web analytics
December 28, 2014 / 6 Tevet, 5775
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘SOS’

Test Him Before He Fails

Friday, June 15th, 2012

Parents often bring children into my office when they are already failing several subjects in school. These students are dejected, frustrated and often depressed. They believe that because of their past performance, they will never succeed in school. It is not strange that constant effort and subsequent failure have taught these students to believe that failure is their only option.

Recent advances in the way educators assess learning disabilities can prevent children from feeling this pervading sense of futility. This new initiative, called “Response to Intervention” (RTI) is helping educators recognize learning disabilities before the children have a chance to struggle.

Professor Lynn Fuchs, a special education professor at Vanderbilt University, explains that the traditional way to find out which children need help is to test those who are failing. She continues, “But research shows that failure can lead to depression, and that can make improvement in school very difficult.” To combat this problem, some educators and schools are implementing RTI and helping parents and teachers identify problems much earlier.

Perhaps the most important element of RTI is universal screening, which means everyone gets tested regardless of their scores or perceived aptitude. This allows educators to catch potential struggles without forcing the child to fail first.

What is Response To Intervention?

Screen: The first step in RTI is the screening process. In other words, RTI involves administering a series of short, comprehensive tests that have no bearing on the standard curriculum. Rather, these tests are used to determine whether a child might have difficulty responding to the core curriculum as traditionally delivered in the regular classroom. These tests determine which children are academically “at risk” or might have undiagnosed learning disabilities. The downside of these tests is that they may produce many false positives for “at risk” children.

Teach: The next step is ensuring that the regular classroom teaching is research-based and field-tested. Trained and qualified teachers should administer this curriculum. Intervene: In addition to the regular curriculum, children who are determined to be “at risk” during the screening process should be provided enhanced opportunities to learn, including additional time with the core curriculum, small group lessons, and other supplementary instruction.

Probe: Given that children who are identified as at-risk are provided with extra instruction, their progress in essential skills must be monitored to ensure that this instruction is sufficient and effective. Short, frequent assessments that test specific skills help teachers understand the usefulness (or lack thereof) of the instruction provided.

Chart: Based on the probes above, a specialist should create a chart that provides a visual record of the rate of gain in specific skill areas that lead to a specified goal. Because the goal of intervention is to help the child improve his skills, this chart helps indicate whether the intervention is working.

Adjust:After several sessions and charts, the educator should evaluate in what ways the intervention is successful and in what ways the intervention is failing. Adjustments should be made in both directions, pumping up the successful methods and skills and reworking the unsuccessful ones.

Potential Learning Disabilities Aided Through RTI Visual Processing Disorder:

A visual processing (or perceptual) disorder refers to an inability to make sense of information absorbed through the eyes. This does not mean that the child has trouble with sight and needs glasses; rather it involves difficulty processing the visual information in the brain. Reading and math are two areas that can be severely affected by visual processing disorder because these subjects rely heavily on symbols (letter, numbers, signs). Some indications of visual processing disorders are:

Spatial Relation: Distinguishing the positions of objects in space. For reading, confusion of similarly shaped letters such as “b” and “d“ or “p” and “q” can be attributed to a problem with spatial relation. In addition, for many math problems, the only cues are the spacing and order between the symbols. For instance, for the problem “13 + 6,” the child must be able to recognize that 13 is one number rather than two distinct numbers (1 and 3) and recognize that the “+” is between the 13 and the 6. While this is automatic for many people, these activities presuppose an ability and understanding of spatial relationships.

A King’s Ransom To Keep Him Happy

Sunday, April 15th, 2012

11-year old Avi was just awarded a trip to visit his cousins in Detroit – because he didn’t get into trouble in school or fight with his siblings for one week. The prize his parents originally had in mind was a new speed bike, but when that failed to motivate him sufficiently, they searched for a more appealing incentive.

In the process, they passed over gameboys, roller blades, a palm pilot, a computer and a camcorder. That’s because Avi had already won those.

He acquired each one of those through a combination of cajoling, arguing and bargaining. After each surrender, his father looked at his mother and said in bewilderment, “When I was a boy, I felt lucky to have a shirt on my back and shoes without holes. What are we running here, a home or a department store?”

And his mother would respond, “Today’s world is different. Would you rather he run around with that wild bunch of kids and get into all kinds of trouble?”

