Many parents and teachers are aware of their child’s need for advance notice when time will be up for a particular activity and it is time to move on to something else. Some students need support in developing the Executive Function skill of flexibility. We suggest setting a timer for 5 minutes or giving them a 10-minute warning, then a 5-minute warning and a 2-minute warning. When that time is up we say, “Stop.”

Sometimes that strategy works, and there is a seamless move on to the next task. At other times, there may be protesting, crying, arguing or just refusing to stop what they are doing to move on. The student or child may say that they need to finish the activity now. The stage has been set for an unpleasant evening or school day, with everyone frustrated and out of patience.

We recently hosted Donna Kincaid M.Ed, and Lynn Meltzer PhD from the Institute for Learning and Development in Lexington, Mass. In their program for parents, Ms. Kincaid presented another strategy for helping a child move to the next activity - suggest they press an imaginary “Pause” button.

Students are familiar with the concept of a pause. They pause movies and video games to do something else and come back. Pause implies that there will be an opportunity to return to the activity later after recess, homework or dinner is finished. The activity is not wiped out or changed in any way, the task will wait for them. This seems so simple, yet is an elegant strategy to help the student, adult or child develop their ability to shift between tasks. Try it – this strategy could diffuse a tense situation in a positive way.  

Blogger Mary Ann Mulcahey, PhD, shares her expertise in assessment and diagnosis of learning disabilities and ADHD, and the social/emotional adjustment to those issues. If you have questions, please contact Dr. Mulcahey at mmulcahey@springer-ld.org.

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