On Monday, Buddha started going back to school. It was a little scary, but also exciting. This year he will be starting off with an IEP (Individualized Education Plan), which is basically a set of goals for your child that can be academic, social, medical or emotional. While the goals are very important, one of the handiest parts of an IEP is the PLOP (present levels of performance). In this section, a teacher, therapist, social worker, one-on-one or school psychologist adds information about your child with as much detail as possible.
While the IEP does a great job describing your child in school, a teacher will still have some questions about your child when the school year starts. (or at least I did when I was teaching in a school)
Some questions your teacher might have:
- What works best at home? Any systems or tools you use?
- What type of language do they respond best to? Any specific tone that works best?
- What types of environment do they work well in? When it’s quite? When there is music in the background?
- What are they really interested in?
- Do they do any point systems at home?
- Are they very sensitive to touch, sound or light?
- Are there any students that they work really well with? Are there students they don’t work well with?
So when starting off your year feel free to share the answer to some of these questions with your child’s teacher. It can never hurt giving information to a teacher. What you might think is the littlest thing at home can make a huge difference in the classroom.
As I introduce more positive behavior tools I want to stress the importance of a TIMER. Next to laminating and using the word “flexible”, a timer is something I use all the time. And I don’t think I can stress the word all enough. I use a timer with Buddha when he needs to complete tasks like homework, reading, doing dishes or even when he needs to shower. I find timers are effective for four main reasons:
- It keeps your child on task– When a child is given a task with no time frame they usually slack off or forget about it. Having a timer keeps them going because they want to finish the task before they hear that beep.
- It requires less nagging and reminding– Instead of constantly reminding your kids to finish a task you want them to do, all you have to say is “You have 2 minutes left”
- It helps with independence– The main goal for my students is independence. I want them to be able to complete tasks on their own from homework to brushing their teeth. Once you use a timer enough, you can ask your children to use it on their own. You’ll be surprised at how much they can get done!
- It’s fun- Turn using a timer into a game. Ask your kids how much time they think they need to finish a task and respond by saying “Yeah? I bet you can do it in just __ minutes”.
How to use it:
- Introduce the timer. Explain how it will work and even model it if need be. Make it clear that different tasks will have different times.
- Use the timer as much as you can.
- Go over the time frame before beginning the activity. For example, say: “You can play outside for 10 minutes. I’m going to set the time and once it goes off you have to come in”.
- Give reminders. Make sure to remind your kids when the timer is getting low. You don’t want to add extra stress, but it is very helpful when a child knows how much time they have left. Especially if your child has a hard time with transitions (i.e. getting out of the pool, switching from iPad to reading). A simple “Hey, there is 1 minutes left” will make all the difference.
- Give positive praise! When they complete a task before the timer goes off celebrate it. It’s hard to do, so give them the praise they deserve.
- As always, be consistent. Use the timer as much as possible and remember, once the timer goes off, that’s the end. Try not to add more time.
Here is a video of me using a timer with Buddha. I tell him the set time before he begins playing and I use reminders as the timer gets closer to the end. This task would have been near impossible 6 months ago. The transition from a fun activity to work was very difficult for Buddha, but using a timer made things so much easier.
Below are two links to timers that work great with kids. The first is a basic timer, while the second is more visual.
Note- Your phone or watch can be just as effective, but it’s better to use a visual clock with your child first before moving onto a timer that only you can see.