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How to Document Your Child's Behaviors for Professionals and Specialists

I vividly remember the first time I started documenting Sunshine's behaviors for her developmental pediatrician to read. 

Each episode was written in detail in a notebook. The doctor dropped the book down on her lap, looking at me.

"I had no idea behaviors were this bad."

This documentation led to a huge influx of support from professionals and specialists. But the approach I was using to document wasn't one I could sustain. It was then that the doctor began to teach me how to document necessary details in short form.

Over the years as we've gone through multiple situations with schools, psychiatric wards, residential facilities, law enforcement etc. we've perfected the documentation process.

Today I'm excited to teach you how to document your child's behaviors for professionals and specialists in a way that helps you and your child receive the care and support you need.


How to Document Your Child's Behaviors for Professionals and Specialists


How to Document Your Child's Behaviors for Professionals and Specialists


Why document your child's behaviors for professionals and specialists?


In order for professionals and specialists to provide the support your family needs, they need to understand exactly what's going on. 

Diagnoses are based off of observation AND documentation. The more documentation you have the more accurate the diagnosis will be.

You as the caregiver are not going to remember all of the details when it comes time for an appointment. 

And even if you do, that doesn't mean you'll have the time or be able to report, especially if you're the only adult in the room attending to the child with disabilities.

Documentation shows that you are putting forth effort to understand your child and are willing to do the work to make necessary changes. This is VERY important.

As you find patterns, you can ask very specific and important questions. You can implement a new plan that may work better and decrease unsafe behaviors.

Documenting your child's behaviors for professionals and specialists allows them to give you feedback about what the most appropriate course of action may be when helping your child. 

At times, as caregivers in isolation, we may not understand the severity of what we're experiencing, until we share all of the details. In those times, we may not be able to make extremely difficult decisions on our own.

With documentation, professionals and specialists can help with those difficult decisions.

When do you document your child's behaviors for professionals and specialists?


If you are concerned about your child's behaviors, then it's time to document them. Whether your first point of contact is a pediatrician, a therapist, or educator, in order to help you help your child, they need to understand what's going on and how often it's occurring. 

If your child is seeing a developmental pediatrician, psychologist, or psychiatrist, providing documentation of behaviors is one of the single most important things you can do to to receive the help and support you need for your family.

If your child has an IEP and/or attends a school specific to their disability, documenting behaviors at home can be very helpful, especially when comparing behaviors at home and during a different time of day.

If you're having run ins with law enforcement over your child's behaviors or are fearful that might happen, it's time to document all that you can.

If you're just trying to understand the "why" behind behaviors, it's a good time to document.

If you're wondering about behavioral patterns, it's time to document.

If you're considering a medication or medication change, documenting behaviors is crucial.

There's honestly not a time when documenting behaviors won't be helpful. 

As one passionate about Montessori, I document as part of my observation. It always helps.

What types of documentation about your child's behaviors help professionals and specialists?


There are many forms of documentation that are helpful to professionals, specialists, and law enforcement.
 
At first a simple composition notebook where pages can't be torn out may do the trick, if behaviors are minimal or don't occur often.

Video footage of an incident is helpful, especially as it shows your response to the behavior. 

Again this works well if behaviors don't occur too often. Once they do, you're looking at a set up that is more complicated like a security system.

Charting the ABCs of Behavioral Analysis

Charting the ABCs of Behavioral Analysis can be extremely helpful when looking to understand the why behind behaviors and how you might tweak things as a parent in your response to behaviors.

But, my favorite type of documentation involves a monthly calendar, where I can simply write down the important information I need. Everything is in one place to observe patterns. 

Professionals and specialists tend to enjoy these most as well, especially since they cover an extended period of time in a way that's easy to view.

What do you use to document your child's behaviors for professionals and specialists?


As mentioned above, you can simply use a notebook or phone camera, but to create my favorite type of documentation, you need a monthly calendar.

I prefer to create a monthly calendar on the computer so I can change the font size depending on the day and how many behaviors there are. 

It's easier to color code things and add little notes in the empty boxes that I want to remember using a computer as well. Though, I am one to love a set of colored pens too. Lol.

You may also want clocks easily accessible if you're documenting specific times and durations of behaviors.

How do you document your child's behaviors for professionals and specialists?


Now that you understand the whys, when's, and what's, it's time to address the how.

