Category Archives: Spontaneous Thoughts

May I Have Your Undivided Attention? Fidget Spinners

 

Let’s just install ceiling fans in every classroom.

Ban Fidget Spinners with Bob Doman of NACDFidget spinners—what a wonderful invention—as though our children need something else to distract them. Let’s give children mini ceiling fans to carry around to help them pay attention—what a great idea! If spinning things help children concentrate, let’s just install ceiling fans in every classroom.

I have been arguing against giving kids on the Autism Spectrum fidgets for years. Do some kids on the spectrum like and want fidgets? Absolutely—they’re addicted to them. A fidget feeds their sensory addictions and helps keep them seated in their classroom chair when what is being presented quite possibly doesn’t fit them and goes on way past their auditory attention span. You attend to what you can process and if the input doesn’t fit your ability to process the information or what is being presented doesn’t match your knowledge/educational base, then you don’t pay attention to it (sadly this describes most children in most classrooms). Unfortunately, the operational definition of educational inclusion for children with developmental problems has really just come down to the kids sitting in desks and not making a fuss while surrounded by typical children. The special needs children then leave the classroom for a resource room where the instruction is hopefully more targeted and appropriate for the child. So, enter the fidget. The theory is that the fidgets help the children on the spectrum pay attention and avoid being distracted. As far as I know, there has been no good research to substantiate this, but I would suspect that if the research were directed at whether a fidget would keep a child sitting for longer periods the results would quite likely be positive. If, however, the study was testing whether the children learned more or if it helped their sensory issues, I believe the answer would be no. There has, however, been extensive research on the effects of any and all distractions while driving (paying attention) and the conclusion is that they are all bad. Try driving and watching your fidget spinner spin. You can give it another twirl if it stops and tell me if it makes you a safer driver.

One of the first things we recommend parents who have children on the spectrum do for their children who engage in visual DSAs (Debilitating Sensory Addictive behaviors), is to remove or a least not turn on any ceiling fans. As most parents with children on the spectrum with visual issues know, the kids will stare at ceiling fans endlessly if given the opportunity. None of these parents will tell you that their child is paying better attention or is more present while staring at the fan. The fan takes them away—it doesn’t help them focus or concentrate. Most visual stims or DSAs involve the child playing with and stimming with their peripheral vision. Your peripheral vision picks up movement and edges, both of which are stimulated in a negative fashion by ceiling fans, fidgets, waving fingers, staring at edges, etc. Fidget spinners not only distract with the visual aspect, but also with an audio and a tactile component—they hum and vibrate while they spin. So let’s have the child’s brain distracted with extraneous visual, auditory and tactile garbage and simultaneously help build a new addiction.

I’m sure to hear from “professionals” out there, particularly occupational therapists who just discovered that children have sensory issues, but having worked with Autistic children for fifty years and having learned how to help normalize their sensory issues, I am confident that feeding their addictions is not in their best interest in the long term. If the motivation and goal is to keep them content, in their seats and quiet at the cost of their development, then. . .

Now, enter the logic that begins with the erroneous premise that if fidgets help kids on the Spectrum pay attention, then perhaps they will help typical kids pay attention. Sadly many, if not most, children have successfully learned not to pay attention already and the last thing they need is another distraction. Parents and teachers often mistake the child looking in your general direction and apparently listening as attending. At best, we often mistake listening for paying attention. Listening is something you do when you’re watching your favorite sporting event and the game is tied with seconds to go and someone talks to you about the weather. Listening is something you do when you’re talking to someone on the phone while you’re checking your email. Ask the child who appears to be “listening” to repeat the last sentence of something you just said or read to them. When we talk about learning we are talking about changing the brain and to change the brain we need to put in specific appropriate input with sufficient frequency, intensity and duration. Of the three components, intensity is the most important. Intensity means focus and focus means that I have your undivided attention. We need to help teach children to focus and give undivided attention, otherwise parents and teachers are largely talking to themselves.

If we want to be proactive and improve focus and attention, we need to do a better job of targeting the input to fit the child. Teaching algebra to a child who still is struggling with basic math isn’t going to work. Speaking in paragraphs to a child who has difficulty following a two- or three-step direction doesn’t work. Making many children sit in a chair and attend for more than ten minutes without letting them get up and move around a bit generally doesn’t work either. We need to pay attention to the individual and teach to their knowledge level so they have some context within which to associate the information. We need to be aware of the child’s processing ability (short –term and working memory) and target the structure of the input to fit them. We need to provide educational environments as free of extraneous distractions as possible—not contribute to them—and we need to focus upon the neurodevelopmental foundation and help build the child’s ability to learn, communicate and function.

Many children across the county are learning not to attend, not be present and sadly are learning that learning itself isn’t fun, isn’t exciting and that it doesn’t work for them.

Ban Fidget Spinners!

—Bob

Plan C

NACD Bob Doman Blog Plan CI’m in LA, flew in this morning and spent the afternoon working with a couple of great families.

I had a quiet dinner and read my book in the hotel restaurant. When I left, I saw the hotel manager and we passed pleasantries. I’ve been coming here for many years, and Arthur and I have kind of grown “older” together. He asked how I was and I commented “okay,” but he had observed my slower than normal pace. I acknowledged that my back was giving me fits. He said that getting older was better than option A (not getting older). I suggested that I wasn’t happy with Option A or B (accepting the inevitable) and was going to pursue Plan C.

What is Plan C? Plan C is investigating, working and fixing my back so I can actively pursue life. For so many of our children and us, the perception is that our choices are limited; accept the diagnosis and prognosis, follow the typical path, and accept the inevitable. I don’t think so!

