Does Your Child with ADHD Need Help with Homework?

Are you looking for ways to help your child or teen handle the daily struggle with homework? The struggle (theirs and yours) is real. It may look like a lack of motivation, or defiance, forgetfulness or even a learning disability but in reality, it is probably their Executive Function skills.

The Homework Help for ADHD covers seven Executive Function skills that have the biggest impact on homework and includes information on what to look for and plenty of strategies to help compensate.

Laine Dougherty - Notebook - Homework Help for ADHD - blue #1

Due to the current circumstances and requirements for social distancing, our classes and individual services will be conducted via Zoom or Google Hangouts.

The “Next” Normal of Learning

As if the daily struggle with homework was not enough stress, now you are being asked to help your child learn online and complete work via a screen. How are you and your children adjusting to this “online learning?”

There are only a few weeks left, but do you feel that your child has really “learned” how to learn for themselves remotely? It is not necessarily about the content but have they learned to be a self-directed learner or are you guiding them throughout each day?

All brains may struggle with this new way of doing things. However, an ADHD brain may struggle with the new way of learning, and the different “schedule”, the distractions at home, the challenge of not being able to ask the teacher whatever pops into their heads and the sitting in one place for longer periods of time. All this can make 30 minutes of work take 3 hours instead. Parents can become frustrated at the amount of time and coercing this work can take. Please remember your relationship with your child is the number one priority. Don’t let the pressure of getting the work done interfere with your relationship. This is new for them too.

Next Normal: Learning

  1. Start with making a “work” zone. A place where your child can set up the iPad or laptop and has space to work if needed. Clutter increases distraction and can interrupt their focus. Make it a calm, clear space for work that has the tools they will need within reach. Put a clock or timer nearby so they can see how much time they have to finish. (If you give them all day, it will take all day. Set a limit.) Setting kids up on their beds is NOT recommended, it gives the body the wrong idea but give them the option to stand up while they work may help some kids focus easier. See what works for your child. If they choose to sit, be sure their feet touch the floor or put a box under them so they’re legs are not dangling.
  2. Remember this is a new way of learning for your kids. They are essentially being asked to teach themselves without the same type of interaction they would have in school. It is pass/fail for this term so let them do their best and leave it at that. It does not help the teacher to know where your child might need more help, if you are making them correct all their errors before turning things in. Find ways to make it fun, and pay attention to what kinds of things seem to be difficult for your child. Work together to find other ways they can learn. The summer will be a great time to reinforce their weaker skills but for now, help them get through this new experience.
  3. Break up the “work” time into small blocks. If the kids were in school, they would be going to specialists, having snack break or recess. Encourage them to move more and get outside during these breaks. Set a timer so they know when it is time to get back to work. We don’t want them having to work all day. Create a schedule everyone can agree on.
  4. Kids need time to adjust to transitions, especially if it is from play to work. Set timers for all breaks or give a warning when they have 5 minutes left, 2 minutes or 1-minute left. Then let them know how long they have to work. For younger kids, a time timer works to show the passage of time. It gives kids the knowledge that this “torture” won’t continue for too much longer.

Lastly, take time to connect with your kids throughout the day. Yes, it is difficult to balance the responsibilities of work with family life, but we are all experiencing this together. No one is expecting you to focus 100% on your job throughout the day. Take time for yourself and your family because when this is over – things will not go back to “normal.”  However, this “next normal” can be better for you and your family if you put the time in now.

Time for the “Next Normal”

Good habits compass

Depending on where you live you may be in week 6, 7, 8 or more of this “stay home” recommendation due to the Coronavirus. You might be working from home and trying to support your kids learning online while trying to maintain some kind of “normalcy”. Or you might be on the medical front lines or part of the “essential” group that keeps the world turning. Thank you for all that you do and are doing no matter which group you are in.

Although a little more warning that this was coming would have been helpful, we are where we are and it looks like it will continue for a while. Please don’t be disheartened, this can be seen as an opportunity in many ways.

