Monday, September 24, 2012

Foster Parent Q&A: Help! My RAD Child Needs a Door Alarm, but Then Pees in his Room!

by John and Diane. 

Hi Friends,
The issue of kids, foster or adoptive kids especially, urinating in their rooms, closets or in other inappropriate areas is huge and a very difficult issue to deal with and correct. The source of the issue needs to be determined while simultaneously dealing with the symptom of inappropriate peeing.  We have addressed this issue in the past in our post:  Why is My Foster or Adopted Kid Urinating in The Closet (in a Jar, Towel, Hamper, Soda Can): The Red (or Yellow in this Case) Flag and How to Deal with It.
Here again though, is a question from a blog reader regarding their RAD kid and how to address the complex issue of room urination, food hoarding and room security. We are sharing it here in hopes it will help other parents, and that other parents might be able to make suggestions that may help our reader.  As always, the letter is anonymous to protect everyone’s privacy.
Question from our reader:

"Hi -- I was scouring the Internet looking for anything helpful in dealing with peeing and RAD behavior.  Our son came to us at age 4 and is now 11.  We have seen a drastic upswing in RAD behavior in the last 6 months.  He has have gone from peeing the bed rarely (once every 6-8 months) when he first came to us, to occasionally (once every 2-4 months), regularly (3 to 4 days in a row, followed by 6-8 weeks of nothing), to nearly every night. The only thing that we have done differently in the last six months is installing an alarm on his door for the nighttime hours. 

His door has to be shut and the alarm engaged.  This is because, while we can't definitively prove that he is stealing food (usually candy) or other food items or prove that he is up and sneaking around the house, there are just enough times that we can't quite track all the bagels/candy/food distribution, and there are just enough bumps in the night that we can't place. We also have two little kiddos in the house that were making their way into our room every night.  After the alarm was installed the kiddos have nearly ceased in coming to our room, the bumps have stopped and the kitchen has been fairly undisturbed. 

However, this has drastically increased the amount of peeing that has gone on.  It is all a game to him, with him readily admitting that if the alarm were removed he wouldn't have to pee in his room. We have explained with great patience that the alarm isn't preventing him from going to the potty; it is just allowing us the privilege of knowing where he is at and that he is safe. He is required to clean up his mess, rinse out his bedding and get it to the laundry.  This also led to a power struggle and blame game on his part, if I didn't get his laundry done because the day was full and I had other engagements, then he "won". I recently switched to a weekly laundry day, mainly because our family is now a family of six and it seemed like a better use of my time to designate one day for laundry rather than doing laundry all week long. I had hoped that this would curb the peeing because he would now be without bedding for longer than just a few hours in the evening.  Nope, no dice.

We are so weary of this behavior, since we live in very northern latitude, this can get really stinky in the wintertime.  Any suggestions/wisdom would be greatly appreciated."

Answer: Foster Parent Rescue:

Hi there, Thanks for writing. I am glad you reached out and I am hopeful we can help you.

I have a question: Is he sharing a room other kids?

I found that alarm systems are good if you are trying to keep a child in a room, but now the child is using it against you.

I would recommend using a camera instead of an alarm system because you want to punish the behavior of leaving the room to get food or prowl the house, not leave the room to go to the bathroom.  See the difference?

You want to be able to record nighttime activities and then discipline and correct the nighttime prowling behavior and cameras work great with RAD kids (they cant lie when their activities are recorded.)

With the other children, they are fine, so they don’t need an alarm system.

The peeing issue may be due to a medication issue, so he may need to use the bathroom, but with the alarm system, he has an excuse to not leave his room and use your rules against you.

RAD kids LOVE to use your rules against you. So, make the punishment for continued peeing in his room a little more extreme.  You need to teach him to do his OWN laundry. He is 11 years old. He can throw his own sheets in the laundry.  And you can always pre measure the soap and everything in zip lock bags etc. That way it is no longer punishment for YOU by him wetting his bed.

Take his cleaning of his mess to an extreme as well. If he puts the wet sheets on the floor, tell him he must scrub the floors as well. Make this a very unpleasant task for him to deal with. Take the burden off of you entirely and make it much more of a burden to him.

I don’t know when you got the other children in the household, but RAD children will act up when new children come into the house because they lose some contact with the caregiver, so that might have been a trigger for the behavior. So, this might be an understandable situation.

If you can dedicate 20 minutes to the child, (which you are probably doing already) but make it special to him by saying, "This is YOUR time," and make it positive time with him, since you have these other children in the home, that will help him with the behavioral problems as well, knowing that he has special time with you in positive interactions.

RAD kids always think that they don’t have everything that other kids have, so be sure to point out to him all the things that he has special that the other kids may not have, like privileges and special things in his room or whatever because he is the oldest. 

