Therapy in LA
Therapy in L.A.


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June 2000
By Dorothea McArthur, Ph.D.

In a continuing education workshop on The Social Side of Learning Disabilities, Mel Levine revealed a list of actions that are counterproductive when a child with Learning Difficulties and/or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder does something inappropriate:

  1. Yelling because children with LD and ADHD are sensitive to noise and all they hear is the yelling
  2. Cheap shots
  3. Time out as a punishment
  4. Extra chores
  5. Corporeal punishment
  6. Taking possessions away
  7. Taking away something the kid is really looking forward to that is unrelated to the misbehavior
Instead Mel Levine suggests that we can:
  1. Use positive reinforcement because it changes behavior while negative reinforcement only stops behavior.
  2. Give immediate and definite feedback about related consequences for misbehavior.
  3. Provide structure.
  4. Be pro active instead of reactive: anticipate and head off problems before they happen.
  5. Reward for successive approximation; that is getting closer and closer to the desired behavior.
  6. Use broken record approach instead of getting into an argument. Use descriptive praise.
  7. Begin and end a confrontation with a positive remark about behavior. Put the needed changes in the middle.
  8. Plan when and where to do confrontation. Never let it be in front of a friend.
Finally, Levine acknowledged that kids who are doing well academically and socially collect thousands of poker chips (symbol of self-esteem) as they go through each day. LD kids often have far fewer. They tend to not take risks because they might then lose the few that they have. They are easily taken away by people who do not understand. It is our job as parents and teachers to make sure that we give as many poker chips as we can. We need to make sure that our children with LD and ADHD go to bed with more poker chips than they woke up with that morning. We can give them nonverbally and verbally, and by helping them in the many ways that are needed to make them feel loved and supported.

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