Tag Archives: School

The Question to Ask to Increases Motivation for Children with ADHD to Complete Homework

Children with ADHD are rewarded by the immediate gratification of getting out of a homework assignment (relief, avoidance, etc), and there is no emotion attached to getting tasks done. Emotions are a powerful motivator and are strongly connected to our self-motivation.

Have the individual ask himself, “What will it feel like when the task is done?”

1. Don’t be surprised if this questions is initially met with silence, because many have not considered that the task can be done. Whatever the emotion is, the individual should consider what it will feel like when he reached his goal (finishing the assignment).
2. Focus on the emotional sensation of “What will it feel like when the task is done?” (pride? sense of accomplishment? self-satisfaction? pleasure from those around?). The individual may currently be focused on the negative emotion of having to do the assignment, and being reinforced by the negative emotion and immediate gratification of getting out of the work. By changing his focus to when the task is complete, we begin to change his reinforcement and delay his gratification.
3. Visualize, verbalize, and feel what it is like getting the mundane assignment or any assignment done. It is a more powerful motivator for most as focusing on the potential positive consequence of getting it done because it can be rejuvenating and inspire feelings you can get by imagining how great it might feel to get to your goal. The individual should practice this for all assignments.
4. Practice self-talk statements that encourage efficacy rather than avoidance. For example, when one thinks, “this is so pointless” he should attempt to make a fair statement like, “I might not like every assignment, and that’s ok. When I am finished, I will feel ______.”
5. Put in place mini 3-5 minute breaks to recharge. Mini breaks can include walking up stairs, wall push-ups, listening to one song, getting a drink of water, etc. Mini-breaks do not include using screens, because hopping on a screen typically takes a lot more time. Save screen time for after homework. Breaks should rejuvenate, not distract..
6. Think of a reward for when all of the work is complete. Some examples include reading a book, going on social media, playing a games, etc. Rewarding oneself helps to increase motivation.

Why Use an Educational Advocate?

If you are like many parents, understanding the special education process is overwhelming. Many parents find it helpful to use an educational advocate to navigate the maze of special education, education law, and reduce the intimidation that parents can feel at school meetings. It is often difficult for parents of children with special needs to advocate for their child in a calm and objective manner for the education and related services their child needs. Parents see an advocate as an individual they can rely on to keep a cool head and apply informed judgement and recommendations throughout the process.

The role of an educational advocate is not to inflame the relationship between the parents and the school; rather to help cultivate a working relationship to make negotiating for special education services and supports easier. The focus is on solving problems and getting an appropriate education for your child to meet your child’s unique needs.

An advocate begins this process by gathering facts and information about your child’s disability and educational history. An advocate will speak with the parents to better understand their concerns. While gathering information, an advocate will review existing documentation include previous evaluations, IEPs, report cards, and any other relevant documentation to understand your child’s educational history.

Advocates inform parents about the special education process so they are aware of the potential costs in time, money, and energy required. Advocates inform families that just because they have independent evaluators and providers does not necessarily mean that the school system will implement the recommendations. In other words, advocates help to keep families expectations reasonable.

Advocates know procedures that parent must follow to protect their rights and their child’s rights. An advocate will provide suggestions on how to approach the school, teachers, and administrators. Furthermore, an advocate will have knowledge of the continuum of services and be able to explain the importance of a steady progress. In addition, advocates educate themselves on the school district to become familiar with the services and programs the school district has for their students.

Advocates are familiar with special education laws and regulations. Advocates are familiar with the governing laws and regulations and with changes in those laws as they are enacted.

Advocates keep written records. They make requests in writing, and document events, discussions, and meetings. The purpose of written records are to serve as reminders of why decisions were made and serve as an accompaniment to all school paperwork. The written records also help to keep all parties accountable.

The role of an advocate in meetings is to ask questions and listen for answers. The advocate carefully balances their approach in meetings and tends to stay away from confrontational approaches or overly chummy approaches. Their reasonable approach helps keep emotions out of the meeting. By not being clouded by emotions, advocates are better able to define problems and use their knowledge to develop strategies and problem solve.

