Behavior Strategies for School

  • By Kim Torres
    Down Syndrome Association Houston

August 28, 2019

For many of our kiddos with Ds, the back to school honeymoon period is over. Well, at least that is true in the Torres household. The excitement of a new year has worn off, waking up early is now a chore, and listening to teacher directives has become optional in the eyes of our nine-year-old with Ds.

But wait? Don’t’ we have some nine months of school left? We can’t possible spend the next nine months refusing to listen to the teacher?

Well, this is where spoons come in. Yup! You read that write! Spoons. Years ago my husband and I watched a show on Netflix (the name fails me today) about brain science. In the show, a researcher stood in a public park and started up conversations with passer-byers. At some point during each conversation the researcher reached into his pocket and pulled out a silver spoon. In every single case, the person engaged in conversation lost their train of thought. You see, our brains are wired to predict outcomes based on our past experiences. Because most of us have never had a spoon displayed to us mid-conversation, our brains have no predetermined pathway to help us determine what to do next. In this case, we simply pause – searching for our next move.

As Scott and I watched, all we could think of was our son! We needed a spoon! Or more than one spoon so that when the spoon didn’t distract him anymore, we could move on to a fork, or dolphin, or palm tree, or whatever else who regain his ability to listen.

This led us to the Learning Program at the Down Syndrome Foundation of Orange County (DSFOG). They have a great list of “spoons” that teachers can use to continue to engage our kiddos. One of our son’s favorite is allowing him to be the teacher. Instead of being told to complete his math problems, he now gets to teach the teacher how to complete the problem. The end result is the same – all his work done. But the number of refusals goes down.

So don’t be shy…send your list of “spoons” to the teacher in your kiddo’s life. Here is the selection from DSFOG:

  • Counting – “I’m going to count to ten in my head. See if you can finish the task before I am done.” The introduction of a race, can turn a dull request into an exciting game.
  • I’m not looking! – Use the tried and true “peek-a-boo” technique to turn a request into a reward filled game.
  • Switch roles – To get a task done, consider having your kiddo teach you instead of you teaching him. The change of roles can be a great “spoon” technique.