Time of Behavior


The first important piece of documentation you need is the time of the behavior. You can also record how long the behavior lasts.

At home, I don't wear a watch. It's too unsafe to do so. When behaviors occur, I may or may not be holding my phone. Depending on the behaviors, I may not be able to hold my phone if I wanted to.

When Sunshine is home, I usually document time in increments of morning (wake up to noon), afternoon (noon to 4 PM) and evening (4 PM to bedtime). I may also include if a behavior was before or after a meal.

In Sunshine's residential treatment center, staff document behaviors specifically by time. They are kind enough to send this documentation to me.  I create my calendar and send it back to them for all of us to analyze. (Their documentation is in the form of lists, which is extremely hard to follow.)

Name of Behavior


The second most important piece of documentation is the name of the behavior. Depending on how many behaviors you're trying to track, will depend on how many names you'll want to include.

When Sunshine is at home, we only track aggressions and rank them: mild, medium, or severe. In her residential treatment center, many other behaviors are tracked.

Below I have included Sunshine's behavioral calendar from May of 2022 with the data that the residential facility provided me. (You can open the pdf with the link at the bottom of this post.) 

You can see how these times and behaviors are displayed.

Please note I am choosing to share this information as an example of what a calendar may look like with a child who suffers from Reactive Attachment Disorder, a mood disorder, autism, ADHD and more.

Sunshine is an incredible kid. These behaviors do not define her.

Sunshine's Behavioral Calendar May 2022

Now that you've seen an example of my calendar, you will also notice other info I like to include.

Important Information that Contributes to Behaviors


On Sunshine's calendar, you will note that she did not receive her Adderall dose on May 12th, (Parents and professionals are not perfect and do make mistakes.) This definitely had an effect on her day. 

May 5th, Sunshine had a visit with us. Understanding how that influenced her behavior that day and the day after is important.

May 2nd and 3rd, behaviors were worse and I do not see a reason for that change in behavior, so I note that by color coding the days orange.

On May 18th and 30th, Sunshine's school schedule was interrupted. It's important to document an increase or decrease in behaviors.

May 30th, Sunshine's depressive episode was so severe that she decided to call 9-1-1 wreaking havoc for everyone at the facility.

Patterns in Behavior


After a week or two, you may start noticing patterns in behaviors. It's important to highlight these patterns. As you document month after month, you may see monthly patterns.

I love to highlight these patterns and show them to professionals. They confirm to me that I'm not losing my mind AND professionals and specialists can help!

On Sunshine's calendar, you'll note that there are patterns in behaviors related to the day of the week, depending on if her preferred one-to-one is with her.

You'll note meal time is a struggle.

When it comes to monthly patterns, you can vividly see when Sunshine is in manic and depressive episodes and how long they last. Her behaviors were so severe that PRNs (medication) had to be given each time to calm her.

Charting these behaviors the way I did and sharing them with her team led to:
  • The psychiatrist increasing mood disorder meds at specific times of day
  • Extra supports being put in at meal time
  • More training for the one-to-one that was with Sunshine when her preferred person isn't there.

Now, to guide you a little bit further, I've included Sunshine's Behavior Calendar for June.

Sunshine's Behavioral Calendar June 2022

You will note a new pattern of behaviors occurs around gym class and outside time. 

Mealtime behaviors improve. 

Sunshine's manic and depressive episodes were a tiny bit more mild with no need for a PRN. The need for a PRN was completely unrelated.

Visits home to Sunshine's family went well, but she did display behaviors the days before and after the visits, which isn't great.

Sunshine really struggled with having a substitute teacher.

Days without her preferred one-to-one are still a struggle, but weekends are better.

Now, why am I sharing all of this with you?

Documentation leads to the most accurate help and support. When you are raising a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder, Autism, mood disorder, ADHD, and/or more, that's extremely important.

Understanding patterns and making changes accordingly can help both you and the child.

Viewing positive changes in behaviors can be so encouraging. If you notice a decline in behaviors, then you know to make an appointment.

Now, if you have a child who is displaying similar behaviors to Sunshine, you need help. You should not be doing this alone. These behaviors are not normal or okay.

Please note, your child is not wrong or bad if you feel the need to document behaviors. They are displaying unsafe behaviors, which affect everyone in the home. That's it. The goal is to have the unsafe behaviors diminish and eventually stop. 