In summary, the educational advocate role is to speak for children with disabilities and special needs who are unable to protect themselves. Educational advocates use their knowledge and expertise to help parents build a healthy working relationship with schools and resolve problems with schools. Through the support of families, educational advocates help to ensure that the school provides your child with a free and appropriate public education.

School Refusal

School Refusal may be a child’s response to anxiety over separation from parents, performance anxiety (ie; tests, speeches or presentations), social anxiety, or other situations causing stress at school or at home.

These students show extreme distress about attending school. When your child is refusing to go to school, do not call your child in “sick,” rather let the school know that your child is refusing to attend. When a school is aware that a child is struggling, the school can help intervene and support parents in getting their children to school and support children during their school day.

Some factors that contribute to school refusal or separation anxiety may include the child having difficulty with managing feelings of discomfort, experiencing disappointment, applying conflict resolution skills, and/or communicating needs effectively. When we are anxious or uncomfortable our fight or flight system gets activated by the perception of threat/danger. The perceived fear is greater than the actual threat/danger and everyday occurrences become overwhelming. These behaviors interfere with daily functioning. Maladaptive coping (avoidance) techniques are utilized by the individual, and he/she looks for ways out of the situation, thus he/she does not get to change his/her perception of the situation. Maladaptive coping skills are based on the misappraisal of the threat and the intention is to avoid fear stimulus or the danger it signals. The coping patterns develop as a way to create immediate relief and avoid experience of discomfort. Though these coping patterns provide short term relief, over time the individuals use of avoidance increases, thus making it more difficult for the individual to attend school.

To manage feelings of discomfort, the child should work on distress tolerance. Society has created situations in which every child wins, and with the lack of the “win­lose” in games, kids are not learning to tolerate loss. As a result, children lack crisis survival strategies, have underdeveloped skills to manage feelings such as disappointment, anger, and sadness, and have difficulty applying coping strategies to stressors. When children experience difficulty with emotional regulation, they have difficulty managing emotions, lack self soothing techniques, and have poor impulse control.

Common characteristics or functions of school refusal behavior include: avoidance of negative affect including somatic complaints, depression, and general anxiety; escape from evaluative or social situations including social phobia, OCD, and perfectionism; attention seeking behaviors like separation anxiety or sympathy from family; and a pursuit of tangible reinforcers like video games, internet, and sleep. What might a parent notice with the various functions of school refusal behavior? When a child is avoiding negative affect traits he will exhibit anxiety symptoms, have difficulty advocating for himself, and have an inability to self sooth. Also present are depressive symptoms and low tolerance for managing distress, which commonly presents with a lot of somatic complaints like migraines and stomach aches. If you recognize your child is avoiding negative affect, your response to a child with somatic complaints could be, “Yes, you might be sick, but let’s practice your ways to manage the physical symptoms.” The focus is not on whether or not your child is actually sick, but rather how they can manage those feelings.

When the function of the school refusal is escaping from evaluative or social situations, you will notice your child isolating himself and/or decreasing the number of social activities, as this child will have difficulty managing social situations. Perfectionism and fear of failure occur, and your child will struggle such things as earning a B on a test. In addition, this child will demonstrate absolute or black and white thinking. Furthermore, the child who is escaping evaluative or social situations will perseverate and experience obsessive thoughts.

The child who exhibits attention seeking behavior traits as a function of school refusal is often seeking reassurance from parent(s). Often these children experience separation anxiety. Your role as a parent is not to take on the performance for your child, nor do you need to talk about everything. When you do, then things can get worse for the child. Your response to your child is that they can manage school. The best interventions include structure and routine, clear expectations, altered use of language with the child, and making school attendance not optional. This is a time for purposeful parenting. Purposeful parenting is reactive attachment. We all get emotionally reactive at times, but know that purposeful parenting needs to be the focus. The goal for the child is to be independent, and this is how the parent can help the child be independent and manage. Rather than reassuring your child that everything is going to be ok, it is better to say to your child, “Your day may not be ok, but you can manage it.” The goal is not for your child to be happy, rather to be healthy.

