Tag Archives: parenting

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

Mark Turner – Breaking New Ground & Making New Records

Mark Turner, trick skiing at the 2015 World Disabled Water Ski Championships, Sacramento, California

Mark Turner, trick skiing at the 2015 World Disabled Water Ski
Championships, Sacramento, California

One of the great rewards of my work is hearing updates from families I’ve seen in the past. Now that I have been working with kids for fifty years, some of these kids are actually getting fairly old themselves. I recently heard from one of the families I worked with in the 80’s and surprisingly, also heard from two other families that I hadn’t seen in decades on that same day. It was a very nice day!

When Mark Turner’s mother wrote to me to let me know about the terrific things Mark was doing and to thank me for the help we had given her when he was a young boy, I was surprised, as I was immediately able to picture Mark, his Mom and to recall specific events from his evaluations. At NACD we all refer to the kids as “Our Kids”—not patients, clients, labels or diagnoses. The families of “Our Kids” are “Our Families”. I don’t know to what degree most of the families perceive others on our team or me as part of their families except for obvious exceptions, like those who refer to me as “Uncle Bob”, but we do feel like part of theirs and feel honored to be able to help them and participate in their children’s development.

Mark is doing great and breaking new ground for those with disabilities, but I will let his mother tell a bit of his story. Needless to say, I am very proud of Mark and his Mom and really appreciate their taking the time and reaching out to me. I hope they can be an inspiration for others, they have been for me.

—Bob Doman

The following is a testimonial provided by Chyril Turner and is reposted from The National Association for Child Development – Testimonials – Mark Turner:

It is natural for parents to feel concerned about how to help their children live fulfilling lives. Parents of children with special needs have additional concerns. My son, Mark Turner, was nine days old when he became paralyzed due to complications related to a congenital heart defect. He is now 39 years of age and enjoys a very rewarding life. We attribute a good deal of his success to the program developed by Bob Doman and the National [Association] for Child Development. I am so grateful for all the recovery Mark has experienced on this program and have the peace of mind that comes from seeing him achieve his dreams. Mark’s story is shared in the hope of inspiring others to believe in themselves, do the rigorous work that it sometimes takes to meet life’s challenges and to follow their own dreams.

Mark’s paralysis occurred in the lower portion of his body. He was originally placed on a traditional physical therapy program that utilized the best practices traditional medicine had to offer at that time. He made good progress and yet, when he was two years old, I was shocked to learn that the next phase of his program would be occupational therapy. The new goal would be to teach him to cope with his special needs. The widespread belief at that time was that significant neurological return was not likely to occur after two years from the time the paralysis began. Giving up hope for recovery was unacceptable, leading me to search for a program that would further the neurological development that he was still experiencing. Eventually we connected with NACD.

Bob Doman and his team, taught Mark’s brain about the part of his body that did not adequately receive neurological signals. Mark participated in the NACD program for about twelve years and made significant progress. One of my favorite examples occurred when he was about four years old. He was sitting in the seat of a grocery cart facing me and talking excitedly about something. All the sudden, he started moving one of his legs from side to side. Wow! He had moved this same leg from front to back, but never side to side! It still touches my heart to recall this precious moment.

While on the NACD program Mark developed a great deal of confidence in his physical abilities, and his self-esteem was significantly enhanced. He came to believe he could do anything he wanted to do in life and Bob was one of the biggest supporters of Mark’s ever growing confidence.

When Mark was 13 years old, he began participating in disability waterskiing. He loved it and his desire to improve his skills also became a strong teacher of his brain. Every time he would set a goal to reach his next challenge in slalom, trick and jump skiing, his brain had to figure out how to use his body in a new and very specific way related to each type of skiing.

Mark eventually became a national champion and was a member of the United States Disabled Water Ski Team competing in five world events. This provided the opportunity to travel throughout many countries, including England and two world events in Australia. He received the title of World Champion in slalom skiing, and has held two world records in this event. He has also held the title of Best All Around (slalom, trick and jump) for his division.

Mark is now making world history in a new way. A few years ago, he was doing exhibition skiing at tournaments for skiers who do not have physical disabilities. Exhibition skiing is a very important way to get the word out about disability skiing. While he was watching the other skiers, Mark realized he had a good chance of competing and placing. He has become the first skier in the world with a disability to win medals in his age category at tournaments for skiers with regular needs. Currently, he has placed in the top tier at the state and regional levels and has skied in the national championships.

In addition to his focus on tournament skiing, Mark works full-time for a major international travel company. He also serves as a volunteer at clinics, where he teaches people who have paralysis, amputations or visual impairments to learn to ski. He provides individual coaching as well for established skiers with or without special physical needs. Mark is also one of the co-creators of a contemporary documentary film about the history and empowerment of disability water skiing, H2O Effect: Disability Water Skiing From Beginning to World Championships! Here is a link to this 33 min. film:

Much of Mark’s incredible drive and self-confidence can be directly attributed to the tenacity he developed while participating in the rigorous NACD program. He and I would like to thank the team at NACD for all they have done, and to thank everyone who has supported this extraordinary organization in any way. To all the parents of children in programs at NACD, may you experience the kind of peace of mind and joy that we have found with NACD guiding the way.

Sincerely,
Chyril Turner

What is Natural? I Thought I Knew and Still Think I Know

“Breast Feeding is Unnatural.”

That was the headline I saw the other day when perusing the news. My first reaction was, “WHAT? What is this country coming to?” An article/study in Pediatrics entitled, “Unintended Consequences of Invoking the ‘Natural’ in Breastfeeding Promotion,” written by Jessica Martucci and Anne Barnhill, essentially claims that “referencing the ‘natural’ in breastfeeding promotion—may inadvertently endorse a set of values about family life and gender roles which would be ethically inappropriate.” I’m sorry, but “natural” actually does fit my set of values. How extreme can the obsession with sexuality and gender get?

