Monday, June 18, 2012

Review and Giveaway: MotivAider: What Walking the Walk Can Really Accomplish

For the price you might want it to play music or flash messages but I think that single-function gadgets are highly effective and very classroom-friendly.   photo: Behavioral Dynamics Inc.

WHAT:  MotivAider
DOES:  simple tool can be worn on your person and send you reminders via vibrations at a timed interval of your choice; single-function gadgets can be simply powerful.
INVEST: $59.50 (prices may vary with retailer)
TOOLS: Family Fix-its, Fertilize Responsibility and Courtesy, I Can Take Care of Myself, Remember to Learn
EXPERT OPINION: Beverly Whalen-Schmeller, School Psychologist, Metro Nashville Public Schools
See Giveaway Details Below

Few things are harder than teaching a child to stop depending on you and start depending on himself.  Here's what I mean:  I have successfully quit smoking but have had almost NO success with dieting.  I think it's because you don't really need to smoke cigarettes to live.   But you do need to eat food.

The same thing goes with teaching children to become more independent.  You can be teaching them how to to make their bed but then at the end of the day, you're making sure they've rinsed out all the shampoo on their head.  Help is help.  I think it's so instinctive for them to expect help when things get hard. 

But we still need to teach them how to be independent, right?  After having success with our Park and Learn and Time Timer, I figured I can try other independence-fertilizers as well.  Thus, I decided to try out the MotivAider, a product that I thought was basically for kids who have trouble paying attention.

I have dropped this thing so many times.  It still works great!  photo: Behavioral Dynamics Inc.

But I was wrong. MotivAiders are not solely about paying attention.  It's really a tool to change all kinds of habits and behaviors.   A simple way to explain how it works is that you can wear this gadget and have it vibrate every 4 minutes (you choose # of minutes or seconds).  You can adjust the vibration intensity and length and even make it randomly vibrate too.

To be effective,  you should teach yourself to self-talk a specific phrase when it vibrates like:
My mother will yell at me.  Get back to work.
or maybe just -
Get back to work.

Walking Speaks Louder Than Talking

But after the MotivAider arrived at our doorstep, I stressed over how to introduce it to Number 1 Son who can think a hundred thoughts per minute. This makes him very creative but also makes doing "work" very hard. Which phrase should I teach him? How long should he wear it for?  Should I send it to school? Oy!

And then one day,  I looked online and found out that the great Russell Barkley, who wrote one of my favorite books, Your Defiant Child, said that PARENTS could use the MotivAider too!  It would help them remember to praise their children which would produce positive results at home.

As much as I know that I must catch 'em when they're good, I'm a very half-empty gal.  So I took a deep breath, made myself read the directions  (they have instructional videos now!) and started wearing it.   That was seven weeks ago and I'm still wearing mine.  I am so glad I wore it first because now I know with my own brain and body - this thing freakin' works!

I hook it on to my foldover skirt and foldover pants too.  And here's a thought-  I know a mom that sometimes carries her cellphone in her bra (top strap part near shoulder).  I think she's really smart for doing that.  photo: Behavioral Dynamics Inc.

If You're Stressed or Have Half-Empty Vision

At first I wore it just to do remind myself to do more "specific-labeled praise," where I point out the actions and behaviors that I want to see again.   "Hey, that was really nice of you to share with your brother"  or "wow, look how neat you are eating your dinner!"    I must admit that I felt like Impostor Mom, but my kids?   They looked at me like their mom had returned from a long trip away.  They were smiling so much more every day!  Ohmigosh, am I that crabby?   After my impostor feelings went away, I started noticing myself more and noticing them more.  I started noticing how bad things WEREN'T

But wearing the MotivAider doesn't make things perfect.  I still "lose it" sometimes but I do it a lot less.  And on those days, when I find myself apologizing to my son for my short temper, I show him that I will set the timed vibrations to a shorter interval, like 2 minutes, to remind myself to "look at what I'm doing."   He gets to personally witness that I can and do help myself and that I didn't lose my temper again after I adjusted my MotivAider.  This is my covert sales pitch to my son because he's up next with this thing although I do have visions of my husband wearing it after me!