Avi’s energy level had always overwhelmed his parents. From the time he was five or six he needed a high level of stimulation in order to keep his behavior within bounds, already beyond the norm. Although his parents tried to keep one step ahead of him by supplying him with toys, entertainment and outlets for recreation, it began to seem as if nothing would ever satisfy him.

His teachers reported that Avi was often at the center of quarrels between students. “He seems to enjoy provoking altercation, just for the excitement of it,” wrote his fourth grade English teacher in an end-of-the-year assessment.

His scholastic performance was uneven. When the subject matter was dramatic enough to hold his attention, Avi could do above average work. More often than not, however, Avi lapsed into daydreaming, staring out the window or focusing on irrelevant things around him. He fiddled with his pencils and other items in his desk, passed notes, made irrelevant comments and silly jokes, and disturbed his classmates in a variety of ways.

“When Avi is absent, it’s a different kind of day,” his fifth grade teacher told the principal. “The atmosphere is calmer and we get much more accomplished. We really have to get to the bottom of his problems.”

Things came to a head after a parent-teachers conference where Avi’s parents were floored by the teacher’s suggestion that they, his parents, might be exacerbating Avi’s problems, rather than helping him to get a handle on them.

Prize Binging

“Avi seems to be collecting more prizes in a month than most kids do in a year,” the teacher told Avi’s parents. “He brings these things to school and frankly, I wonder whether they might be contributing to his difficulties in class.”

“Do you mean he plays with them in the middle of class?”

“No, I don’t allow them to be anywhere near him during class. My point is that because he has already been given so many dazzling prizes, it’s almost impossible for me, as his teacher, to come up with any kind of incentive that would work with him. Can I ask what he is doing to earn all these fabulous rewards?”

“They’re basically for good behavior at home,” Avi’s mother said. “He gets so rambunctious,” his father explained, “you know, teasing his siblings, stirring thing up—things were always in an uproar.”

“But aren’t you overdoing it? These big, expensive prizes may buy you some peace at home, but it seems it’s backfiring at school. Here he has a great deal of trouble with self-control, with waiting his turn, not calling out, not interrupting. He needs an extra high level of stimulation to keep him going at the most ordinary task.”

Avi’s mother went on the defensive. “You must think we’re just buying him off, taking the easy way out. That’s not fair! We work with him constantly. But he’s always needed more than—more than we could give him.”

Her husband suddenly turned to her.

“Miriam, let’s face it. He’s got us wrapped around his finger. He’s getting lavishly rewarded for behavior that’s not even especially good, just good enough. And each time, the prize has to be bigger and better while he delivers less and less.”

He turned back to the teacher wearily, holding up his hand to forestall his wife’s objections.

“I don’t know about my wife but I’m at my wit’s end. What do you suggest we do?

The Insatiable Child

If the above scenario has a familiar ring to it, it’s because all of us have, at one time or another, met the child who incessantly craves excitement, new possessions and intense experiences of all kinds—the child who seems insatiable. Such a child, in order to stay focused and content, must constantly experience a rich payback in intellectual or emotional gratification.

Looking Asperger’s Syndrome in the Eye

Friday, February 24th, 2012

“Look me in the eye, young man!”

I cannot tell you how many times I heard that shrill, whining refrain. It started about the time I got to first grade. I heard it from parents, relatives, teachers, principals, and all manner of other people. I heard it so often I began to expect to hear it.

Sometimes it would be punctuated by a jab from a ruler or one of those rubber tipped pointers teachers used in those days. The teachers would say, “Look at me when I’m speaking to you!” I would squirm and continue looking at the floor, which would just make them madder. I would glance up at their hostile faces and feel squirmier and more uncomfortable and unable to form words, and I would quickly look away.

My father would say, “Look at me! What are you hiding?”

“Nothing…”

Everyone thought they understood my behavior. They thought it was simple: I was just no good.

“Nobody trusts a man who won’t look them in the eye.” “You look like a criminal.” “You’re up to something. I know it!”

Most of the time, I wasn’t. I didn’t know why they were getting agitated. I didn’t even understand what looking someone in the eye meant. And yet I felt ashamed, because people expected me to do it, and I knew it, and yet I didn’t. So what was wrong with me?

The above excerpt comes from the prologue of John Elder Robinson’s memoir, Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s. Robinson describes the painful experience of growing up in a time before Asperger’s Syndrome was widely recognized. Instead of his parents and teachers understanding his limitations (and strengths), they regarded him as a “problem child,” one who would never make it in the real world.

