Thursday, September 24, 2009

Using Behavior Charts

Raising a child with special needs like an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Asperger’s, or Attention Deficit (ADHD or ADD) is a challenge, and too often parents don’t notice all the progress they’re making. Instead the situation seems overwhelming and hopeless, and it’s as if things will never get easier for your family. The reality is that these kids do make progress. But, progress may come slowly, or in a “two steps forward one step
back” pattern that may obscure all the growth.  That’s where behavior
charts can be so helpful.
Behavior charts can be a great tool for keeping track of how your child is doing. They can provide feedback to teachers, doctors or therapists, and most importantly, they’ll tell you, the parents, how things are going. Free behavior charts can be found all over the internet and you can download a basic, easy monthly behavior chart on my website as well. Just find something to suit your needs, one that won’t be too much effort to fill out, but will provide you with the information you need.
If your child is on medication, charting behavior is crucial. Psychiatrists and pediatricians are terribly overloaded and appointments can be brief and infrequent. Track your child’s behavior, sleep, and school results, and make note of any special circumstances. Did your child start a new medication, forget a dose, have a substitute at school? Write that down. Bring the chart to the doctor’s office so they can see exactly what’s going on. Prescribing medication is very difficult and you want your doctor to have all the information possible.
Sometimes it can be very helpful for your child to have a visual measure of his or her own progress. If the chart is being used as a motivator or to track rewards, it’s best to find something bright and colorful. There are many attractive charts online designed specifically for different ages. Teenagers are not too old to benefit from a behavior chart! They provide a visual, concrete image that can be much more meaningful than a generalized comment. Just avoid childish graphics, and consider displaying it in a more private location.
After the chart is filled out, please don’t throw it out! File it away in a drawer and look back at it once in a while. Years from now you may be amazed to see what issues you were dealing with and how far your child has come. (For a few examples of successful individuals with diagnoses of autism, Asperger's or ADHD, check out these earlier blogs. Ari Ne’eman is an autism advocate. John Elder Robison, Blake E. S. Taylor, and Zosia Zaks are all successful authors with various diagnoses. Read the comments from jypsy on her son and his running blog, as well as links to her You Tube videos.)

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