First, just a note about all that productivity stuff you’ve been seeing. Don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t doing everything that someone else thinks you should be doing. No guilt here. We’ve all seen our routines and schedules gone, our self-care rituals moved to the bottom of the list and our patience replaced with overwhelm. Not to mention the disorganization that is building up due to our lack of time. It’s all okay as long as it is all temporary and is not causing you more stress.

If you or your children have ADHD or ADHD symptoms then the change in structure or schedule can be very upsetting. Home is where the distractions are, so it can be more difficult to focus. The online schedules that I have seen change every day and a struggling working memory may not be able to remember it all. Also switching things from paper and pencil to online requires the ability to think flexibly and that can be very challenging for an ADHD brain. More information can be found in last month’s newsletter here.

Let’s talk about two areas that are important to this “next normal.” Relationships and Structure.

Relationships are important – your relationship with yourself, your family, co-workers and friends. This “next normal” has freed up some responsibilities (chauffeuring to after school activities, commuting, overbooking, etc.) and made it possible to spend more time with your family. It has also added responsibilities like helping your children learn, figuring out how to do your job remotely while keeping the kids busy and making do without the support services you may depend on.

Next Normal: Relationships

  1. You’ll have to “steal” time for yourself every day to make sure you are staying healthy in mind and body since everyone is at home. Taking care of yourself is important so you can care for your family too.
  2. Pay attention to your state of mind and honor it. If things are getting too stressful or you just want to curl up on the couch, then do it. It is your mind’s way of saying, “stop, I’m feeling stressed (overwhelmed, frustrated, scared, etc.) and I need a break.
  3. Reach out to family and friends. Virtual dinner parties, birthday drivebys, or just a call to say hello can do wonders for you and the recipient.
  4. Limit your “bad news exposure.” It can wear you down and increase your stress level which can lower your immunity.

Keep some structure in your day. Sure, it was great to stay in pajamas for the first few days and catch up on Netflix, but if you are still in that stage – it is time to get back on track. You may not have noticed the subtle effect on your mood, patience or ability to get work done but it was there. Children thrive with structure as evidenced in every preschool. It helps them know what to expect and that reduces any anxiety. When there are no routines, then outbursts and meltdowns can occur. The CDC wrote an article on creating structure and rules you can find here. Adding structure back into your day can help you get more done, reduce your stress and make the kids happy. Coaching can help you clarify your direction and set benchmarks so you can see and appreciate your progress.

Next Normal: Structure

  1. Make a schedule for the week that includes the times you and your kids will need to be online for something and post it where everyone can see it. Include family time and some outside play time. Don’t over plan but focus on the top 2 or 3 things that are the highest priority or would make you feel the best if they were done.
  2. Make sure everyone is up and dressed and has time for breakfast before the day’s responsibilities start.
  3. Keep up with the laundry and the dishes.  A quick “pick-up” every night gets things back to normal so you are ready for the next day. Clutter causes stress, wastes time and eats up your energy. (Thinking about doing something uses the same amount of energy as actually doing it. Clutter causes a low grade fight or flight response in the body, lowering your ability to fight off infections.)
  4. Plan out your meals and keep mealtimes at regular times. Kids often don’t realize they are hungry or thirsty until they physically feel it, and then they will grab the first thing they see. Keep them on an even keel with meals and healthy snacks throughout the day. The brain uses the most energy of any organ in the body (up to 60% for young kids). Don’t allow yourself to skip a meal just to get something done.

Although it may be a while until things return to something that resembles our past, we have the opportunity to forge ahead and make things better rather than dwelling on missing the past. Coaching can help you move forward in a direction that serves you. Isn’t it time for you?

 “Your dreams are calling for a bigger YOU to show up.”

With ADHD – Love is Not Enough

Although February is often thought of as the month of love and relationships, when it comes to ADHD and relationships, every month is important. All strong relationships are based on trust and love but also include, patience, understanding and open communication. The same things that are necessary in any relationship where there is ADHD.

Whether you are an adult with ADHD, live with an adult with ADHD, or are the parent of a child with ADHD, you need patience, understanding and open communication for everyone to thrive. Let’s take a deeper look at how these three things can make a BIG difference in your relationships.