Fortunately, a lot has changed since Robinson was a child. Scientists, educators and psychologists have done extensive research on Asperger’s Syndrome, often identified as a mild form of autism. Perhaps the best way to help those with Asperger’s to succeed is to gain a better understanding of the workings of the syndrome.

What is Asperger’s Syndrome?

Asperger’s Syndrome was first described in the 1940s by an Austrian pediatrician, Hans Asperger, who noticed that he had many patients who were deficient in social and communicative skills even though they had normal language development and cognitive abilities. While many children on the autistic scale have trouble functioning socially, they also tend to develop language skills later; therefore, Dr. Asperger felt these children stood in a class of their own.

Professionals still debate as to whether Asperger’s Syndrome is “high-functioning autism” or whether it is its own disorder completely. Regardless, in 1994, Asperger’s Syndrome was added to The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) as a separate disorder from autism. The main distinction between autism and Asperger’s Syndrome is that with Asperger’s there is no speech delay. In fact, children with Asperger’s generally have good language skills – even though their speech patterns might be unusual or their inflections inconsistent.

Children with autism often seem aloof and uninterested in others. This is not the case with children with Asperger’s – they usually want to fit in and interact with others – but simply do not know how to. They may be socially awkward, not pick up on social cues, or show a lack of empathy. In terms of non-verbal communication, children with Asperger’s will seem uninterested in a conversation, not understand the use of gestures, and like John Elder Robinson, avoid eye contact.

In their free time, children with Asperger’s often have particular interests that can border on obsession. They often like to collect categories of objects: baseball cards, rocks, cars, or clips. While many children with Asperger’s have excellent memory skills for statistics and rote memorization, they have trouble with abstract concepts.

Because of the many strengths children with Asperger’s Syndrome manifest, parents can become frustrated easily. We know that the child is cognitively capable, so we ask ourselves, “Why can’t they just act like everyone else?” While this frustration is a common phenomenon, it is important to understand that children with Asperger’s would love to function the way their siblings and family do. They simply cannot figure out how to act “normally.” It’s our job as parents and educators to give them the tools to better adapt to society.

As autistic adult writer Jim Sinclair wrote to parents of children with autism or Asperger’s Syndrome:

You didn’t lose a child to autism. You lost a child because the child you waited for never came into existence. That isn’t the fault of the autistic child who does exist, and it shouldn’t be our burden. We need and deserve families who can see us and value us for ourselves, not families whose vision of us is obscured by the ghosts of children who never lived. Grieve if you must, for your own lost dreams. But don’t mourn for us. We are alive. We are real. And we’re here waiting for you.

Cooling The Flame Of Teenage Anger

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

“Oh. I was just thinking about you. How was your day?” Ruti’s mother asked her the minute she walked through the door.

“Fine, Mommy.”

“Did you come straight home after school? I started getting a little nervous.”

“The bus was running a bit late. That’s it,” Ruti said, trying not to sound frustrated at her mother’s concern. After all, she was already sixteen. Why couldn’t her mother just leave her alone?

“Okay. Do you want something to eat? Something to drink?”

“Mom. I can do it myself,” Ruti said through clenched teeth.

“I just thought I’d ask. Anyway, why are you getting so touchy?” Ruti’s mother sighed. Lately, it seemed that with Ruti, she couldn’t say or do anything right.

“I’m not touchy. I’m just tired. I’m going to do my homework in my room. See you later,” Ruti said as she stormed off.

Recently, Ruti had indeed been angry. She would walk through the door and immediately feel her anger boiling inside her body. All her mother had to do was look at her the wrong way and Ruti would feel her temperature rise. The truth was, she wasn’t even sure what she was angry about and she certainly couldn’t talk to her mother about it. Talking to her mother would only make her angrier.

The worst part of it was that her rage sometimes carried over to her best friends too. She would be talking with Tova or Naomi and they would innocently critique her English paper or notice that she had a bit of lint on her skirt. Out of nowhere, Ruti would feel herself growing annoyed without even understanding why she was upset. And, then, she wouldn’t have any idea how to calm down. The only way she could escape yelling at her friends was to do exactly what she had done with her mother, to run away.

****

Dr. Les Parrott, in his book Helping the Struggling Adolescent, explains that anger is an important part of adolescence. In fact, anger is a part of the process of individuation that occurs in adolescence, when teenagers continue to separate from their parents and establish their own individual personas. So, if you are worrying that you are like Ruti, always frustrated and angry with your parents (and even your siblings or friends), then you should know that it is a completely normal part of growing up.

