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Tips for Parents: “How do I know if this behavior is on purpose?” – Seeing Your Child Through a Brain First Lens

Highlights from Expert Series

The following article shares highlights and insights from one of our Expert Series events, which are exclusive for Young Scholars and their parents.

Authored by: Eileen Devine, LCSW


Even when we understand that the brain is the source of all behaviors, there is often a gap between knowledge and application of this information as the parent of a child who is neurodiverse. Parents in this position often find themselves trying to manage their child’s behaviors with traditional, behavioral lens approaches which often fail and lead them to believe that “nothing works”. They find themselves spending a great deal of time and energy attempting to determine if the behavior they are seeing is part of their child’s neurodiversity or is being done “on purpose”. Applying a Brain First approach to parenting seeks to help bridge the gap for parents between behavior and brain function, as it relates to their unique child. This is done in a way that is consistent with research and helps the parent see where exactly their child needs additional supports and accommodations. It provides the parent with confidence as to the true source of the challenging behavioral symptoms their child is experiencing.

Tips

  1. When in doubt, think brain. When met with a challenging behavior, the parent is encouraged to try and remain curious and open to the possibility that their child’s unique brain function is at play and is the source of the challenging behavioral symptoms. Kids want to well and be in relationship with others.
  2. See behaviors as symptoms. When we see a child’s behaviors as symptoms, letting us know that they have a brain that works differently and that this difference needs more supports and accommodations, it opens up the possibilities on how to help the child “settle” and experience less symptoms. It leads parents down a path of empathy vs punishment, which further helps the child be successful in that given relationship and environment.
  3. Accommodations are the treatment for challenging behaviors. When we understand that challenging behaviors result from a child’s lagging cognitive skills not being identified and then accommodated, we see an escalation in the intensity and frequency of the challenging behavior overtime. If we can address this root cause, we will see challenging behaviors dissipate overtime.

Resources

 

Speaker Bio:
Eileen Devine is a licensed clinical social worker and founder of Brain First Parenting and The Resilience Room Community. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and two teenage children, one of whom lives with a serious neurobehavioral condition. She has over twenty years of clinical experience and for the last ten of those years, has focused solely on supporting parents across the globe, all of whom have kids with neurobehavioral conditions. Eileen has been extensively trained in the neurobehavioral model through FASCETS as well as the Collaborative Problem Solving model through ThinkKids. In addition to her one-to-one and group work with parents, she facilitates dozens of workshops and trainings each year for parents, teachers, and mental health professionals.

Permission Statement

This article is provided as a service of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to supporting profoundly gifted young people 18 and under. To learn more about the Davidson Institute’s programs, please visit www.DavidsonGifted.org.

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