The medical model—make a diagnosis, based on the diagnosis make a prognosis, and then apply accepted procedures—doesn’t work for me. For children with developmental problems, that means accepting labels, creating expectations based on the label and on how the “professionals” have failed those with the same labels, and then making accommodations and accepting limited potential. Hooray for all of you “average” people who choose to be exceptional. Hooray for all you parents who have children with educational or developmental problems who choose to believe your children have unlimited potential.

Let’s hear it for Plan C!

—Bob

One Man’s Bat is Another Man’s Tornado

This may look like a bat to you, but to me it looks like a tornado.

If I’m in town, Sundays are family dinner days at Granddad’s. My sons, their wives and the grandkids come to my house, I cook and we spend quality time together. I also get to hear critiques on the food. I never follow a recipe, so every time I fix something its different. What’s the fun or challenge in doing something the same way over and over again? It could always be better—right? Part of our tradition is after dinner, during the times when we don’t have snow or when it’s too cold, everyone with the exception of the chef cleans up the dishes and packs up the leftovers to take home. Then we go up to my little pond (my favorite place on the planet) and feed the fish, listen to the birds, shoot pebbles with sling shots at the wind chimes, look for cool rocks, enjoy each other and commune with nature. We also watch the bats as they swoop down to attack the insects flying around the pond.

This past Sunday, the dogs and I were the first ones to the pond—everyone else, including my six-year-old grandson Brendan, were still working on the dishes. As I stepped off the deck, I discovered this tiny little bat that had probably hit a window, lying there stunned. I called everyone up and we gathered around to watch the little two-inch long bat recover. It only took a couple of minutes before Brendan and big brother, sixteen-year-old Ethan, figuring out a name for the little bat. They settled on “Count Batula.” As we all watched this incredible creature start moving around, trying not to disturb it too much (except for the occasional squeal from the kids when the bat scurried toward one of them), we also dealt with the obvious discussion that developed around whether or not they should take the bat to the Nature Center or take it home and keep it as a pet. The boy’s mom, my daughter-in-law Mandy, was ready to go find a box. My son Alex was strongly suggesting that we let nature take its course and leave the little rodent alone.

Long story short, everyone watched the bat’s recovery—even discovering that Count Batula would eat fish food—who would have thought? Everyone exchanged their, as we discovered, rather limited knowledge of bats. I elected to leave out my vampire bat information to avoid any possible six-year-old’s nightmares.

From the get go, I didn’t see a bat—I saw a great opportunity. An opportunity to create an interest, an interest that was starting off with some great intensity, intensity that had the potential to grow and spread and perhaps even spawn a blue sky, rainbow tornado. Way cool!

Watch for potential opportunities and help get the winds get a blowin’.

—Bob

P.S. We let the little bat go about its little bat life without interference.

And, now for the rest of the story…

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Tornadoes: Thoughts on the Brain and Child-Centered Learning

Note From Aliya

Today I’m in London—actually in Eton—next door to the magnificent and spectacular Windsor Castle. Eton is the home of the very historic and very famous Eton College, which is a vibrant, progressive, and exceptional school even today. My very wonderful and gracious hosts here gave me a tour of the school yesterday, and it was truly an amazing, profound, and rather humbling experience. Eton was established in 1440 by King Henry the VI, a teenager, and today’s students are not only learning in the same classrooms, but sitting on the very same benches as the first students who were here in 1440! I actually saw Shelley’s name carved into a wall, along with the names of centuries of past students. How cool it is that the students can carve their names into the buildings to mark their passage throughout history! An incredible school and an amazing historic and beautiful town.

Today was a day full of new families and new children. As always, it’s wonderful meeting new kids and starting them along a road to hopefully a bright future. As I meet with new families, they all to some degree feel like they are stepping off a cliff, and they hope they are going to float up on a cloud into new and wonderful futures with their children and are not falling into a great black hole—scary! For the parents of our NACD kids, the journey is often difficult, and working day in and day out they are often trusting that their efforts are going to pay off and their children will progress. But the day to day task of doing program with children who would often rather not is difficult, and the faith can wear a little thin at times.

As I was finishing up my evaluations for the day and was taking a moment to reflect on the day’s new batch of parents and children, I received an email from one of our moms with an attached note that her daughter, Aliya, had written last night and taped to her mom’s bathroom mirror.

As her mom said, “If you had told me a few years ago that I would have received a note like this, I would never have believed it! To initiate this on her own is amazing! School days are so pleasant around here now! Just so thrilled!” At the end she asked if I had noticed all the exclamation points. I not only noticed them, I felt every one of them!

Aliya’s mom gave me permission to share her note. I trust it will bring some of you hope and bring a smile to your faces and perhaps even a little tear to your eye as it did mine.

– Bob

Hi there,

This is the note I found taped to my bathroom mirror last night. Aliya is thanking me for chores and is thankful for this family!! Yesterday she told me, “You know the day goes much better when I obey.” Feeling blessed today!!

Thanks to your work and support—I’m receiving these nuggets!

etonUK

Amy

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Yesterday I saw Amy, a bright and delightful six-year-old girl. While I was speaking to her mom, Amy walked over eating from a bag of Cheetos. I looked at Mom and softly said, “You know those aren’t good for her, right?” (I thought that Amy had been ignoring us, but I was wrong.)

Amy’s mouth drops open and wide-eyed she looks at her mom and says incredulously:

“Soooooo—why do you give these to me?”

Soooooo parents, why do you give such things to your kids?

Our children trust us. They trust us to take care of them and taking care of them includes making good choices and at times, hard choices. One of those choices is providing them with and teaching them about good nutrition. Amy’s assumption was that her mother wouldn’t give her anything harmful. Amy’s mom, a really super mom, certainly represents the majority of parents. Parents that often find it easier to give children what’s easy and convenient, what they like and to be truthful we like making our kids happy—but at what price?

Parenting isn’t easy.