I found out that I'm not the only grown-up who wears them.  Lots of grown-ups do.  Because it is such a simple tool, anyone can wear them to remind themselves to do anything like avoiding midnight snacks, trying to manage your temper, or even trying to manage your classroom.


In less than 1 minute you can learn to set your MotivAider.  

The Best "Best Teacher Story" Ever!

Say what? Teachers wear this?  Which teachers?  Do they live in New York City?   Well, I haven't found someone here yet but I did find Beverly Whalen-Schmeller, PhD, a school psychologist working in Metro Nashville Public Schools.   Bev, as she likes to be called works in four schools from preschool to high school and guess what she does?  She works with teachers who wear the MotivAiders themselves to manage their classroom more effectively.  

Bev first learned about the MotivAider years ago from a teacher named Jessica Weisenbach Sellers, who would wear it on herself in a special classroom created for children with a lot of behavioral support needs.

"She set her MotivAider up for every couple of minutes and she would give them points when the MotivAider went off," Bev said noting that Ms. Weisenbach Sellers would keep the points on the board.  It helped kids see that they could do the right thing.  And did the kids see her wearing it?

"Of course!" Bev said. "Absolutely! She was transparent." 

Ms. Jessica Weisenbach Sellers!  I am officially your newest fan!  What a progressive thinker you are!  Jessica Weisenbach Sellers is now the lead behavior specialist in Nashville Public Schools.  "She got promoted," Bev said proudly. 

Might we see retailers sell parent-and-child packages in the future?  Don't forget we're giving one away! See below for details.

Does Change Start with You First?

Bev says that elementary and preschool teachers especially love the MotivAiders that she lends out to them. "I check them out like a little library system," Bev said. "I have to actually hound and nag them to give them back because they love them so much."

I am still in awe.  It's one thing to wear it at home but in front of a whole classroom and your peers at work?  That inspires me. A kid could wear his proudly in that same classroom then. Bev said, "It is very therapeutic for the teachers because classrooms are very frustrating places just like the rest of the world."   At this point, Bev is making me cry.  I know firsthand how therapeutic it is and I am so moved by Bev and the teachers with whom she works because for the longest time, I was just thinking to myself: It's their issue so they should wear it.

Bev responded to this cold New Yorker, in the sweetest, warmest, most gentle of American Southern tones, "Oh well, you see now... you can't change other people. You can only change your own behavior."

Obviously being in an Android, the single-function component (that I recommend more) is not available,  but the app is here for those who want it.   Perhaps it's a good way to sort of try out the original?   Only $1.99 folks!  photo: Behavioral Dynamics Inc.

These Tools are For Everyone

Bev said that she gives them to teachers because in every classroom there always a kid who is having a behavior issue.   Wait, only one kid in the class with a behavior issue? That's sounds like a general education classroom to me. I would think that Bev would only use this with special education teachers.

"Noooooooo! No. No. No," Bev said.  Wow, any teacher could use a MotivAider according to Bev.  She has the teacher use the device to monitor behavior for kids having a hard time in case they have to make a more astringent plan.  "This is like baseline," Bev said.  "And this is also to help teachers understand Little Johnny is not bad all the time. You're just tired," she said sweetly.  "Johnny is actually doing the right thing a lot of the time."  The plan is used to mark the positive behavior, Bev told me.

"The MotivAider makes the teachers feel better," Bev said explaining that if the teacher feels better about the child's behavior, that's going to translate to the child that she's not going to get yelled at all the time. Their relationship will improve. "You know, it's kind of a big deal.  The relationship between the teacher and the student is the biggest deal,"  Bev said.  "That's where the learning happens because the kids want to please the teachers and it really taps into that motivation that all kids have."  I guess that is why my kids were smiling more.  Bev just made it all click for me.

 Since you can't feel it in advance, here's the next best thing....

It's About the People, Not Just the Tool

Good relationships do motivate!  And its the users who take this good tool and make it a great tool.   Aren't Bev and her cohorts just the most amazing people?  Bev actually paid for all five of the MotivAiders that she loans out to the teachers.  Yep, she did.  Isn't this the greatest end of the school year story you've ever read?  I won't be shy here:  Please pass this story around! We need to hear more great teacher stories!

