Parenting or teaching grade school kids with attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is exhausting because it requires patience, persistence, and perseverance. One proven strategy to help these children with special education needs is the use of behavior charts and behavior contracts.
What Are Behavior Contracts And Charts?
Behavior contracts are written agreements explaining the rules, behavior expectations and related consequences of not following the rules. Behavior charts provide the parent and educators as well as the child with an easy method of monitoring and measuring the progress of improving behavior in identified areas. When working with children with ADD/ADHD, these charts and contracts usually pertain to modifying classroom or homeschool behaviors and improving homework performance and completion.
Why Behavior Charts/Contracts Work For ADHD Children
There are several reasons why this group of special children responses so well to the use of charts and contracts. The major reasons are:
- Audiovisual instruction generates better response, comprehension and retention in grade school kids with ADHD. Verbal commands, which are difficult for these kids to decode and comprehend, are limited.
- Behavior charts and contracts allow children with ADHD/ADD to own the responsibility for their behavior choices while it teaches them accountability.
- Children with ADHD respond positively to the use of structured, consistent instruction and discipline. Dependable routines lower their anxiety and stress, which allows them to focus better.
- Behavior contracts and behavior charts help them stay on task and understand what is expected.
- They are empowered and become more self-confident and have a higher self-esteem when the spotlight is on their behaviors rather than them.
Make Behavior Charts/Contracts
Use these seven time-tested steps to develop effective behavior contracts and charts to help kids with ADHD or ADD improve their school performance and become more successful.
- Everyone affected by the behaviors must be participate in the development process – especially the kids. If the children own a part of the process, they will support it because they helped to create it. Everyone should sign the contract or behavior chart and be responsible for its implementation. Written rather than verbal contracts are a must for grade school kids with ADHD.
- Read behavior charts and contracts line by line – out loud – and discuss expected behaviors as well as rewards for compliance and consequences for non-compliance. The child should explain the plan to parents or teachers to demonstrate that he or she understands it. Role playing situations where the behavior contract is followed can be helpful in reinforcing concepts to kids with ADHD. Reverse the role play to cover situations where the behavior contract is not followed to make sure the children understand the consequences for inappropriate behaviors.
- Note: If you are working with an autistic child who also has attention deficit disorder, it’s important to determine if they also have echolalia. Children with echolalia can recite back information word for word but may not comprehend what the words or information really means. Use lots of pictures when creating behavior charts and contracts for kids with echolalia to ensure a clearer communication than the spoken word.
- Focus on changing only one behavior at a time to avoid frustrating or overwhelming the child. Short, simple commands, spaced repetition, audio-visual support, and patience and praise are highly effective tools for working with kids with ADHD.
- Post behavior charts and contracts in highly visible spots (at the child’s eye level) and review them as needed to reinforce them. Daily reviews may be necessary at the beginning of the contract to help them adjust to program and focus on changing their behavior.
- Be consistent and enforce consequences when the contract is broken. Let the child know that he or she can trust you to honor the contract. Likewise, let them know that you expect them to abide by the contract as well.
- Reward small successes to encourage the kids to keep trying. Rewards and incentives can be intangible rather than tangible. Most grade school kids with ADHD will work harder for a certificate, ribbon or recognition than they will for a food treat because they crave the one-on-one attention.
Where’s The Magic Wand?
Will your child be transformed overnight into a model of perfect behavior if you follow all these steps and advice? Sadly, there are no magic wands to wave but helpful tools like behavior charts and contracts can help educators and parents to modify inappropriate behaviors and habits into appropriate classroom and home behaviors.
Learning these skills early means these kids will perform better in school and be well prepared when they graduate from high school and transition to college to handle the additional volume of class and homework. Behavior charts and contracts give parents and educators a low-stress way to help kids with ADHD modify their behaviors.
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