You have to Guilt the child into behaving well.  I know it sounds crazy, but it works. Have him help you (supervised of course) with the little ones It shows that you trust him. Just in a limited way.

Of course, these are suggestions with just what we know of this situation. Clearly, the alarm is not working. You'd be better off putting the alarm on the pantry, or where you keep the food. Have you tried removing the alarm and if so, does the peeing in the room stop?

Let me know what you think and if you try some of these solutions. You are not alone. We can work through this together I am sure.
We will be praying for you....
Diane and John

Do you have ideas or suggestions for our reader? Please feel free to share. 

Image:  Flickr:
Attribution Some rights reserved by Beth Rankin

Friday, September 21, 2012

Teaching with Play: Two New Ideas from the Blogosphere

 by John and Diane.

We recently posted a blog about Teaching through Play along with the instructions for Frying Pan Match, which teaches kids with short attention spans the basics of math in a fun new way.  If you missed it, check it out here:

There are, of course, many ways to teach through play, and recently while browsing some fellow blogger contributions online, I came upon two I thought I would share with you.

The first comes from Smiles and Snuggles Blog and involves bean bags with the letters of the alphabet on them. You make them yourself, so you can save money and personalize them to suit the visual needs of your child. Once made, use them to toss and spell words, identify letters or make up games to challenge your young ones like a three dimensional Boggle type game. 

Check it out...

Alphabet Bean Bags

One of my September Pinterest Projects was to make an alphabet bean bag set for the boys. I have been obsessed with this project and I'm so excited it's finished! The Husband can't wait to throw them around with the boys. It was actually a pretty lengthy project but I think in the end, all the blood, sweat and tears will be worth it!

alphabet bean bags
Hope you can follow these steps and if you have any difficulties just email me and I'll see what I can do to help!
Read the rest of the blog here at : Smiles and Snuggles Bean Bags:

The second Teaching through Play idea comes from the True Aim Education Blog and mixes flash cards with a carnival game.

Educational Carnival Games: Cups and Card

Although I don't like to encourage gambling, the old Shell game can be very educational! Instead of taking your child's money, you will be improving their memory, concentration, and general knowledge.  Once you turn plain old flash cards into this exciting new game, you will be amazed at how eager your children are for learning time.
Read the rest of the game here: True Aim Education: Shell Game

Of course, adapt games to  your kids age and educational level and participate with them for the best results. 
If you have any great learning games to share, please do. Post the link here.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Can Vitamins and Supplements Help ADHD and Other Children’s Behavioral Issues?

by John and Diane.

A recent study posted in The Guardian, a UK based online publication, talks about a connection between Omega 3 fatty acids and brain function.

In the study conducted at Oxford’s Center for Evidenced Based Intervention, children between the ages of seven to nine were given a 600mg Omega 3 fatty acid pills for a period of four months.

During this time, the children, who were on average pulled from the bottom 20% of their class for literacy, showed an improvement in their reading.  Parents reported fewer behavioral problems as well from children who had oppositional defiance disorders and hyperactivity, although the teachers involved in the study witnessed no such changes in behavior.

Although there are some critics of the study, everyone agrees it warrants further research as it is recognized that Omega 3 fatty acids play an important role in the development of a healthy brain. Children who are severely lacking in this may improve, but improvements in an already developed brain need further study.

What does this mean for you?

While some scientists support the use of supplements and vitamins to help children with ADHD, you MUST consult your doctor first to make sure they will not conflict with any other medications your child is taking.

According to some children with ADHD have reduced levels of Zinc in their systems and have shown an improvement in symptoms by taking Zinc supplements along with their other medications to help with inattention issues.  Zinc can be found naturally in foods like nuts, beans, whole grains and fortified cereals.

When Fish oils (which contain the Omega 3 fatty acids we talked about above) and Evening Primrose Oil were taken, children ages 7- 12 showed improvement with the inability to think clearly, inattentiveness and overall behavior in a study sited on WebMD.  These supplements can be found naturally in foods like salmon, albacore tuna, and trout.

I have found that when my ADD kids had some real dips in their memory problems (worse than usual) their Vitamin D levels were really low. Upon the advice of another parent, I asked their doctor to check their levels, and sure enough, they were really low.  This happened during the winter months, so a reduction in time spent in the sun may have been the culprit, but a daily Vitamin D supplement took care of the problem quickly.

What Can You Do?

Every little bit helps when it comes to dealing with your child’s ADHD or other behavioral issues, so a visit to the doctor and a requested blood test to screen for any vitamin deficiencies could pinpoint a problem. A vitamin supplement could improve your child’s attentiveness and ability to learn.

