BALTIMORE — Parents know these scenes all too well:
- Their child refuses to get dressed and ready for school.
- A change of plans causes their child to get upset.
- Work-from-home demands prevent attending to their child’s question immediately.
What’s the best strategy to help the child respond and avoid a meltdown?
Answers to those questions and more are now available in the Unstuck and On Target Parent Support video series of tips and tricks. These tips are especially of use for parents and caregivers of elementary school-age children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
The series of free, educational videos is designed to support parents and caregivers tackling common emotional and behavioral topics to help children to stay organized, plan and reach their goals, be flexible thinkers, and regulate their feelings. Behavioral specialists call these skills executive functioning.
By following the tips and skills in the videos, parents can help their children be successful, avoid meltdowns and negativity, and develop a shared language and ways of interacting to achieve calmer, more productive days.
The video series was developed and produced by the University of Maryland School of Social Work’s Institute for Innovation and Implementation's (The Institute) Office of Instructional Technology and Media for Unstuck and On Target, a program designed to improve flexible thinking, planning, and self-control of elementary-age children with ASD or ADHD.
It was made possible through The Institute’s work with Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., and the University of Colorado School of Medicine, and funded through a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute Dissemination and Implementation Award. The videos are available in both English and Spanish.
A core set of parenting skills is introduced throughout the series of videos: seeking to understand a child’s behavior, modeling successful behaviors that a caregiver wants a child to emulate, and consistently using key words to remind a child of the executive functioning skills they can employ.
Many of the 100 parents and caregivers who reviewed the videos for feedback appreciate what they learned from the videos:
“They are very clear, and I like that they are short and to the point. Parents of autistic/ADHD children don't have a lot of time because of their children's high needs, so I appreciate the structure of the videos.”
“They really helped me understand it's not defiance but more of executive functioning. Taking a different approach instead of arguing makes things so much better.”
“The videos made me feel less alone. They reminded me that my son's behavior is 'normal' within the spectrum and hopeful that there are more things I can try to help him.”
The videos were initially conceived to support parents during the pandemic who, by necessity, became homeschool special educators for youth with ASD and ADHD.
Children with ADHD and ASD might struggle to regulate their behavior during the structured setting of a typical school day but during COVID-19 were suddenly faced with an absence of structure and predictability.
A child’s ability to moderate their behavior and regulate their emotions can be challenged when there is a lot going on.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, the normal structure of the school day is upended,” said Laura Gutermuth Anthony, PhD, professor, Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado. “Children can experience disabling anxiety, mood disruption, and aggressive behavior because of their unmet needs during the unstructured days of the pandemic.”
Unstuck and On Target aims to develop a shared way of thinking, a shared language, and a suite of supports for use by both teachers and caregivers to help children be more successful at school and at home.
"We know that the skills and support within our original virtual and print editions of Unstuck and On Target serve as a valuable resource for parents and caregivers," said Lauren Kenworthy, PhD, director of the Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders at Children’s National Hospital. "We are so thankful for the creative minds at the University of Maryland School of Social Work who helped bring these ideas to life in videos, so they can help even more families."
The Institute’s development of the videos was led by Meredith W. Gunn, PhD, MSW, director of instructional technology at The Institute, while the story and concept was led by Anthony, who is a former University of Maryland, Baltimore faculty member, Kenworthy, and the Unstuck and On Target author team.
“We at the University of Maryland School of Social Work are proud of these series of videos to support parents and proud of the work done by Meredith Gunn and her team. We are committed to supporting parents, caregivers, and teachers in their never-ending work in educating and raising children across the U.S. Now, more than ever, these ‘front-line workers’ need as much support as possible,” said School of Social Work Dean Judy L. Postmus, PhD, ACSW.
Several of the videos are animated using Vyond by The Institute’s multimedia technicians, Kaitlyn Decker, MS, and Dennard Brown.
“We wanted to make the characters diverse to reach a broad range of parents and be relatable,” Brown said. “The videos feature information that everybody can learn from. These techniques can feature any level of relationship that you have.”
The Institute for Innovation & Implementation
The Institute for Innovation & Implementation (The Institute), founded in 2005, is a part of the University of Maryland School of Social Work. The Institute is committed to building research-based, innovative, sustainable, and transformative youth- and family-serving systems and services, and to develop the capacity of the workforce within these systems. We do this work in partnership with government agencies, health care providers, and community-based organizations to improve outcomes for and with youth and their families.
About the University of Maryland School of Social Work
The University of Maryland School of Social Work, founded in 1961, is highly ranked and respected. Its mission is to develop practitioners, leaders, and scholars to advance the well-being of populations and communities and to promote social justice. As national leaders, they create and use knowledge for education, service innovation, and policy development.