Anger becomes a problem if you do not know how to handle it. To that end, I have put together a “cheat sheet” in order to help you manage your anger before it gets the best of you:

Maintaining perspective: With so many new experiences coming your way while you are in high school, it can be hard to separate the genuine concerns from the slight annoyances. Things like physical harm or verbal bullying are undisputed concerns, whereas someone occasionally prying into your life or unintentional stifling are smaller issues.

One way you can help control your anger is through recognizing the genuine reasons to get upset and ignoring the inconsequential things. Once you are able to distinguish the “big” from the “small” stuff, it is a lot easier to maintain perspective and cool down.

Redirecting anger: Sometimes you might get angry at a parent or sibling because of another issue that occurred earlier in the day with someone else. Taking a step back and asking yourself, “Why am I really angry?” can help you redirect your feelings at the appropriate source.

Avoid triggers: There are probably situations that automatically make you angry (such as your parents not giving you enough space, even though you are always following their rules). Being aware of these triggers can help you take control of the situation. Before walking through the door, remind yourself that your parents – because they love you – will probably ask you a multitude of questions. Rehearse the answers you will give in order to satisfy both yourself and your parents. This way, you will be prepared for a potentially frustrating encounter.

Time management: When you are stressed, you are more likely to express anger in a destructive manner. Likewise, if you are sleep-deprived, you are more likely to snap at those around you (even without real provocation). A great way to avoid these feelings is to manage your time effectively. Don’t leave big assignments and studying to the night before. Try to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night. That way, you will be better equipped to handle anger when confronted with it.

Talk it out: One of the best ways to control your anger is through calmly talking to others. When not in the heat of the moment, it might help to talk to your friends about what is making you upset. You can also think about whether anything would change if you spoke to your parents about the way you feel. If you think they would be receptive, ask your parents when a good time to sit down and talk would be. Setting aside time for your relationship will strengthen your ties with your parents and ultimately smooth out any the kinks.

Literacy Illuminated (Conclusion

Monday, January 30th, 2012

In the previous two columns, we focused on phonics, sight-reading, comprehension and fluency. While phonics and sight-reading are different approaches to reading instruction, comprehension and fluency measure the level at which a student reads.  This column is focused on two of the building blocks of reading: vocabulary and spelling. Often, vocabulary and spelling are seen as divorced from successful reading, but in reality, they go hand in hand with proficient reading.

Consider for example, the difference between a fifth grader and an twelfth grader reading from the first few lines of the Declaration of Independence:

“When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

You can imagine that the fifth grader might only stumble over the pronunciation of two or three words, such as “impel” and “unalienable.” However, if you asked that fifth grader what the passage meant without giving any definitions, she would probably look at you with a blank stare, not having comprehended more than a few words. She might say something like, “Um, something about nature. And people all being equal.” In contrast, though the twelfth grader might not use words like “self-evident” or “dissolve” on a daily basis, she would almost certainly be able to give you a working definition of the passage. This difference illustrates the importance of reading. Yes, a child could learn to read without understanding any of the words she is reading, but then, she might as well be reading a foreign language. So, why is vocabulary so important?

 

Vocabulary Matters

Scholastic’s Reading Research Network explains the crucial importance of vocabulary:

As seen with the fifth grader and the twelfth grader, comprehension improves when you know what words mean (after all, knowing what things mean is the definition of comprehension). Since fluent comprehension is the ultimate goal of reading, understanding what words mean cannot be emphasized enough.

Words are the currency of communication. The more words you know, the more you are able to communicate in all forms of interactions: listening, speaking, reading, and writing.

Parents often admonish their children, “Use your words. I can’t understand you if you don’t explain yourself to me.”  When children and adolescents improve their vocabulary, their social competence and confidence grows.

 

Improving Vocabulary

There are lots of different ways to improve vocabulary knowledge. The method that most indirectly, yet most efficiently improves vocabulary is reading. Read to your children from a young age, and once they are old enough encourage them to read on their own.  Try to be available to answer their questions while they are reading – and if you don’t know the word – pull out a dictionary and learn something new together!

Andrew Biemiller, the former director of the master’s program in child study and education at the University of Toronto, recently spoke at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education about the importance of teaching vocabulary in the classroom. His solution to solving what he believes to be a vocabulary gap: “by teaching vocabulary–10 and 12 word meanings a week in the primary grades—children will be able to identify more words and meanings as they get older.” His research indicates that with 30 minutes of instruction a day, a child can begin to fill the vocabulary gap that currently exists.

