How Positive Are You?

In this short video, I discuss the 1-hour lecture by Dr. Glenn Latham that I saw in 2000 that literally changed my life. I’m discussing how being positive is important when working with children with autism:

Dr. Latham was the author of several parenting and education books and he was the keynote speaker at an autism conference. Two of his classic books include Positive Parenting, which is great for all parents of kids, toddlers through teens, with and without special needs and Behind the Schoolhouse Door: 8 Skills Every Teacher Needs.

Dr. Latham had a PhD in special education and was often called in for the tough cases. He described how people would often warn him when he would go into do an evaluation on a troubled child within it’s a school setting. I remember him saying it didn’t matter what age the child was or what the exact situation was like it would always be pretty similar.

The aids and the teacher would say things like “You’ve never seen a kid like Nick. He is completely out of control and not able to learn anything. He is so disruptive to the other kids and sometimes hurts people.”

When Dr. Latham then observed kids like Nick he would almost always find the same thing: well-meaning teachers and other staff members were using 8, or in some cases many more, negatives to every positive comment – telling Nick to stop it, settle down, be quiet, stand still in line, etc.

After his years of experience, Dr. Latham came up with the formula and said that everyone with and without disabilities needs approximately eight positives for every negative. He found kids with special needs, especially those not doing well in school, often received the opposite ratio with sometimes dozens of negative comments to every positive one.

Since hearing Dr. Latham almost 2 decades ago I often count the negative to positive ratio when I am observing students.

I simply make a column and tally positive comments or gestures on one side. This can be things like “great job standing in line, awesome that you completed this whole sheet of math problems” or simply a thumbs-up.

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The other column I write down or tally all the negative comments and gestures. Many professionals feel that if they say things with a smile on their face they’re still being positive but any nagging such as “remember to set crisscross applesauce or we remember we need to share” or even simply raising your eyebrows are shaking your head no are all going to the negative pile.

Also remember that our kids aren’t the only ones that need a positive to every negative – so do the staff working with the kids.

So does:

  • the behavior analyst,
  • the speech therapist,
  • the parents,
  • your husband or wife,
  • your typically developing kids,
  • the store clerk,
  • the waitress

all need a lot more positive than negatives.

If you have a child or client with major problem behaviors this might be the easiest thing you can do is to start making a sheet and counting positive to negative comments and a 15 minute minute. Or an hour.

When you can sit back and observe I believe you can change the world by being more positive! I encourage you to take 15 min today to count the positive to negative ratio for your child or client with autism and start thinking about the ratio in all of the areas of your life.

Please leave me a comment below and share this video with friends and on social media.

I’ll see you next week.

Ready to learn more and turn things around for your child or client with autism? Sign up for my free 3-step guide!