Monday, April 9, 2012

Strategies for Helping Your 2E Child to Focus
When working with twice exceptional (2e) children, teachers and parents discover many ways in which to adapt activities or instructions so that the children can be set up to succeed.  A few of the ways that I have observed over the past few years are:

  • Placing colored cloth “shades” over fluorescent lighting.  This softens the lighting and soothes many children.
  • Playing music in the classroom or during study time at home.  Sometimes what adults might consider a distraction actually helps these children to concentrate.
  • Providing movement breaks is beneficial to concentration.  Letting children get up and move around periodically helps them to focus.
  • Offering positive affective messages during lessons or study time provides encouragement that the child is trying.  These messages should be very specific, not “You’re doing a great job” but “I really like the way you are forming your letters.”
  • Allowing the use of “fidgets” helps many children to pay attention.  By physically manipulating something (squishy ball, koosh ball, small toy, small stuffed creature, etc.), the child’s mind can concentrate on a task more easily.
  • Allowing some children to type papers or to dictate them rather than hand write can produce astounding results.  Sometimes a child is considered to be a non-writer or a parent may have great difficulty getting a child to begin writing a paper.  Allowing the child to type it or dictate it may solve this problem.
  • Alternating instruction from quiet desk work to physical activity to small group work to whole class instruction, with very little whole class instruction, can really benefit some 2e children.  Similarly, at home, alternating the types of tasks you ask your child to do can really create a more cooperative child: sit still and read for 20 minutes then take out the trash then help to cook dinner then sit still at the table may make each of those tasks more palatable for the 2e child.
  • Creating “games” for lessons can help many 2e children.  Observing a class that was having difficulty writing with details, a teacher asked the class to stop writing and to draw simple monsters.  They giggled and laughed and drew their monsters.  She then asked them to write instructions for someone else to draw them.  They learned that details are important. In another class, students were learning about circles. They were loud and not paying attention to the lesson.  Rather than get frustrated, the teacher said that they were going to drop the lesson for the day.  Instead, they were going to make stained glass windows to hang up in the classroom window.  She had them draw large circles and then plot points, label, and color with markers.  They ended up with stained glass windows and had a lot of fun learning about radius, diameter, and chords. 
  • Providing countdowns to transitions is key to cooperation with 2e kids: “5 minutes,” “3 minutes,” “1 minute,” ringing of bells to transition to the next activity all help the child to make those transitions.  One parent tells her children that when they need to leave a playground or beach or pool or someplace else where they are having a lot of fun and do not want to leave that they do need to leave but she will make time for “favorite thing time” at which point they are allowed to do their favorite thing one more time before leaving.  They know that after “favorite thing time” it is time to leave.
  • Asking children to gauge their understanding by showing thumbs up, thumbs middle, or thumbs down sometimes helps children to express their level of approval in a non-verbal way.  One family uses this technique with meals, television choices, movie previews, and other family decisions.
  • Allowing children to listen to audio books as they follow along with the reading sometimes helps 2e children to focus on the story and improves their reading proficiency.
  • Introducing some 2e children to yoga can help them to release extra energy and to focus.
  • Proving aerobic balls for 2e children to sit on while reading, writing, eating, watching television, or doing just about any activity can provide stimulation and movement which frees them to concentrate better.
  • Allowing children to chew gum in class at school and while doing homework can help them to focus.
  • Accepting work in written or verbal form can be helpful to 2e children.  This assumes that a parent or teacher is okay with the fact that knowledge is key, not format.
  • Announcing dance breaks periodically can relieve stress and wake up the mind and body.  One teacher frequently senses the need for movement and will call out “dance break,” put on music, and allow the class to dance for 3 minutes.  She dances along and everyone laughs and has a good time.  When dance time is over, everyone gets back to work.
  • Giving instructions both verbally and in writing can help some 2e children.  Children pay attention in different ways and if you find yourself saying, “I asked you five times to do that” perhaps you would have better luck writing down your requests either on a white board, a chalk board, note pads, or some other means available to you.  One parent writes on sticky notes which she attaches to doors, mirrors, toilet seats, backpacks, etc.  The child sees the notes and is reminded of what it is that he is supposed to do without her repeating herself.

All of these ways (and more) are examples of things you can do to help your child to be more focused. Please share your own ideas for helping your child to focus on the task at hand.