Sunshine is an amazing girl. When she is good, she is incredible. Genetically, she received the raw end of the deal, and then trauma occurred, which was not her fault. I have faith that over time, most likely a long time, she can get better.

Documentation has helped all of us so much throughout our journey with her to keep her and everyone around her as safe as possible.

For those whose who want to receive more information and helpful tips regarding behaviors, be sure to sign up for our free newsletter by clicking the link below.


Don't forget to look at Sunshine's behavioral calendars up close by clicking the link below in order to help you make your own.


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How to Document Your Child's Behaviors for Professionals and Specialists




A Halloween Party for Kids with Special Dietary Needs

 Halloween has always been an incredibly challenging holiday in our home due to special dietary needs, anxieties, and fears. 

Trick-or-Treating is not an option.

Instead we throw a Halloween party for our kids that allows us to meet all of their dietary needs, calm anxieties, and avoid scary things that they fear.

This tradition is one that our children LOVE and look forward to.

A Halloween Party for Kids with Special Dietary Needs


A Halloween Party for Kids with Special Dietary Needs


Each year we choose a different theme for our Halloween party. This particular year we chose "A Charlie Brown Halloween" theme. 


Sunshine was in love with the movie It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, watching it on a daily basis. She's extremely sensitive to scary content, so I loved that the theme was one that was not scary.


Halloween Party Decorations



Our tabletop decor came from Pottery Barn Kids. Just because all of our kids have special dietary needs, doesn't mean that we can't make the act of eating extra special. A fun table cloth, plates, etc. usually does the trick!


A couple of things to make mention of...


I use fabric table cloths because my kids have a sensory aversion to plastic ones.


I use fabric napkins due to tactile sensory issues. It's pretty normal to have a freak out over using a paper napkin here.


I use melamine plates and cups because my kids aren't fans of paper plates, due to their flimsiness. Melamine is also much less breakable compared to glass or ceramic options.


You'll notice Halloween pillows in our reading nook, behind the table. These pillows are indoor outdoor pillows from Pottery Barn.


I am a HUGE fan of indoor/outdoor pillows because they're more durable and usually don't have buttons, snaps, or zippers. In other words, my kids can't destroy them. Lol.


I also love that indoor/outdoor pillows don't fade, even in a room full of windows where everything else does!


Halloween Party Attire


Since we don't go trick-or-treating, we are usually pretty flexible with Halloween attire. Some years we go with a simple new outfit, like shown above. Other years we may find a way to dress up. The kids were thrilled with these outfits as they all glowed in the dark.

For the longest time, none of our children enjoyed face paint due to how it felt as it dried and allergy issues. It's pretty impossible to eat in masks. Other than special Halloween hair accessories (if the girls are in the mood to use them), we don't do much with faces.

Food



Our Halloween dinner plans almost always include pizza. It's a meal everyone will eat AND we can find diet-friendly alternatives for crusts, sauce, and cheese.

Click HERE to see our favorite diet-friendly pizza crust recipe, using raw honey or other sugar alternative for Sunshine. One batch makes two personal pan pizzas.

We've found No Sugar Added Prego Sauce works great for our pizzas. For those who can't have dairy, we've found Daiya shredded mozzarella cheese to taste the best. It helps that it melts!

Our kids are huge fans of Hormel Turkey pepperoni, which is safe for everyone in our home. I usually opt for a ham and pineapple pizza, but that's just me. Lol.



Besides pizza, I usually put a few diet friendly candies in a cute container, like the pumpkins shown in the image above and below.


Each child has their own assigned seat at our dinner table. This makes it easy to ensure that each kiddo receives only candy that's diet friendly for them.


I love giving candy with dinner on Halloween because it helps curb the anxiety and excitement related to Halloween candy.




After dinner the kids are given their Halloween candy. This is always a highlight of our night as the kids already know what they're receiving and love to trade with siblings when possible.

Why do they know what they're receiving?

Before Halloween, we take the kids to our local Walmart and let them each pick out two bags of candy that are diet friendly, that they'd like for Halloween.

This is a Halloween tradition they look forward to every year.

Once the candy bags are handed out, the kids sort their candy, and the trading begins where possible.


(This Halloween party occurred before Sunshine was put on a dairy-free and gluten-free diet.)

The sorting and trading process usually takes quite a while, but when all is said and done, everyone has sorted their candy at least once and enjoyed a few pieces.