The pursuit of tangible reinforcers is another function of school refusal. Students who exhibit these traits often demonstrate poor sleep patterns; they stay u late and sleep during the day. These individuals have access to privileges without meeting home or schoo expectations. In addition, these students lack motivation to attend school, struggle with limits and resist authority. Furthermore, these individuals possibly abuse substances and or internet/gaming addictions. The parental response is that everything is earned, and everybody in the family has a responsibility. Note, though, that when limits are set, behavior escalates very rapidly because the child may not have had limits or the ability to develop these skills.

Depending on the individual, school refusal may involve significant levels of anxiety and depression that will need to be assessed by a mental health professional who will tailor interventions based on your child’s needs. The goal of therapy is to help the student restructure his thoughts and actions into an adaptive framework to allow for a rapid return to school.

Performance Anxiety (Part 1)

HTS test anxiety 2How common is performance anxiety? Almost everyone feels nervous or experiences some anxiety when faced with a test or an exam. In fact, it is unusual to find a student who doesn’t approach a big test without a degree of anxiety. Many students experience some nervousness or apprehension before, during, or even after an exam.

Too much anxiety about a test is commonly referred to as test anxiety. Test anxiety (a form of performance anxiety) is very common among students. It can interfere with studying, and may cause difficulty learning and remembering needed information for a test. In order to perform well in a challenging situation, you must be psychologically and physically alert. Some degree of arousal is essential for optimal performance: Psyching up can enhance performance. However, when Arousal gets too high (psyching out), we feel nervous and tense, and experience anxiety, which becomes distracting. Psyching Out can cause performance to decline. Further, too much anxiety may block performance and cause difficulty demonstrating student knowledge during the test.

Students with Test Anxiety Report:

  • feelings like “going blank”
  • becoming frustrated
  • thinking “I can’t do this” or “I’m stupid”
  • feeling like the room is closing in
  • heart racing or find it difficult to breathe
  • suddenly “knowing” the answers after turning in the test
  • score much lower than on homework or papers

And, while performing:

  • becoming distracted
  • feeling overwhelmed
  • missing important cues from your surroundings
  • “going blank” and forgetting directions
  • distracting thoughts of failure or of poor performance
  • performing more poorly than in practice

Performance anxiety manifests in physical, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive symptoms. Physical symptoms include headaches, nausea or diarrhea, extreme body temperature changes, excessive sweating, shortness of breath, lightheadedness or fainting, rapid heartbeat, and/or dry mouth. Emotional symptoms include excessive feelings of fear, disappointment, anger, depression, uncontrollable crying or laughing, and feelings of helplessness. Behavioral symptoms include fidgeting, pacing, substance abuse, and avoidance. Lastly, the cognitive symptoms include racing thoughts, ‘going blank’, difficulty concentrating, negative self-talk,feelings of dread, comparing self to others, and difficulty organizing thoughts. Not everyone exhibits the same symptoms, and for many it is not uncommon for the symptoms to be stronger in one area over another.

Students can practice preventative skills to decrease the likelihood of experiencing performance anxiety. The following are a list of Do’s and Don’ts when studying for a test.


  • Don’t cram the night before. The amount you learn won’t be worth the stress.
  • Spread out your studying.
  • Don’t think of yourself or the test in a negative sense.
  • Don’t stay up late studying the night before. You need the sleep.
  • Don’t take those last few moments before the test for last minute cramming.


  • Do remind yourself that the test is only a test
  • Do focus on integrating details into main ideas
  • Do reward yourself after the test
  • Do something relaxing before the test
  • Do tell yourself that you will do your best on the test, and that will be enough!

Often parents ask what they can do to support their child experiencing performance anxiety. There are two things that parents often do to help their child who is scared of something, give reassurance and allow their child to avoid the situation. Unfortunately, these two behaviors of reassurance and avoidance maintain anxiety. When a parent gives reassurance, it keeps the child asking for more. Reassurance is positive attention, which rewards anxiety. Instead, name the anxious behavior for your child, and ask what tools they will use to manage the behavior. When we allow children to avoid negative stimuli, the child becomes less likely to overcome their ability to face and cope with the anxiety. Instead, push your child to a certain degree so they start to do things that are slightly difficult, learn to tolerate the uncomfortable feeling, and learn to realize they can cope with the anxiety.

What if the performance anxiety has a great impact on your child’s social and emotional functioning? Then it may be time to seek the help from a mental health professional.