Charles Emmrys PhD
Understanding Behind This Program
Children affected by a number of conditions such as oppositional defiant disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, autism, anxiety, ADHD or conduct disorder may all develop excessively strong reactions to the word “NO”. The reasons for this are often complex but usually relate to the ability of the brain to react flexibly to the demands of everyday life. In other words, children who react excessively to the word no also often have difficulties with dealing with changes in schedules, breaks in daily routines or novel demands placed on them.
Fortunately, children can be trained to respond appropriately to the word no. This program offers parents, teachers and other caregivers with an easy to implement program for helping children respond more appropriately to the word no.
Implementing the Program
A. Contracting with the Child
Prior to starting the program proper, the adult implementing the program should sit with the child and matter-of-factly talk about how reactions to the word “no” vary from child to child. Some react strongly and some less so. The best response is to be quiet after you hear the word “no” and to figure out what to do next, and then do the next thing. No is simply a signal to change what you are doing or to do something else. It is important for the adult to gain the child’s cooperation, at least at the beginning, for the program to work properly.
B. No Days
Once the contracting has been worked on, the adult announces that one day a week, he/she will say no to everything he/she asks of him/her. After the adult says “no”, he/she will blink to show that it is part of an exercise. The child’s job, when he/she hears the word no (and sees the blink), is to stop, figure what to do next and do it. For every 3 good responses, the child should receive a small food reward and lots of praise. 20 to 30 no experiences should be offered each day. This part of the program should run for 2 weeks. After that, a 2 week break should be taken - after which it can be done again for 2 weeks.
C. Ridiculous No Days
Once the child has practiced with the adult in charge of the program and responded well to their saying “no”, the child can then practice with other adults. The exercise should be fun so they should ask for ridiculous things like “Can I fill the pool with Jell-O please?” or “Can I take your car and drive it in our next demolition derby?” Like in the first exercise, his response should be to stop after he hears the word no and then do what comes next. This part of the program should be administered once a week and run for two weeks followed by a one week break.
D. No Days with Others
One way to consolidate the learning is to have a friend be a no day person. They are given the same challenge as the affected child with the same rewards. The condition is that the friend will be told “a NO and a blink” to all questions when the affected child is present. After the friend is told no, the adult asks the affected child to ask his/her friend how it felt to be told no. This part of the exercise can be implemented using ridiculous questions or normal ones. The important thing is for the affected child to ask the friend how it felt. Like the previous part, this segment of the program should be administered once a week and run for two weeks.
Repeating the Program
Over responses to the word “no” is a difficult response pattern to change. It may require many administrations of the program for the child’s mental flexibility to develop and consolidate. Once you have used the program for 6 weeks (a couple of times with the child and possibly once with a friend) three months should separate these administrations from the next set of exercises.
Keeping It Positive
The word “NO” evokes powerfully negative emotions in some children. The adult using this program should use an encouraging matter of fact teaching approach and keep the mood positive and optimistic about change.