About Merriam Sarcia Saunders, LMFT

Merriam Sarcia Saunders, LMFT, is a psychotherapist who specializes in helping families of children with autism spectrum disorder, AD/HD, and learning disabilities. She lives in Northern California.

ADHD Tips: The Upside of Daydreaming

October is AD/HD Awareness Month! A child with attention issues is typically unaware when they’re daydreaming or forgetting, so they’re unable to prevent it. When a child experiences constant correction for executive functioning that’s outside their control, they may begin to internalize the frequent reprimands. So, if the behavior is undesirable, they conclude that they must also be undesirable.  But because children often find alternate ways of coping, sometimes the drawbacks of executive functioning issues can be flipped to a positive, and it’s important to point those out.  Emphasize positives by encouraging activities that strengthen them. If they are curious, what are they curious about? Check out library books on the topic, get a microscope, create a scavenger hunt. Note aloud the amazing things their curiosity uncovers.  If they are forgetful, perhaps it is because their mind is so busy! Ask the child what’s on their mind—you may discover something you didn’t realize, and you’ll help them begin a practice of self-awareness by being mindful of their thoughts and behavior.  If they daydream, you may find that their imagination is a spectacular thing, filled with creativity and joy. Perhaps they are artistic or tell wonderful stories. Give them a sketchbook to keep by their bed or record their stories to play back for later. Dive into their imagination with them! Find real-life examples of how the child’s positive qualities can make a difference in the world, such as Madame Curie’s curiosity winning her the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, or Neil Armstrong’s risk-taking sending him to space, or how this humble author’s imagination helped to create this very book!  For every corrective comment, incorporate a practice of sandwiching it with positives. “You are so observant! But now is not the time to be noticing the birds, we are doing letters. Later you can tell me all about your awesome detective powers and what you noticed the birds doing.”  This exclusive excerpt is from the Author Notes in Merriam Sarica Saunders', LMFT, new book, My Wandering, Dreaming Mind, to be published by Magination Press in April 2020.

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ADHD Tips: The Upside of Daydreaming 2019-10-28T14:22:44-04:00

ADHD Tips: Finding the Right Reward

October is AD/HD Awareness Month! Check here next Thursday for our AD/HD Quick Tip “The Upside of Daydreaming.” Children with ADHD have difficulty with certain tasks because the part of the brain responsible for those tasks is under-stimulated. The anticipation of a reward can help to stimulate that part of the brain, setting that child up for greater success. We often associate the word reward with material things, but it doesn’t have to be the case. Rewards can also come in the form of privileges (TV or video game time, a story read aloud, a game with a parent). One of the highest forms of rewards for our children is praise! Goodness knows that an impulsive child probably gets reprimanded far more frequently than praised, so words of encouragement and thanks are like gold. If you use a point or token system that leads to a material reward, the reward should come fairly quickly, or the connection between good behavior and the positive result is lost. The reward should be desirable enough to motivate your child to do the hard work. Because boredom is a big foe of ADHD, the reward should be frequently changed so the novelty of your system doesn’t fade.  Be consistent. Try this consistently for a week. You may be surprised to see how your child begins to gear their behavior towards the type that earns praise. During the first week, if they misstep, try to ignore it. Later, you can address it by lightheartedly saying, “Darn, looks like you’re having a hard time with not interrupting right now. But sometimes you’re really good at it! I bet you’ll get it next time.”

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ADHD Tips: Finding the Right Reward 2019-10-28T14:21:54-04:00

ADHD Quick Tips: Praise, Don’t Punish

October is AD/HD Awareness Month! Check here next Thursday for our AD/HD Quick Tip “Finding the Right Reward." Getting in trouble for behavior that was unintentional can often lead to feelings of shame, uncertainty, and a lack of self-esteem in children with ADHD. Punishment leaves our kids feeling badly about what they did unintentionally and does little to aid them in doing better next time. Instead, notice them “doing good.” Follow these four steps: Identify the certain behavior you wish to reduce. Allow yourself to ignore most other frustrating behaviors (provided it is safe to do so—of course, hitting, biting, running away, etc. need to be immediately addressed). Identify the opposite of the behavior. For example, if your child frequently interrupts, then your task is to look for the times your child doesn’t interrupt. Point out when your child exhibits the desired behavior immediately, and reward it with attention, praise or a tangible item.

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ADHD Quick Tips: Praise, Don’t Punish 2019-10-28T14:23:00-04:00