Patience: The actions and behaviors of someone with ADHD can look intentional but weak Executive function (EF) skills and a chemical imbalance in the brain are often to blame. Executive function skills in the pre-frontal cortex are the skills that allow us to plan and execute our priorities. In kids, these EF skills don’t mature until around age 25 and in some adults, the problem is they never developed effective strategies to compensate for their weak EF skills. So, patience is important when a weak working memory makes it difficult to remember things (even if you just said it). Task initiation is a fancy way of saying they can’t get started on things – especially if they are tedious, unexciting or complicated. Which means they often don’t finish things either. But the biggest impact is often around a sense of time, especially the passage of time. Those with ADHD are often unaware of how long things take or how long they have been hyper-focused on something they enjoy.

You can help by:

  • Summarizing what you are asking in as few words as possible
  • Ask your child to repeat back what they are going to do
  • Set timers so that others are aware of the passage of time
  • Create a routine around getting started on a task

Understanding: Those with ADHD feel their emotions intensely and sometimes one little remark can cause them to spiral out of control. Odds are it had little to do with what was said but was the result of things building up over their day. Their challenge is to inhibit those emotions when they don’t match the situation. Planning and organizing their thoughts into actions is not a fluid process and can be challenging for those with ADHD. They may tend to jump around and have their “process” all out of order (in your mind) and that shouldn’t matter unless they don’t follow through. You can help by asking questions and getting them to think about some of the details they might tend to miss. Forcing them to do it “your way” will almost always fail. Getting stuck or being unable to consider other options can be a sign that they struggle to think flexibly and helping them see other perspectives or ideas can often help.

You can help by:

  • Stay calm and don’t get pulled in by their over reaction
  • Make a plan together but let them lead (Mind maps help to get all the info out)
  • Encourage them to use positive self-talk when working through a problem
  • Remember ADHD is neurobiological (chemical not intentional)

Communication: Working memory shows up here too. In communicating with someone with ADHD it is important to not put in too much “extra” information as they cannot remember all of it. They also often have difficulty “reading” facial cues and may miss important cues. It is important that you have their full attention before beginning to speak. For kids, CHADD suggests you be within arm’s reach and use their name before you begin speaking. Lead with questions that start with “what” and not “why” as why questions tend to imply guilt. Allow some “think time” so they have a chance to process what you just said. If you interrupt before they are done thinking it through, they may need to start the process all over again.

You can help by:

  • Gaining their attention before speaking
  • Use simple and concise language
  • Ask “what” questions to get them to think
  • Provide feedback to be sure you understand their message (It sounds like you were really frustrated when that happened.”)

I know it can be frustrating when someone you love has ADHD, but it is also frustrating for them. I hope these strategies/tips help but if you are still struggling check out our new classes for Moms and Dads.

 

 

 

Self-Care is a Necessity for You and Them

What does self-care mean to you? Here is a definition I found on PsychCentral.Selfcare is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health.“  I thought it was grabbing a piece of chocolate? Seriously though, during this busy winter season it is important to remember to take time to recharge and renew because it is when our reserves are low that we are most susceptible to colds and stress. So, self-care is not a luxury, it is a vital and necessary part of a balanced life.

What recharges you? Researchers have discovered that as little as 15 minutes in nature is enough to recharge the brain, lower stress levels and increase feelings of well-being. Or maybe you prefer a cup of tea, a good book, a nap, a 10-minute meditation or some music. Whatever makes you happy. Find something (a few things) that give you that “recharged” feeling that you can use every day. Do you have a hobby that can be easily picked up? Whatever it is, it is important to give the brain a break to regain some of its energy. There is also reducing stress, getting a good night’s sleep (adults need 7-8 hours….not 6), being active and eating healthy. If you struggle with ADHD, it is even more important to take time to recharge daily.

Help your child with ADHD recognize what makes them feel good too and instill an understanding for the importance of eating healthy, getting enough sleep (8-11 hours), and exercise in order to recharge their ADHD brain. Cultivate their interest in something that excites them and that they are good at to rebuild the self-confidence ADHD can sometimes whittle away.

