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How are things going with your kiddo? Maybe you’re seeing some behaviors that get in the way of learning and socializing. Or maybe your son or daughter has actually gotten a diagnosis, like autism or a learning disability.

Well, take heart, you’re not stuck and you’re not alone. We’ve made these challenges our life’s work and we love it. We’re going to walk you through whatever you’re facing. You’ll be amazed at the options you have. And get this – you and your kid are actually going to have fun.

Let’s start with one underlying premise, one thing we all have in common, no matter our age, intelligence, abilities or health. We all have “an engine” – that working part of us that makes us roll out of bed in the morning, bustle – or slog — through the day, and wind down to sleep. All of us — adults and children — do things all day long to change how alert we feel. It’s called self-regulating. But we rarely give it a thought.

Hey, did you just volunteer to look at your own engine? Way to do the right thing by your kid! In the Alert Program®, we identify three states of alertness: high, low and “just right.” Are you, for example, an early morning slug (low alert), a mid-morning model of efficiency (just right), an afternoon snoozer (low alert) or a hyper busy night owl (high alert)?

Each state has its place, of course – low is good for bedtime; high is good for running sprints or errands — but only one is good for learning, making friends, having dinner with family. We call it the optimal state of alertness – attentive and focused. We want to help your child, and all of your family, find ways to get there – and to change gears up or down as needed.

For now, let’s keep our eyes on you. After all, you’ll have a heck of a time helping your kid with her alert states if you don’t understand your own. You know when the stewardess tells you to put on your own oxygen mask first, then help your child? It’s like that.

Now, when are you in a low state, and what does that look like? Is it first thing in the morning, two hours after lunch, an hour after dinner? Do you drag around moaning about coffee, go to the vending machine for a snack, fall asleep in front of the TV?

When are you in a high state? Are people telling you you’re hyper? Maybe trying to do too many things at once? Talking too fast? Do you ever hear, “Slow down a minute; I need to talk to you”?

And that brings us to just right. You need to read a complicated report? You’re focused, interested, feeling at the top of your game. Someone needs your attention? You’re there – fully engaged.

Now, think about your kiddo. Your precious, sometimes outrageous, sometimes lackluster, sometimes angelic, sometimes obstinate, always lovable son or daughter. He’s got an engine. She has those same alert states you have. How is he supposed to follow a reading lesson at school when he feels like you do when you’re zoned out in front of the TV? How is she supposed to make friends when she’s feeling like you do when you rush off, frazzled, to your next meeting?

OK, you get the point, but don’t talk to her yet. This is a family affair. You don’t want to be pointing at her every day, talking about her alert state as if she were the only person who had one. Doesn’t she often feel different enough as it is? Use this to make her feel like everybody else for a change.

Notice your own alert states and what you do to shift them — up or down. The Alert Program® teaches that you have five categories to change how alert you feel: Put something in your mouth (coffee or crunchy popcorn), move (take a brisk walk or do stretches), touch (put on lotion or wrap up in an afghan), look (raise or dim the lights), and listen (to classical or rock n’ roll music). Each category has many more options, of course (in fact, we wrote a whole book to give you LOTs of options for home and school called Take Five!).

Share this information with the other adults in your child’s life and have them identify their alert states and what they do to change them. Get everybody on the same page.

When you’re ready to explain them to your child, start with the engine metaphor and share what you’ve learned about yourself. We have two books, one that comes with songs on a CD, that are helpful resources for people new to the program. You can go to AlertProgram.com to check out our Leader’s Guide and our Test Drive book with CD.

If the engine theme isn’t going to work for your bundle of joy, choose something else. Little kids like to use Tigger (high), Pooh (just right) and Eeyore (low). Use whatever characters motivate your kid. Older kids like to choose their own words -– like dragging for low, cruising for just right and zooming for high.

Everybody in your family has periods of Eeyore, hours of Pooh, and episodes of Tigger. Time to get to know each other on a whole new level. We think you’ll see a lot more cooperation – and more smiles too!