But here's one more thing if all of this didn't convince you.  Last weekend, my husband was sick so that means I was on double parent duty and Numbers 1 and 2 were stressing me out. I had no time to myself. I even felt like I had to rush using the toilet!  And I did rush, so much that my MotivAider that was clipped to my cargo shorts fell right into the toilet.  (I'm usually careful at that time)

I gasped, I yelled, and almost said the F-word with my kids present right outside the bathroom but I suspect that since I had been wearing my MotivAider just seconds prior, I was still self-aware enough to stop myself from having that moment.

I still needed it so I bought a new one the next day.  Nevertheless, I couldn't throw my old one away.  Isn't that just a little pathetic?  It's not like it is going to come back to life but yesterday night, just before I was going to photograph my deceased MotivAider, I put in a fresh battery just to see what would happen and there it was!!!!  It was still working!  Folks, please DON'T TRY dropping them in the water, but please DO TRY the MotivAider.  For me, walking the walk has been incredibly satisfying and refreshing.  Thank goodness I have two now.  I don't have to share!

The MotivAider folks would like to give one MotivAider away (MSRP $59.50) and will ship anywhere in the world. (They already ship to 48 countries and have been motivating with MotivAiders for 25 years.)  Ends July 10, 2012

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Click here to read an article from Teaching Exceptional Children Plus published by the Council of Exceptional Children.  (Case study C is similar to the situation we're discussing here)

This post is dedicated to Suzanne, who is a total kick-butt mom. Everyone that knows her knows what I mean.   I had known about the MotivAider but she was the first mom that I knew that bought one.  Her good experiences led to this review.   

Additionally, this post is also dedicated to Number 1 Son's teacher who also showed me how teachers lead by example.   Your holiday party/global studies presentation where the teachers presented too (not just the kids) was really awesome.   I'll never forget it and I'll never forget you!!!  We're going to miss you so so much!

Disclosure statement: Toys are Tools has not been compensated in any fashion by the manufacturer or retailer of any of the mentioned products for the publication of this post.  The product was  sent to us to facilitate a review but we have two here, the second being purchased by me because the first one unexpectedly survived a brief swim.


  1. I have been looking at these for a couple of years for my ADHD son

  2. Juli, I know what you mean. I did the same thing. I looked and looked and always thought I couldn't do it. I find that I feel justified in making these kinds of purchases when I have successfully refrained from making a few blah purchases that I would normally make just cuz the kids were nagging me or I just felt like buying something. Good luck!

  3. I showed this to my 13-yr old son who thought that it looked like something that he would want and use! Parent-child agreement...Gotta get one.

  4. I love the idea of setting reminders to give out positive praise! I'm sure my ADHD household could find lots of uses for this!

  5. We are always working on modifying behavior and building ebtter habits here, so I can see this used in many ways in our home. Frankly, I can see it used by me first! I have a habit of getting lost in what I am doing and neglecting what I need to do. This could help me stay on track better.

  6. We are always working on modifying behavior and building ebtter habits here, so I can see this used in many ways in our home. Frankly, I can see it used by me first! I have a habit of getting lost in what I am doing and neglecting what I need to do. This could help me stay on track better.

  7. martianne, i firmly agree!!!! I have gotten loads more work done in the past few weeks.

  8. Your enthusiasm is very convincing. I definitely want to try this for myself. Maybe also for my daughter, too, hahaha.

  9. Might use if for my hubs too lol

  10. Looks like a great idea. I would love to win one to use with my son.

  11. This would be awesome..I always tell my kids my job is to remind them, but who is there to remind this ditracted Mom, now I know!!

  12. This would be awesome..I always tell my kids my job is to remind them, but who is there to remind this distracted Mom, now I know!!

  13. Love this! This would be great for my son's teachers.

  14. I agree, pointing out the positive really motivates my son to do more of the good behavior. This is a great gadget to have!

  15. Fun and family are what i do best. Hope i win. My adhd genious would love it.

  16. I'm excited to try this!