Kids are working so hard at school, especially if they have ADHD. The constant stimulus and distractions can use up their physical and emotional reserves so that by the time they get home, the tiniest thing may send them out of control (or at least be more of an outburst than would be normal if they were at their best.) The brain uses the most energy of any organ in the body and those with ADHD have lower levels of dopamine, the “feel good hormone” needed for thinking and emotional stability. As soon as they get home it is time to refuel and recharge. Do not hit the homework before taking a 30-45 minute break for some active fun, and a protein snack.

Help your child discover the little things they can do to calm and recharge in a short amount of time. Going outside, building, coloring, shooting some hoops, or drinking a hot cocoa with marshmallows (yes, a bit of sugar and caffeine calms the busy brain). Notice TV and video games did not make the list as they tend to stir up the wake-up hormone, serotonin, rather than acting to calm. We want them calm and capable of managing their emotions before they start homework. They are more likely to be able to handle the problem solving needed when their emotions are in a good place. Stress and frustrations should not be part of doing homework.

Setting aside time to take care of yourself sends a positive message to your children that it is important to take care of yourself so you can be the best parent you can be and they should do the same. What a happier world we would live in, if everyone took time to take care of themselves.

What to Do When They Won’t Change Their Mind

I once had a student that was having difficulty turning in his homework. He would do it, but when it came time to pass it in, he could not find it. He had a “homework folder” where all of his finished work was supposed to go, but his work was not there. When asked, “Where else did you look?” He was unable to answer. In his mind (we later discovered), if it wasn’t in the homework folder there was nowhere else to look. Does this sound familiar?

This is an example of cognitive inflexibility – difficulty changing or shifting your mindset when the most logical answer does not bring results. Needless to say, upon further searching, other homework papers were found at the bottom of the backpack, stuffed inside a text book and also on his desk at home. All papers exactly where he had left them, yet he had no recollection.

Cognitive inflexibility is real. It is one of the Executive Function skills that develop in the pre-cortex of the brain. It can be measured on certain IQ tests and on the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Functions. It has two components: a cognitive shift and a behavioral shift. Simply put, if your child cannot change their thoughts or their behavior when they realize something is not working, then it may be from cognitive inflexibility.  You may have seen it when they get “stuck” on their math, or they don’t know what to do, but won’t accept your help because you, “don’t do it like the teacher.” Or have you ever noticed their perspective of what happened, does not quite agree with the other person’s perspective? All related to cognitive inflexibility.

As an Executive Function skill, cognitive flexibility will continue to develop but, in the meantime, it can cause some issues. Try to help your child see other people’s perspectives. You can explain how things are not always “black and white” (another sign of this underdeveloped skill and often related to ADHD), and that there are always other possibilities. They can help themselves by starting with some simple questions.  A research study indicated that there was a close relationship between cognitive flexibility and inner speech among both children and adults.  It appears as though inner speech may increase top-down control during shifting of thoughts (i.e. flexibility). https://mentalhealthdaily.com/2015/07/26/7-ways-to-increase-your-cognitive-flexibility/

Try having your child ask themselves these questions:

Before starting:

“What do I already know that will help me?

“What should this look like when it is done?”

“What should I do first, second and third?”

During: “How am I doing?”

“Am I on the right track?”

“Is there another or better way?”

“What do I do if I get stuck?”

After: “What strategies did I use?”

“Did I get stuck or have to change my thinking?”

“What did I learn from this?”

Developing this ability to shift thinking or shift behavior can also be improved through games and activities. Games to encourage the development of cognitive flexibility include: Set, Othello, Connect 4, Mastermind, and Gobblet. Activities include: Stroop (where color words are written in different colors and they must say the color they are printed in), optical illusions, maps with multiple ways to the destination and Tower of Hanoi. Other activities include changing up routines, learning a new skill, exercise, getting out in nature, and video games that have multiple streams of information that have to be manipulated simultaneously.