When I saw this headline, it immediately took me back to UCLA in the early ‘80s. I was doing an early morning news show that was being filmed at UCLA’s Child Development Center. The station brought me to UCLA so I could provide an opinion about UCLA’s daycare perspectives. We did the interview in a huge room that was full of babies, toddlers and lots of noise. The children were on mats and in various cribs and there were students interacting with some of the children, while others slept, cried or expressed varying degrees of displeasure. As we began the interview, the head of the department made a statement that literally left me in a state of shock. She said that young children being home with their mother was UNNATURAL!

To gain a bit of historic perspective, common use of daycares and preschools is really a relatively new phenomenon. Daycares actually date back to the late 1800s as facilities for working mothers. But even back in the ‘50s it was rare for a child to go to daycare. There weren’t yet preschools and the majority of children didn’t start school until they were five or six. To further put things in perspective, back in the ‘50s when we were having air-raid drills in school and were hearing “better dead than red,” we were traumatized hearing stories about Russia, where little children were put in schools as early as two or three years of age—horrifying!

Back at the time of my interview at UCLA, formal daycare was still rather rare. Working moms generally relied on family members or informal situations where stay-at-home moms would take care of another child or two.

In 1964 President Lyndon Johnson created Head Start, a program that was initiated as part of his “War on Poverty” to help meet the needs of preschool aged children from low-income families. Head Start was and is a good thing. Providing early educational opportunities for children from disadvantaged homes is a good thing. Children from disadvantaged families absolutely do better with early childhood educational opportunities.

Today, however, educational propaganda has created the distorted perspective that all children are better off in daycare and preschool and that they are, in fact, being deprived of opportunities if they do not attend. Economic reality is such that many mothers need to work when their children are under five. There are mothers who choose to have careers and need nannies, daycare and preschools, which is fine. Certainly, the better the daycares and the preschools, the more opportunities those children have. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. An involved dedicated mother, who after all knows her child better than anyone else on the planet and who can provide her child with individual attention throughout the day, is not only doing something that is quite “natural,” but is probably optimizing her child’s first critical years of development. An informed, dedicated parent given the right tools, can do absolute wonders—quite naturally.

—Bob Doman

 

 

He Has Down Syndrome B’Gosh

I saw this great story about cute little Asher and his wonderful mother Meagan Nash. Our children with Down syndrome and other developmental issues have a place in our world, can develop beyond most peoples’ expectations and can make contributions. For most of these individuals, it’s not the government, the institutions or even society as a whole that really makes the difference. It’s mothers—mothers who assume the primary responsibility for their children, who work with their children, help them develop their potentials and who realize they need to be not only their child’s cheerleader, but their advocate. Proactive mothers and fathers make the difference—for all children.

A New Beginning – Arielle Doman

NACD Blog Bob DomanMy son Laird and his lovely wife Sadie have gone and done it, they have brought a baby girl into my family at last. I have two great sons and three grandsons, but have really wanted a granddaughter. Granddad was ready for a girl. My first granddaughter (wow!) Arielle is a beautiful little girl, just 4lbs 11oz. at birth, strong and healthy and after her first week doing spectacularly well.

In the case of our little Arielle, the first thing I do when I see her is smile—actually it’s probably more of a big grin. She is just such a wonderful miracle, and I am so happy to have her with us and thrilled for my son and his wife. After I do the silly grin thing with her, I do what I do with all babies.

When I look at babies, and my little granddaughter is no exception, I have to bite my tongue to not say “what?” out loud. In reality I generally lose the battle and just say it—“what?” Then look around to see the expressions on people’s faces as they wonder what I’m doing asking questions of a tiny baby, “what is going on in that new little brain?”

Yesterday, as I watched Ari stare at my face and start tracking me as I moved from side to side I couldn’t help but wonder what she was processing. You don’t pay attention to something unless you are actually processing something. Is her brain perhaps already putting together the first pieces that are going to build into a uniquely special Arielle composite that is going to be Granddad? I think so. Then I ask myself the question, “what can we help you become?”

I believe she was born with a lot of things, her genetics are going to have a great influence on how tall she will be, what color hair she will have, how much she favors my son or his wife, and to some extent her personality is probably a bit hardwired. Certainly there are some unique innate intelligence and intelligences that are hardwired as well. But, I don’t believe these things have a lot to do with Ari’s or any other child’s potential to have a happy, wonderful life or to be smart, educated and free to pursue her passions. How close she comes to realizing the dream of a wonderful life is going to be primarily a reflection of her opportunities, not her genetics. My son and his wife realize this and were ready to assume this tremendous responsibility before they made the conscious decision to bring her into this world. They are going to be fantastic parents and I will be delighted to take this journey with them, as will the rest of her family. Children bring to families a lot of responsibility, tremendous love, hope, joy, and a bump or two (or a hundred) to keep it interesting.

I don’t wish to be prejudiced, but I have got the darn cutest little granddaughter on the planet and its really going to be tough to not spoil her really bad, but then again you can’t really give a granddaughter too much love—right?

As I ponder Arielle’s future and what she is going to bring to our lives and we to hers I can’t help but be a bit sad thinking about all of those children who have virtually no opportunities, let alone wonderful opportunities. We need to acknowledge this imperative and figure out ways to make some changes.

A special thanks to little Ari from Granddad—I really appreciate your being aware of my travel schedule and coming early so I could be there to help welcome you into the world.

And, now for the rest of the story…

new_beginning