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Friday, September 14, 2012

Q&A: “How Can I Get A Tutor For My FosterKids?”

by John and Diane.

The following is a question posed to John from our foster parent blog. 

Question:  "One of my foster kids has ADD and is a slow learner due to fetal alcohol syndrome. He needs help after school with his schoolwork and I just don't have the time to go over his lessons. How can I get a tutor or school help for him?"

Answer:   Now this is a problem that I had a number of times. 

If you’re a foster parent, call your caseworker.   They are supposed to be helping you get services. See what they can do. Some times there is money in their department that they can use, but it is hard to get them to give it up.

The next step would be talking to the Special Ed teacher at your child’s school.  She may be able to help, or point you to a great resource.

Next, try to get it added to the IEP.  This may take some time because you may have already had one, so they have to reschedule a new meeting.  Always be nice when asking and show that you are just trying to get the best for your foster child. 

Teen Tutors

Still striking out?  See if any one you know has an older child who is looking to make some money. 

  Find someone that your kids can look up to and is a good role model, and then it is money spent well.  

I have found that my kids listen better to the teen tutor than they do to the teachers because the tutor goes to their school and they think it’s cool that they know an older kid in their school. In my case, the Teen tutor has even started “looking out for” my kids at school, which is an added bonus!

I even had the tutor bring my child home from school. This works well for me and the tutor because I started paying them as soon as they walk over to my child’s locker and the teen tutor made sure my forgetful ADD child brought home all his school work and sometimes even talked to their teachers for me.  

Now if you can’t find someone in the school where your child goes, then ask your friends if they know of any older children that would make a good tutor. 

Some schools may even help you find a child who they may think would be helpful to you as a tutor and I am sure they would like to know how it works out for you, so always keep them informed.  Besides, they may make a great baby sitter for you later. 

Additionally, once the schoolwork is done, a teen tutor can do some recreational activities with the kids that can work on issues that you may see your occupational or recreational therapist working on. Playing games like basketball or riding the scooters in a supervised manner with the teen tutor can help the kids learn how to play well with the other kids in the house or their nearby friends, as well as work on their coordination and gross motor skills; some things traditional tutors would not work on.

The key to making a teen tutor work is being organized. I made a list of things to do for my teen tutor.  See below for a sample. 

So, I hope this gives you some ideas on how to give your child some extra attention with his schoolwork within your means and busy lifestyle and schedule.  It can be done, and I have seen the benefits of using both schoolteachers and teen tutors with my ADD foster kids.

 Sample List for Teen Tutor  
(Note: this list mentions stealing as well, this was specific to my child as he also had a stealing issue and should not be seen as a "blanket" suggestion for all foster kids tutoring check off lists.
Billy’s Check off list for Tutoring Helper:

(place check mark next to each area once done)

·      Pick up Billy at Locker  at school and get Homework
·      Check the school website to see what assignments Billy needs to get done and see what assignments were not turned in.    

·      Write or print out the assignments or missing assignment information.

·      Email teacher if necessary: forward any emails to John for his records. 

·      Prepare area for doing homework.

Billy comes home:
·      Make sure Billy’s shoes are placed in locker and coat gets hung up

·      Look through pockets in coat for stolen property or forgotten items.

·      Ask Billy to bring back pack upstairs to do homework

·      GO through Billy’s back pack to check for homework and look for Agenda book (for John to sign) and school books. Give Agenda book to John to sign

·      Check backpack for any stolen property

·      Make sure homework done previous day has been turned in

·      Do homework with Billy

·      Make sure homework to be turned in the next day in folded neatly and placed in the schoolbook for that class so that Billy remembers to turn it in. 

·      Put away all school supplies

·      Place all items back in backpack

·      Supervise Billy placing backpack back with his coat and shoes.

Once schoolwork is done: 
·      Play a math related game with Billy. 
·      Go outside for playtime

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Monday, September 10, 2012

There’s an App for That: Modern Technology Tackles ADD and Autism Issues

by John and Diane.

“Back to School” time means organizing yourself, and the kids.

If your kids go to special needs classes, have busy schedules or have additional issues like many of our adopted or foster kids do, any help you can get in getting the kids or their lives under control would be a blessing.  Well, there may just be an App for that!

With the decreasing cost of many computer notebooks and “pad” devices and the increase in awareness of the needs of kids with Autism-spectrum diagnosis or common ADD or ADHD problems, software developers are trying to help. (Or make money, but whatever.)

In any case, there are a few Apps and products out there that might be worth a try that can help keep your kids on task, make transitions or social situations easier or just remind them to do their homework.  Here are a few that we found.