For more strategies: Check out our blog, Stuck? 12 Ways to Encourage Cognitive Flexibility


 

 

The Pros and Cons of Talking to Yourself

Do you talk to yourself? It’s okay to admit it, it is perfectly normal and research says it can even be helpful. Talking to yourself can help you focus.  For example, if you are looking for your keys and you keep repeating “keys” “keys” you are more likely to find them than if you did not say anything.  Talking to yourself can help you slow down your thoughts so that you are able to process them more completely and come up with better solutions to problems. It can also help you process strong emotions and lessen their impact. Of course, listening to what you are saying to yourself is important too. That inner voice pulls from a knowledge base that is often hindered by the noise of everyday life. Used in a positive way talking to yourself can be your cheerleader, motivator, problem solver, self-esteem booster or devil’s advocate.

However, if that voice is negative, it can eat away at your self-esteem and actually have more of a negative impact on whatever it is that went wrong and on your feelings about yourself. We may not think that it has an impact but when your brain hears it, it cannot discern whether it is true or not, so it tries to justify it -often making the real solutions difficult to see.

So, listen to the words you use and how you communicate with yourself. Keep it in the positive and the results will be positive. Let it go negative and you may need several positives to cancel out the effects of that one negative. Don’t let others impact that voice that you hear and help your children learn how to best talk to themselves.

Use this information to guide your child/teen into thinking about what they are saying to themselves and pay attention to the tone and words they are using.

  • If they are talking in a negative way their brain is listening to what they are saying and it often seems that it tries to “justify or make” it true
  • Negative talk can interfere with their growth mindset by taking away that focus on effort and learning and focusing on what they can’t do or on failure instead
  • Negative self-talk impacts your child’s self-esteem and can have long lasting effects on how they feel about themselves and their abilities.

Instead, help them listen to themselves and redirect those negative voices.

  • Name that negative voice. Maybe Negative Nelly or Disappointing Dan will help them recognize when that voice shows up.
  • Have a mantra or saying they can use to rid the voice of its influence.
  • Teach them the power of the word “yet”. I am not good at math….yet, but with more effort I can be.
  • Encourage them to speak positively to themselves and to use that inner voice as their own cheerleader.

Self-talk can help us become more creative, it can solidify memories, and it can help us problem solve. Of course, if you are talking out loud and there are others around you, it may also cause people to look at you strangely:-). Do not worry about them, they probably haven’t experienced the positives that can come from talking to themselves – but if they call the “white coats” – run:-)

Back to School Tips

BTS Tip 6: Back to school is usually about getting the kids ready, but what about you? Are you tolerating things that could be changed – just because it is easier to deal than to change it?
How’s your kitchen? Is it functional, organized and convenient? For example, are the things you need for breakfast and packing a lunch with snacks easily accessible? How about the things you use for dinner prep – are they handy? Then why are you working so hard? Reduce your own decision fatigue by making it work. Lowering your stress level is worth it!
31 Days of Back to School Organization on our FaceBook page. Like our page so you won’t miss them.

 

5 Benefits of a Morning Robot Brain

Science says we all use our brains in three different ways. Although the names applied to these different ways may vary, they each have a specific role to play. Let’s use the terms robot, Yoda and monkey brain.

The monkey brain is of course the “out of control” brain that often gets kids in trouble. It is the brain that doesn’t think before acting and is often full of movement and impulsivity. It can take over in an instant yet be so subtle that the brain’s owner is unaware until it is too late.

The Yoda brain on the other hand is the calm, open brain used for learning and doing the right thing. It is wise and knows what to do and can create a plan to do it.  Unfortunately, it is the last to develop and involves a number of executive function skills.

The robot brain is the brain that uses habits and routines and does things on “automatic pilot” with little or no thought involved. This is the brain we are going to talk about using in the morning.

The robot brain does not create habits on its own, especially if ADHD is involved. It takes training and practicing and often some tweaking before a set of actions can become a habit. Once there is a habit, the brain can relax and just follow through the motions without having to use up its decision-making energy.

A brain with ADHD can benefit from using the robot brain. For the ADHD brain every day is usually a new day and the morning routine often changes daily as well. If there is no habit, then each task that needs to be done has to be thought of and then acted on. That is pretty difficult for an ADHD brain and even for neurotypical brains before they have had their coffee.

