I was recently at the conference “Raising and Healing the Adopted Child: Effective Strategies for Helping Your Child Reach their Highest Potential” in the Baltimore area. The speakers included Dr. Federici
, Dr. Mason, Dr. Gordina
and Nadya Molina, M.Ed., BCBA
Nadya Molina is a behaviorist that works with Dr. Federici
as well as having her private practice, Alternative Behaviors in Falls Church, VA. Nadya gave a three hour talk about behavior and the adopted child. It was an excellent talk and the audience was glued to their seat during her session. I wish I would have attended a session like this 13 years ago before I started parenting. I think all of us as adoptive parents agree that life tends to go smoother in our households when our children’s behavior is appropriate.
Nadya talked about how she became a behaviorist. When she was growing up, her best friend had Downs Syndrome so she felt a calling to help people with special needs. Nadya has worked for numerous school systems, has a master’s degree in Severe and Profound Handicaps, and has worked with people with mental retardation, autism, eating disorders as well as with people with unique behaviors that they have not been able to tackle on their own. She recently became board certified in Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) which is often used with children with tendencies on the autism spectrum and has also been found effective for other children as well. She has worked with people with deficits since 1986 and is a parent of a special needs biological child. Her office is located in Virginia; however parents and adults call her from all over the country to assist them regardless of the type of behavior they need to change. She has even gone to Iceland to help families. She has helped individuals overcome all sorts of behavior including orphanage behavior like rocking, hoarding food and head banging as well as eating disorders like bulimia. She assists people of all ages including young children and adults.
Nadya shared many of the techniques she uses to assist people to change behavior. She indicated that each post institutionalized child is very unique and no “one size” fits all intervention in behavior modification. Here are some of the pertinent hints in assisting our adopted children.Tell your child what to do versus what not to do.
I think as parents we all want what is best for our children, but it is not uncommon for us to say things like “don’t go in the street”, don’t touch that”, “be good”…instead of directly saying “walk on the sidewalk”, “play with your toy instead of touching that”, or “I like when you play with your truck”.Find out why the behavior is happening.
Is your child craving attention, bored, internal anxiety, on auto pilot or trying to escape. Observe and try to figure a pattern of why and when the behavior is happening.Use “Time In” versus “Time out”.
I think most of us grew up with the “time out” concept. Our parents put us in the corner or sent us to our room to discipline us. Nadya indicated that this is not a good technique for our children coming from orphanages especially when we first bring them home. Orphanage children are already used to little attention and “time out” alienates them more. She suggests you keep your child in close proximity to you, but don’t give them attention or eye contact during this “time in” period.Use immediate reinforcement for appropriate behavior.
Nadya shared the example of potty training. As soon as your child goes pee pee on the potty, give them their candy or sticker. Don’t wait until they wash their hands. Children need to understand that the behavior they just completed is the one being reinforced.Use short, clear, concise directions and consequences.
Avoid giving lectures and talking too much. Tell you child specifics as “brush you teeth” or “put your truck in the toy bin”. “Use clear directions without negotiation.”Write simple stories about social situations and phrases to explain sequences of events to your child.
She recommended books that Carol Gray has written on Social Stories ™ (available on Amazon). In these stories, you break down tasks for your child in simple steps.The “Drill Phrases” drill the child into a specific task.
She used the example of “Stop—Think—Make Good Choices” (sort of like the fire chief saying, “Stop, Drop and Roll”). The use of drilling phrases help children process and retrieve information quicker and effectively; which is a major deficit within post-institutionalized children.Schedule breaks for your child.
Nadya used the example of shopping. Like most working parents, a lot of us try to tackle our shopping on the weekends. She gave the example of shopping for three hours. She said schedule breaks (have a snack, go to the bathroom, etc) periodically through your shopping time. Yes, it may take longer, but this helps prevent meltdowns from your child.Do not remove the demand or task if your child expresses himself
with unwanted behavior (for example, meltdowns).
Parents get tired both emotionally and physically. It is not uncommon for us to just give in to our child because we just don’t have the energy to deal with the unwanted behavior. Nadya recognizes that this can be very difficult on parents, but do not give in to your child. It is OK
to modify or adapt.Create rules.
Nadya said to teach your child rules. For example, “only hug your family”. This type of rule helps your child attach to family members rather than others which can help with behavior challenges. She recommended several books that may be of interest to adoptive parents including “Navigating the Social World” by Jeanette McAfee
and “A Work in Progress” by Ron Leaf (both available on Amazon).
Nadya Molina can be reached by calling 703-732-2469 or www.AlternativeBehaviors.com
as well as at 703-548-0721 or www.drfederici.com
. If you are interested in the entire recording of Nadya's session at "Raising and Healing the Adopted Child", contact me at either 410-916-1542 or Robin@ThinkingOfAdopting.com
Labels: adoption, education, parenting, raising children