At home, children can play “matching” games with vocabulary. Older children can create their own versions of the game, using pairs of cards with words and their definitions. This way, they choose which words they want to learn and are interesting to them. Then, together with friends or siblings who are similar ages, they can turn learning vocabulary into a game. Younger children can do this with pictures and words, setting the stage for reading and vocabulary usage.

 

In the Era of Computers, Who Needs to Spell?

J. Richard Gentry, an expert on spelling education, explains why spelling is so important even in the age of computers and software that automatically checks our spelling. If you ask a reading specialist what children need in order to read successfully, his or her answer would be knowledge of the alphabet and phonemic awareness (the ability to identify that certain letters correspond to certain sounds). In other words, kindergarten and first grade spelling! Obviously, teaching spelling is only a small part of literacy instruction. However, in past years, spelling instruction has fallen out of favor.

Literacy Illuminated (Part I)

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

Peeking her head into her daughter’s preschool classroom, Shayna heard Morah Esther singing a melodic song while the children clapped their hands and stomped their feet. Occasionally, when they got to the chorus, the children would join in:

Your name has a rhyme. Your name has a beat. Get ready to move from your head to your feet. Follow me until you’ve got the notion. Let’s have fun and put our names in motion.

Clap your hands together to the name. Come on. Reeva. Reeva. Malka. Malka. Shira. Shira.

Have fun singing names: Shevi. Shevi. Batya. Batya. Fraidy. Fraidy. Have fun singing names.

Your name has a rhyme. Your name has a beat. Get ready to move from your head to your feet. Follow me until you’ve got the notion. Let’s have fun and put our names in motion…

Shayna smiled, thinking that she was glad the teacher was incorporating rhythm and music into her daughter’s day. However, what Shayna didn’t realize was that aside from rhythm and music, Morah Esther was additionally instilling phonemic awareness.

Through the repetition of the words, the clapping of the beat and the use of the children’s names, Morah Esther was teaching the children to recognize the different syllables in the words. Phonemic awareness is an important pre-reading skill that is essential in moving forward with reading.

Phonemic awareness is the understanding that words are made up of sounds which can be assembled in thousands of ways to make different words. Once a child has phonemic awareness, they are cognizant that sounds are like building blocks that can be used to build all the distinctive words that they use every day.

Reading to Your Child

Children build phonemic awareness and other pre-reading skills by practicing nursery rhymes and playing sound and word games. Common exercises to develop phonemic awareness include games with rhymed words and games based on recognizing initial consonants. Parents can help build phonemic awareness by routinely reading to their children. Some good books to read in order to build phonemic awareness are:

· Ludwig Bemelmans’s Madeline · Lois Ehlert’s Eating the Alphabet: Fruits and Vegetables from A to Z · Raffi’s Down By The Bay · Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are · Shel Silverstein’s A Giraffe and A Half and Where the Sidewalk Ends

As phonemic awareness is developed, children should become interested in how words are portrayed in print. Daily reading sessions with children following along should help develop children’s understanding of print concept and feed this curiosity. This interest in decoding the words is the fuel for children learning the alphabet and phonics decoding skills.

Sight Reading vs. Phonics: The Reading Wars

Once a child has fully mastered phonemic awareness, they are ready to begin to learn how to read. This is where the real debate comes in: do you teach through sight-reading or through phonics? There are proponents of both sides of the debate. Here are some of the issues: Sight Reading: Through this method, children learn to read by memorizing the appearance of multiple words. Children learn these words from books with limited, repetitive vocabulary such as Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat. Other methods include slides or cards with a picture next to a word, which teaches children to associate the whole word with its meaning.

Preliminary results show children taught with this method have higher reading levels than children learning phonics, because they learn to automatically recognize a small selection of words. Children also develop a strong sense of comprehension when reading with this method because they learn to associate a word with a concept. This helps them understand full sentences in a way that might be harder when learning to read through phonics. However, later tests demonstrate that literacy development becomes stunted when children are hit with longer and more complex words.

Phonics: This instructional reading method involves the relationship between sounds and their spellings. The goal of phonics instruction is to teach students the most common sound-spelling relationships so that they can decode, or sound out, words. Students who have grasped basic phonic rules will be able to read and write new vocabulary much more easily, and perhaps more importantly, will be able to have a go at reading and writing unfamiliar words.