After dinner and candy bags, we usually watch a Halloween movie together. Sometimes we do a Halloween dance party in the living room. Other times we may play a Halloween game. It all just depends on the kids.

After the night's entertainment, the kids put on their new Halloween pj pajamas and take one more picture.


Halloween pajamas are a big deal in our house. The kids look forward to them every year, especially ones that glow in the dark. Lol.

There is always a way for kids with special dietary needs to enjoy Halloween, even if it looks different than it might for others.

So long as they enjoy it, that's all that matters!

For those who are looking for more holiday and special dietary needs resources, be sure to subscribe to our free newsletter by clicking the link below.


If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy the resources below.

Disney Villains Halloween Party Witches and Wizards Halloween Party Our Halloween Countdown Fall Kickoff Party Montessori-inspired Halloween Themed Language Bundle Montessori-inspired Halloween Language Bundle in Cursive Montessori-inspired Halloween Jack-o-lantern Printable Pack Montessori-inspired Halloween Animals Printable Pack


A Halloween Party for Kids with Special Dietary Needs



How to Make an Apology for Kids with Visuals

What does it mean to make an apology? 

How do you teach kids to be sincere when they apologize to peers and adults?

When working with children on on the autism spectrum, how do you help them with communicating an apology and deciding on an amends?

How do you teach empathy to a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder, especially one who continues to hurt others.

These are all very real struggles we've faced in our home. This post explains how we taught our kids to apologize. 

We hope you enjoy these "How to Make an Apology" for kids tips and resources with visuals.

How to Make an Apology for Kids with Visuals


How to Make an Apology for Kids with Visuals


How to Teach Neurodiverse and Neurotypical Children to Make an Apology


There are four people in our family on the autism spectrum. Apologizing is often a challenging task, not because they don't want to apologize, but because they don't know what to say, or how to show they actually mean it.

Truthfully, many who aren't on the autism spectrum don't know how to make an apology appropriately, This is not a skill that only autistic people struggle to learn.


Due to situations in our home, that were occurring on a regular basis, I created a resource to help neurodiverse and neurotypical children learn the best way to make an apology.

The first part of the resource I created is a "How to Make an Apology" cheat sheet. This guides the kids through the apology process in four simple steps. 


The second resource is our "Amends Cards." These are incredibly helpful when completing the last step of the apology process.


How to Make an Apology Chart & Cards


So how does one make a sincere and complete apology? Here are the four steps we've taught our children.


4 Steps to Make an Apology


1. I'm sorry for...


The kids use the phrase, 'I'm sorry for..." and then fill in the blank with whatever they have done. 


It's incredibly important to make sure there is a conversation between the caregiver and the child who needs to apologize before the child is expected to carry out the apology. 


The adult needs to ensure that the child knows what he did wrong, and that he are able to communicate this to the person he hurt. 


In our home, sometimes this includes practicing what is going to be said.

 

2. It's wrong because...


After a child apologizes, it's incredibly important that he understands why the behavior was wrong and be able to communicate that to the person that's been hurt.


Again, this step is usually practiced with an adult before a child faces a sibling or other person.


3. Next time I will...


The third step of the apology requires the child to plan out what he will do next time instead of the behavior that hurt someone else. 


Here's an example:


"Next time I will use a kind and quiet voice, instead of yelling at you, when I am feeling upset."


The child may not be perfect at following through with this step, but it's incredibly important to work on it and to understand that things can be done a different way.


Having a plan set up before hand to address a behavior is often the best way to avoid future incidents, especially if it's communicated out loud and caregivers can provide support in carrying it out.


4. Make amends.


The final step of an apology is "showing" that one is actually sorry. This means putting forth the effort to make an amends.  


At times this can be the hardest step for multiple reasons. 


Thinking of an amends can be difficult, especially for those on the autism spectrum who may not understand what that even means.


Carrying out an amends can cause frustration, especially when ideas are bigger and more time consuming than anticipated, interrupting rituals and routines.


For these reasons we have created cards that give kid-friendly choices of how to show love to others. These cards provide a variety of options to ensure that every child can be successful at making amends.


In our home, these are called the "Amends Cards." The kids know to grab them when they are required to make an apology, finding a task card that they're comfortable with, and one that the person their making amends to may enjoy.


Eventually they'll be able to come up with ideas for making amends on their own, but for now, these work fabulously well.


These cards take the anxiety out of making amends for kids on the autism spectrum which helps so much!