Here are just 5 benefits of using the Robot brain and creating habits and routines:

  1. Routines and habits are automatic so no real “thinking” required.
  2. Saves brain energy for important decisions
  3. Creates structure where there was none
  4.  Fewer reminders required to get kids out the door – means less stress all around
  5. Develops independence and self-care habits

Your brain has a limited amount of energy and it needs time to create more if it has used up its current amount. If you haven’t heard of “decision fatigue” then you probably haven’t experienced it. It occurs when you can no longer think or make a decision because you have used up the chemicals in your brain needed to make decisions. So, for example, a big decision at work might become impossible to figure out if you have spent the morning deciding what to do first, and what to wear, and what to eat, and which bag to bring to work, and what to do for lunch, etc. You get the idea. Too many decisions on trivial stuff, still uses those brain chemicals. If all of that was a habit or routine that you did on “automatic pilot” then you would still have plenty of “decision juice” for the important stuff. Same thing happens for your children although their brains’ have a smaller capacity of chemicals = less decision-making juice.

A routine can bring much needed structure to your child’s day. How many times have you had to tell them to get their shoes, or brush their teeth? With a habit – that includes all the important stuff, they will develop the capacity to get out the door and take care of themselves in the process. That would mean much less stress for you and the family.

Creating the habit sequence is the toughest part. You will need to start slowly and with no more than three steps. It takes about 144 times of doing something for it to become a habit, so don’t give up if it doesn’t seem to be working. Slowly add what you think your child can handle but at the beginning walk them through the process each day. Yes, I said each day! Together you can create a chart, or checklist, or photo sequence of what they should look like and have before going out the door…whatever works (and keep trying until you find what works for them). You may have to add incentives and/or change things up a bit until they run smoothly. The extra effort will be worth it and you will be developing your child’s ability to independently get up and get dressed and be ready for school. Then you can look at setting up an evening routine and then of course the dreaded homework routine.

Kids with ADHD crave structure…. they just do not know how to create it for themselves. They need your help. The task of getting ready for school has at least 10 steps and if those steps could be in any order then there would be 3,628,800 possible combinations! Is it any surprise they don’t know what to do?

So, help your child and yourself by creating a morning routine and let me know what positive effects it brings. Enjoy the ride!

Together We Can!

“Together we can” is part of the tagline for the upcoming 2018 Annual International Conference on ADHD (St. Louis) but it struck me that a successful school year is also a matter of working together. The family as a team, educators and support personnel (coaches, therapists, babysitters, etc.) can do so much more when they work together. Here are three essentials for a happy, calm and successful year.

To make the magic happen:

Start with a growth mindset. A growth mindset as defined by Dr. Carol Dweck, “is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts….everyone can change and grow through application and experience.” So, if something is hard, it is only because it hasn’t been learned….. ”YET!” With effort they will be able to get it and that leaves their self-esteem intact. Whereas a fixed mindset, according to Dweck, “Believing your qualities are carved in stone – creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over.”  So you strive for the good grades in order to feel good about yourself. Then when you do poorly on something, you feel like a failure. Your motivation dwindles because in this mindset, nothing you can do can improve your grade. You’re stuck in a fixed mindset.  (Click here to watch a YouTube video of Dr. Dweck).

Next, get organized! Creating habits and routines can save time and energy, especially brain energy. A routine can take the pressure off of having to think “what do I need to do next?” and saves your decision capacity for things that really matter. You can create routines for the morning, evening and for homework. You can set up systems to help also. For example, create a launch pad or drop zone. Do you leave things near the door so you will remember to take them with you? If you create a specific place that is large enough for all family members, then everyone can start their day organized. I recommend packing backpacks, gym clothes, library books, sports equipment and whatever else can be ready ahead of time (your stuff too) and placing them each evening, in the launch pad area. It makes it so much easier if everything your children need is all ready to go rather than trying to get them to get things together when they are half asleep. Give it a try and have a calmer morning. The one thing most people don’t realize is that being organized is an ongoing process. You need to maintain the systems and habits that you set up by daily or weekly fine-tuning. A weekly backpack clean out can save a lot of headaches over missing work or upcoming projects and start each week off organized and in control. One binder is really all your child needs and it should open easily with one hand. Attaching a three hole punch inside can also help papers get where they need to go before they get lost. For you, having a meal plan ready so you know what is for dinner in between pick-ups is also helpful.