This is a visual prompting tool that can help Autistic kids transition from one activity to the next, make choices and focus on a task. Created by a Mom of an Autistic child and a speech and language pathologist, it can be used on iPads by kids with great ease and is well received by teachers and users.
Check out this link for more information and to watch a video on the product.


Tools for ADD kids may just end up as distractions, but according to some articles, can help make things less frustrating for them and allow them to learn by eliminating some things that may slow them down, like issues like poor spelling.

A highly- visual dial that can keep track of time in a graphic way can help remind children to stay on task in class.  Because of its bright colors and countdown feature, it might help kids focus on a project better than they might without this large and colorful reminder.  You can check it out, as well as other suggestions for ADD kids like use of a PDA, Audio books and scanning pens at this link.

Checklists, reminders and homework trackers are just a few of the helpful apps available at this link that might be useful for families with ADD and ADHD kids. The Social Skills and Brain Trainer is an especially interesting App aimed at helping kids choose appropriate behavior in common situations that might challenge them.

Try them out for yourself by going to this website at:

Do you have an App that you love? Share it with us! 

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Friday, September 7, 2012

Teaching Through Play: Frying Pan Math Helps Kids with ADD

by John and Diane. 

One day I was watching my boys play. They were using their imaginations to make up a fairly complex game with rules and names of characters. They were remembering all the complexities of the game and everyone’s place in it.  Pretty good for kids with memory issues, and learning difficulties as well as ADD and other common problems that foster kids have.
Then I called them in to do school work like adding and subtracting. They could not remember anything they had learned the day before.  The rules for simple math problems did not mean anything to them and forget about them remembering something like how to add 1+2. It just was not fun so not worth remembering.  
This was very frustrating for me, and I admit that I got angry and raised my voice “Why can’t you remember this? We just did this yesterday?” 
Suddenly, once I read them the riot act for not paying attention, they were able to do it.  It dawned on me that I had seen this before. If I would nag the kids about their lessons, they would get mad, or sad and suddenly they could do their work, when before they could not.  If they were really happy, they could also learn. Weird right? It was just when they were in-between emotions that they seemed froze up or “forgetful.”
So, I came up with a plan. I would turn Math into a game. They would be learning without knowing they were learning. This is how I came up with Frying Pan Math.
Frying Pan Math
I made up cards with numbers on them. Start with the numbers 1-10 and make 5 of each number (so you have 5 copies of the number 1, 5 copies of the number 2 etc.)
Now I took an old frying pan and put a + sign in the bottom of it so the frying pan was called “Plus.”
Now I use a spatula to turn over the cards with the numbers on them. I told the kids
“We are going to cook up some numbers but we can’t let them burn, ok?  We will see how much you can cook today”
I said, “can you cook me up so numbers in my frying Pan?” now they thought this sounded fun!
 “Ok, John I can cook!”
I say, “This is a special frying pan, his name is “Plus,” so you always have to say his name.  If you put in a 2 then you have to say his name, “Plus” before you can put the next number in, Ok?” So you can't just say, I am putting 2 in the frying pan because if you do “Plus” will throw it out and you wont be able to cook it and win the game.”
“So you can say ‘2 Plus’ (which is the frying pan's name) 1, and then you can count on your fingers or in your head if you can, and tell me what they add up to.”
Then I go through what adding is, trust me this takes a long time some times.
So we play the game.  Now my job is to make it fun so they want to keep playing. Sound effects and the moving of the frying pan helps with the game and I pretend that it is hot and it’s going to burn. I may even let them move the numbers around the pan while they add them up. If they are taking a long time to add the numbers I can make it sound like the numbers are burning, which makes them work faster. Remember, the best part about this game is that the child is not only learning, but he is playing with his favorite toy- you.
A child “wins” by adding the most numbers correctly, or adding the most numbers together. It is really up to you.
A small prize for a “winner” if two children are playing makes the game more enjoyable and helps further motivate the kids. Just something small is fine.
 What I found is that I was able to move on to times tables with this method and that my kids with short term memory issues would remember basic math skills better because the more numbers he cooked up the bigger the prizes he got.  Kids are always motivated by greed.
Later I was able to transfer the things they learned during the Frying Pan Math game into more mainstream learning methods like flashcards to get my children ready for school. For example, I began to move away from the frying pan and into using flash cards and showed them they were the same numbers we were playing Frying Pan Math with.  First they didn’t think they could do it, but after a while they found themselves knowing the answers. They had the biggest smile on their faces because these were the same flash card we had been working on for months before and now they knew them. Wow!
 I was so proud of them and I thank God for showing me this! I had given up trying to teach the kids and was just letting them play and was praying for help it came to me how I had to teach my boys. I hope you all find it helpful for you and your kids as well.
If you have any helpful tips on how to use play in teaching at home, please share!
 image: adapted from 
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