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Small Child, Big Fears (and more from childmind.org)

September 4, 2012 Leave a comment

THIS WEEK ON CHILDMIND.ORG
September 4, 2012

If you’ve lived with, and loved, a very anxious child you’ll recognize the kind of moments Michaela Searfoorce writes about this week: Watching her son James stand, stranded, on the beach while all the other (younger) kids are splashing joyfully in the waves. Girding for a meltdown when a balloon man materializes at a favorite restaurant. Prepping the Oscar-caliber performance it takes to coax him into the pediatrician’s office. Michaela writes about living for 12 years with James’s severe phobias—in some ways more challenging, she notes, than a myriad of cognitive and physical deficits and medical issues.

For an otherwise adventurous family, it means a mental list of things you don’t do and places you don’t visit to avoid causing James misery. But it also means an evolving set of strategies to help him overcome his fears. Michaela shares her tactics (some she’s proud of, some she’s not) on childmind.org. And she shares the great pleasure she takes in each of the things James no longer fears, something all of us who’ve been there can enjoy too.

With most high schools opening their doors this week, learning specialist Ruth Lee, the Child Mind Institute’s Director of Clinical Outreach, offers a checklist for students to get organized and off to a good start in managing their homework and assignments. Not surprisingly, she advocates use of a planner. But what did surprise me is that she suggests that kids block out time in their planners for things they like to do, as well as things they have to do. The reason? Because kids who find homework arduous often feel that it will take forever, using up all the time they have for things that are fun. By marking out blocks next to each other, kids can remind themselves that working efficiently, rather than avoiding the work, will leave guilt-free time to do whatever they enjoy.

—Caroline Miller, Editorial Director

Do Video Games Cause ADHD? (Caroline Miller)

Among his many diagnoses, one of James’s more significant challenges is his attention, or more accurately, lack thereof. Even with medication James regularly needs to be told more than 5 times to do things like put his shoes on, go to the bathroom, turn his light off or come to the table for dinner. Sometimes it even takes squeezing his shoulder or putting my face 6 inches from his. Not to say that he won’t do these things or is being disobedient – he actually doesn’t acknowledge hearing the requests until our voices are raised (sometimes more than others) and then acts confused as to why we are “yelling.”

Now, if I whisper “Has James played any video games today?” to my husband in the dining room you can bet that James will come flying out of his room to answer – the very first time. James is not only attentive to all things electronic, especially video games, he is actually quite competent. I feel confident that James could wipe the floor with me at almost every Wii game we own, and am equally certain that I would have a much, much easier time with him day-to-day if I just let James sit in front of a screen as often as he liked. But, like so many decisions in our family, the easier road is often the one overgrown with weeds. James has to earn every limited moment of plug-in time that he gets, and unplugging after 15 or 30 minutes isn’t always a walk in the park either.

So when I saw Caroline Miller’s article (below) about video games and ADHD I felt compelled to read it. And after reading it I felt compelled to share it with you.

 

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Do Video Games Cause ADHD?

Why kids with attention problems are so focused—even fixated—on the screen

Caroline Miller

Editorial Director
CHILD MIND INSTITUTE

It has the makings of a paradox: Take a first grader who can’t stay in his chair at school, who wears out his caregivers by being in constant motion, who jumps restlessly from one activity to another, who can’t seem to focus on parental directions or finish ordinary tasks like tying his shoes or putting away his toys. In short, you have a child who exhibits all the behaviors that point to ADHD—except that this child can sit in front of a video screen, transfixed, for hours. And when you tell him to turn off the game or the TV and come to dinner, you’d better be prepared for pushback.

Seeing this combination of behaviors prompts parents to wonder several things: Does playing video games, and imbibing digital media in general, actually cause ADHD? If video immersion doesn’t cause ADHD, does it exacerbate it? Or does the intent focus this child brings to video games suggest that he doesn’t have ADHD after all?

You can read the rest of the article by clicking here.

 

New on childmind.org: Customizing games for your kids, spanking and mental illness, coming of age on medication

THIS WEEK ON CHILDMIND.ORG
July 3, 2012
I’m pleased to tell you about a rather delightful piece on childmind.org (just in time for summer vacation) about games—how to make them work for children of different ages and abilities. It’s delightful because the writer, Michaela Searfoorce, brings such insight and humor to the role of being a mother of three kids. A passionate game-player, Michaela has customized five popular games for her brood, which includes, as she puts it, “a special needs pre-teen, a competitive 3-year-old and a copycat 20-month-old. What’s the secret? We make up our own rules.”What makes her reinvented games irresistible is her acuity in creating fun and engaging experiences for kids. My particular favorite is what she calls “Trivial Pursuit – Dinnertime Edition,” in which she writes questions on cards for each child and deploys them to energize dragging dinner table talk. “This little game has saved many a dinner alone with the kids while Ryan works late and I am out of ideas. The cards make it an ‘official game’ so they will answer anything I ask—pretty genius, right?”——

If you haven’t read her blog, thefoorce.com, I recommend that you check it out. I’m hooked on her weekly installments of conversations with James, her 11-year-old son with multiple disabilities. James is unpredictable, imaginative, perceptive, and occasionally infuriating. In one recent post from the Long Island Rail Road, his little sister points out a train yard and asks him what it is.  “It’s kind of like a nursing home for trains,” says James. “When trains stop working or when they get old they go to train yards.” Here’s another one in which Michaela captures the humor in James’s bad mood on a very rocky morning—something we all need to do on those kind of days.

 —Caroline Miller, Editorial Director