects of organisation and behave least well in unstructured tasks and situations.

Tips on how to deal with this problem

  1. Try to teach organisational skills and pre-empt problems.
  2. Build a high level of structure to lessons and explain the structure to the child/class so that he/she knows exactly what is going to happen and when.
  3. Anticipate and prepare for changes in structure e.g. a school trip
  4. Teach the class how to use lists/organisers (you may want to point out “glamorous” jobs that make use of these tools e.g. airline pilots).
Challenge #10 (Lack of Popularity)

Around 60% of AD/HD children are unpopular. Once a child is unpopular he is likely to remain so even if his/her behaviour improves. Both teachers and peers are biased in noticing negative behaviours more than positive behaviours, and their views are resistant to change. Peers are influenced by how the teacher acts towards the child with AD/HD. It is also the case that the whole class is likely to receive more negative behaviour from the teacher if there is one disruptive AD/HD member in the class and peers are aware of this. Children who are aggressive and/or who also have learning difficulties are most at risk from peer-rejection. Once rejected, the children are deprived of the chance to practise and develop their social skills and the problem worsens.

Tips on how to deal with this problem

As a teacher one of the most significant ways of helping a child with AD/HD is to help them become accepted by their peers.

  1. Accept and like the child.
  2. At all times make sure that the child and the class know that the teacher likes him/her even when the behaviour is not acceptable.
  3. Never resort to sarcasm, anger or any behaviour which makes the child look or feel diminished in the eyes of their peers.
    1. Positive acknowledgement should be public, matter-of-fact appreciation (not excessive praise).
    2. Problem solving is best kept private.
  4. Try to make the child appear desirable as a work-mate or team member.
  5. Consider enlisting peer support to foster friendships.