All of these resources are included in our Montessori-inspired Friendship Printable Pack!


Montessori-inspired Friendship Printable Pack

Montessori-inspired Friendship Printable Pack


If you're wondering if this printable pack is worth it, be sure to check out our Physical Boundaries and Consent Activities for Kids. This post also includes resources and visuals from the same printable pack, explaining how we use them.


Physical Boundaries and Consent Activities for Kids


How to Teach Children with Reactive Attachment Disorder How to Make an Apology


For kids with Reactive Attachment Disorder or RAD, apologies are HARD. One characteristic of children with Reactive Attachment Disorder is a lack of empathy. 

This lack of empathy is not their fault. They are not "bad" because of it. Their brains developed this way because of the trauma they endured. 

Due to this challenge, empathy has to be learned and is often wrote and memorized for a VERY long time. This can change as healing occurs.

Apologies may sound insincere. 

There WILL be battles over a requirement to apologize in many circumstances. 

So how do we use the apology resources in the post with our children with Reactive Attachment Disorder?

We use them the same way, but know and understand the process will take a LOT longer and most likely will include battles.

The goal is to teach the skill to apologize successfully and consistently, despite battles and behaviors that may occur and despite the length of time it may take for the child to apologize. 

In our home time stops until all steps of the apology are completed in a calm and kind manner

The child attends to required tasks like school, chores, homework, meals, and hygiene tasks, but everything else is put on hold until the apology process is completed.

We've had to teach our other kids that the behaviors that occur after the apology is required, aren't about them, but about the child with Reactive Attachment Disorder not wanting to follow the caregiver's instructions.

We've had to teach our other kids that apologizing is REALLY HARD for kids with Reactive Attachment Disorder. It may take a LONG time for the apology to occur, but it will happen. The delay has nothing to do with them.

We've had to teach our other kids NOT to stop reporting behaviors because of all that occurs when an apology is required from the child with Reactive Attachment Disorder.

When someone in our home hurts another person in any way, a full apology is required. There are no exceptions. 

The person who needs to apologize is in complete control of how long that process takes and chooses the behaviors that occur in the process.

The other thing we've taught our other children, is that it's okay not to forgive immediately. 

It's okay to say thank you for the apology and look forward to seeing the person continuing to show she is sorry.

It's okay to set safe boundaries with a person who continues to hurt them. One can still love someone from a distance, and not put themselves in an abusive relationship.

So why go through all of this just for an apology with a child who has Reactive Attachment Disorder?

Apologies are a necessary part of life. 

Every relationship we are a part of will at some point require an apology.

Apologies are one of the many social situations that all children must master in order to be successful adults in healthy relationships.

What parent doesn't want that?

Before I finish, I want to leave one more tip to help this process.

Practicing Apologies


Practice through Role Play Situations


One thing we like to do when introducing a new social skill is to practice when no one has the need to use it.


As we practice new social skills in calm situations, the kids are much more likely to understand them and show mastery in them.


Bulldozer and Dinomite especially liked role playing the apology process, coming up with scenarios in which they had to apologize. You can tell this from the picture above. Their expressions crack me up as both were trying really hard not to break character and laugh.


Princess and Sunshine were able to demonstrate to all that they were able to apologize successfully without behaviors during the practice scenarios. This was incredibly important for siblings to see.


Once the role play was complete, the resources were put on the refrigerator for easy access and reminders.


Self-Regulation and Apology Center

We have used these apology resources and visuals for years. Dinomite, Bulldozer, and Princess have graduated from using them. Sunshine still needs them, but seems to enjoy using them. 

Behaviors have improved with our kids with Reactive Attachment Disorder during the apology process.

All of this can be a lot of hard work for caregivers, but it's worth it!

For those who would like more resources for teaching social skills and emotional regulation, be sure to subscribe to our free newsletter by clicking the link below.


Don't forget to grab your apology resources today! 


If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy the resources below.
Breathing Exercises for Kids with Free Printables Anger Management for Kids Four Prompts to Encourage Mindfulness in Children What I Wish I'd Known When My Child was Diagnosed with Autism How to Help Your Autistic Child Play Board Games Successfully The Montessori Floor Bed and Special Needs What Is Reactive Attachment Disorder What NOT to Do with a RAD Child How to Discipline a Child with Reactive Attachment Disorder


How to Make an Apology for Kids with Visuals