Love your brain. Your brain needs energy to operate efficiently just like your car needs gas. It needs sleep, protein, water, and exercise to be at its best. You can help your child develop an effective homework routine by including an active break when they first get home (about 30 minutes); a protein based snack and some water or juice. Once their brain has been recharged they should be able to sit down and get started on their homework. For elementary age students working through one assignment at a time or working for 30 minutes and then taking a five minute break, has been shown to be effective. The break needs to be non-electronic and timed. Older students can work 45-60 minutes and if they haven’t finished an assignment, should leave themselves a note to remind them of what the next step is before they take their break.

It takes about 6 exposures to new information before it can be “learned” so students should review the information (by asking themselves questions) at least four times over several days. Spreading out the review makes it stick more than cramming before a test can.

Also acknowledge your child every day they sit down and get to their homework on their own. Rather than “that’s great!” try something that shows how responsible they are being or mentions the new habits they are developing that can lead to improved grades. This encourages them to put the specifics together with their feelings about what you said. This ignites a little intrinsic motivation fire that hopefully they will want to continue to fuel. When kids feel good about themselves and what they can do…there is no stopping them.

And lastly, take time for fun and self-care. Remember to take care of yourself too because keeping yourself happy and healthy allows you to be at your best for those you love.

10 Strategies to Help ADHD

ADHD cropOctober was ADHD Awareness Month. Each year the media seems to do a bit more to publicize and educate but more can always be done.  There is not enough information out there geared to parents and children. So, I would like to help with some information my students find helpful.

First up, the acronym ADHD which stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder really shouldn’t be the category name for the three types of ADHD (impulsive/hyperactive, inattentive and combined). Teens are often in denial because they say they aren’t “hyper” and so feel that it doesn’t apply to them.

ADHD is a neurobiological condition – meaning it is the result of lower levels of neurotransmitter chemicals that are normally in the brain, which results in lower levels of stimulus in the brain. Non-technical definition: it is a chemical imbalance and not a personality/behavior or motivation problem. Just like near sightedness or hearing loss, it cannot be “fixed” at this point in time but it can be helped.

People of all ages with ADHD that I have met are often very smart, they just have difficulty showing it sometimes. That’s often a combination of the lower level of chemicals and the executive function skills that are slower to develop.

School challenges vary by individual but often ADHD can interfere by making it difficult to get started on a task, stay focused long enough to complete a task, remember when they have a task to do or find the task in their disorganization. It’s easy to see why homework and test taking is a challenge for these kids.

10 Strategies to Help with ADHD

  • Declutter your work space, set up materials you use often in easily accessible places. Rulers, scissors, pens and pencils fit nicely in a mug on the desk. (Organize it weekly to keep it that way)
  • Take everything out of the backpack and pile the “to do” items on the left and as you complete them move them to the right. Then put everything back in the backpack where it belongs.
  • Start with the end in mind. Sketch out what it will look like when completed and work backwards to determine the first few steps.
  • Write it down! Use a planner, smartphone app (Google Calendar, Color note, Evernote, Remember the Milk, etc.), or notepad to keep track.
  • Graphic organizers and mind maps using color, shape, and placement help the brain recall information. Great for study guides.
  • Create a 30 minute play list and reward yourself with a break if you work until the music ends.
  • Keep a notepad nearby and write down any thoughts that interrupt so that you can deal with them after the work is done.
  • Exercise or do something active to increase the dopamine in the brain before beginning (snacks and water help too).
  • Use a whiteboard and don’t erase the previous approach
  • If your child/teen is still struggling then try to change the environment, change the task or change the expectations.

In coaching, we often start by helping teens become aware of how their ADHD is showing up in school. Once they identify that it is really the way their brain functions that is making “x” or “y” difficult, then they are better able to look at it objectively and figure out a strategy that might help. If they continue to do things the way they have always done them, there can be no change. It is only when they start to think about their thinking, that they can really help themselves.