The chart below succinctly lays out the benefits and disadvantages of both systems:

What Works?

As I have discovered over the last three decades of work in reading instruction and remediation, there is no one perfect reading instruction method. At first, sight-reading is a positive way to allow children to feel empowered and able to read without the frustration of sounding out each and every word in a book. When first learning to read, children feel pride in being able to read to their parents and peers – and sight-reading provides them with that satisfaction. However, without the skills acquired through phonics, children taught solely through sight-reading will quickly fall behind. Therefore, phonics in an essential part of reading instruction and integrally important for life-long reading.

The Happy Cure: Learned Optimism

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

Years ago, a young man, who I will call Baruch, came to see me as his parents were concerned about his recent test scores. Privately, his mother told me, “We just don’t know what’s going on. He got two failing grades in a row. He used to do so well in school and now he just can’t seem to get it together. I’m so worried that he will keep failing and then he will be left back. Then, what’s going to happen if he is a year or two older than the other boys when he graduates? People will think that he is not smart and then he will have trouble finding a shidduch!”

In a separate conversation, Baruch’s father told me, “I’m worried about these two tests. His grades have always been good and he has always been very comfortable academically. I know that he is smart. So, why is this happening right now? Do you think there is a problem between him and the teacher? Do you think he might have missed one key concept that is holding him back? I’d really like to get to the bottom of this so that he can go back to doing as well as he always has.”

Needless to say, with a few sessions, Baruch identified the problem and got right back on track. His father breathed a sigh of relief. However, not until her son graduated with honors did his mother consider the crisis averted.

Optimists and Pessimists: A Difference in World View

The parents I described above are a classic example of two very different approaches to life: optimism and pessimism. Dr. Martin Seligman, author of the book, Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life, explains that the essential difference between optimists and pessimists lies in the way they view negative events. He writes:

The optimists and the pessimists: I have been studying them for the past twenty-five years. The defining characteristic of pessimists is that they tend to believe bad events will last a long time, will undermine everything they do, and are their own fault. The optimists, who are confronted with the same hard knocks of this world, think about misfortune in the opposite way. They tend to believe defeat is just a temporary setback, that its causes are confined to this one case…Such people are unfazed by defeat. Confronted by a bad situation, they perceive it as a challenge and try harder.

In other words, optimists believe that negative events are temporary and they are not at fault. This often leads to less anxiety about the problem because optimists approach a problem with the attitude, “This too shall pass.” In addition, if they are the cause of the problem, for instance, if they did not study enough for a test and did poorly, they acknowledge the mistake and vow to change their behavior in the future. Most importantly, optimists believe that their fate is in their hands and that they can work to improve their situation. This is clearly evidenced through Baruch’s father: he wanted to find the root of the problem and solve it.

On the other end of the spectrum, pessimists drift through life, unable to recognize that their actions are responsible for the outcome of many situations. They believe that nothing they can do will change the outcome and therefore choose to do nothing. Baruch’s mother chose to bring her son to get him help, but she had already imagined a situation that would negatively affect him years later. She felt powerless to change the circumstances. With some individuals, when taken to an extreme degree, pessimism can result in depression.

Of course, it is easier (and more enjoyable!) to go through life as an optimist. The good news? Dr. Seligman has conducted numerous studies and believes that it is possible to train yourself to become an optimist. He calls this idea, “learned optimism.”

The secret to learned optimism? Dr. Seligman explains that it is as easy as ABCDE:

· A: Adverse event or situation. The first step is learning to identify what situations leave you frustrated or upset. Maybe you can’t handle getting annoyed when you enter your child’s messy bedroom or you dislike when your husband doesn’t thank you for preparing Shabbos. Recognizing the difficult situation is the beginning of seeing it through the lens of an optimist.

· B: Beliefs about that event. Carefully listen to what you tell yourself about those events. Do you say, “Sruli is never going to keep his room clean!” Or, “No one ever appreciates me, no matter what I do!” Make a note of these beliefs so that you are aware of the way you respond to negative circumstances.

· C: Consequences of those beliefs. Once aware of the negative situations and your beliefs, check in and see how those beliefs make you feel. What kind of emotions do those beliefs elicit? Does thinking, “I can’t believe this is happening to me again!” make you feel like there is nothing you can do to change your situation? Record the feelings that accompany those beliefs.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/the-happy-cure-learned-optimism/2011/12/15/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: