By: Joyce Cooper-Kahn and Laurie Dietzel (2008)
Impulsive physical responses to frustration must be differentiated from dangerous physical aggression. The latter is quite problematic — whether at home or in a classroom — and will require targeted intervention beyond the scope of this article.
But physical impulsiveness — such as grabbing things, pushing and shoving others, hitting, etc. — can also cause problems for a child with executive functioning difficulties. Here are some strategies to help a child manage physical impulsiveness.
This positive directive ("Hold onto your pockets!") engaged the children in a behavior that counteracted the pushing and shoving that so often occurred when the children moved to a different location.
Seated across from her at a table, the students' little hands darted out to reach for the novel, interesting materials as she took them out of her bag. She devised a simple, very effective approach to helping the children manage their impulsiveness.
Before taking out her materials, she directed the children to hold on to the edge of the table, rewarding them with a sticker on every hand that was holding on.
One way to teach alternatives to impulsive physical behaviors is by stopping the action and doing a retake.
"Whoa, what's going on here, David? I can see that you are angry, but it is not okay to hit when you are angry. You can say, 'I'm mad' and stomp your foot, but you cannot hit. Let me hear it. Say, 'I'm mad!' Good, now tell me what you are so mad about."
Thus, the adults go through a pre-set problem-solving conversation: they identify the feeling triggering David's unacceptable behavior, re-state the rule, provide an alternative, and then require immediate practice.
As David starts to use the new behaviors spontaneously, they will encourage him to build a broader repertoire of skills by brainstorming different ways to handle strong feelings.
Reprinted from pp. 105-106 of Late, Lost, and Unprepared by Joyce Cooper-Kahn, Ph.D. & Laurie Dietzel, Ph.D. Published by Woodbine House, 6510 Bells Mill Road, Bethesda, MD 20817. 800-843-7323 www.woodbinehouse.com.