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, Google Meet or Phone.

Hey Students! Organize Yourself for the New Learning Environment (Whether it is Remote, Hybrid, In Person, or Combined)

Back to schoolThere is so much to think about as the new school year begins. With the pandemic continuing, each town has devised its own plan for what “school” will look like this fall. For some that may include half or full days, or a combination of two days in school and three remote or every other day or every other week. So many options, I cannot begin to cover them all. However, many of the schools are starting two weeks later than usual. Don’t let that fool you. It’s time to get organized! Where to begin?

The toughest part of any hybrid learning model is going to be staying organized. There are in person assignments to organize and remote work as well. Fluctuating schedules to keep track of, technology to keep charged and log in information to organize. Then of course there is organizing oneself for this new method of learning. Whew!

Let’s start with the easy stuff. Where will you work? You want to have one place to work where you have all the supplies and space you need. It needs to be comfortable, but not too comfy. Make sure the lighting is good and that you are not working in your own shadow. Get a comfortable chair where your feet can touch the floor. Keep it distraction free – but hang photos that make you feel good. How will you keep track of everything? Do you use your phone or a paper planner, or sticky notes? The best one, is the one that works for you. Make it a habit to put everything in it though, so nothing can fall through the cracks.

Next organize your technology. Make sure you have all the log in information for the websites you need to log onto and the password information. Set up folders for each subject on your device. Create a reminder for turning assignments in as that is often a step that can easily get missed. If you have a way to track what is passed in, then if it “gets lost” you have proof. Move the chargers to your new space so that your equipment does not have to be moved to be charged. Turn notifications off by putting privacy settings on while you are doing your homework. You can spend all night working or you can get it done effectively and have some well-deserved downtime for yourself. Which would you rather do?

Now your materials will need to include hand sanitizer and masks as well as all the standard stuff. Chances are you will have less paper to keep track of this year so why not go with a small notebook or binder that has room for all your classes. If you keep it cleaned out of the completed topics you should easily be able to fit a full term’s worth of papers in a 1- or 11/2-inch notebook. That should hold between 200 and 300 pages. That does include the necessary weekly clean out of papers no longer needed. Maintaining your supplies is important too. You may need reminders to carry a spare mask or two with you or weekly refilling of your hand sanitizer and a disinfecting spray of the backpack and wipe down of your tech.

To organize yourself, may end up being the most challenging part of this school year. You have an obligation to yourself and your family to do your best to stay healthy. That requires regular health habits including sleep which can be difficult for teens. It will mean keeping your materials clean and switching out your mask daily. Students need to find time to be active, whether it is playing a sport or shooting hoops in the driveway, something that keeps those synapses happy.

You will need to realize that this is probably not the way your teacher had hoped the year would start out either. Teachers are working extra hard to juggle all the pieces of the hybrid plan and have to be flexible enough to adapt if things should change. They have families too and may not be as available as they would normally be for providing extra support. You will need to take that responsibility on yourself. Make sure that you understand the concepts that are being presented and don’t wait to discover you did poorly on the exam before looking for help. Can you explain the key points of the topic to yourself? Then spend time studying what you DON’T know. Take good notes in case you need to use them to teach yourself.

How much time do you spend doing your homework? If you allow distractions to interrupt you, you are taking away from your focus and adding about 20 minutes more to your work time to regain that level of focus. Take short breaks in between assignments and give your brain some nourishment and process time. It will thank you by working more efficiently – saving you time and energy in the end. Also take five minutes to put everything back where it belongs when you are done working.

Good luck, stay healthy and stop the spread by doing your part. This will be a year unlike any other!

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.

 

Habits – Good or Bad?

good habits for EFsWhy did you do that? “I don’t know” is often the response. Sometimes we are on automatic pilot and our actions are the results of a habit. Other times our actions can be the result of a lack of impulse control. What is a habit? A habit is “an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary” (Source: Dictionary.com). Think about the things you do every day without having to think about them. What would it feel like if you could change just one “bad” habit or could add one “good” habit?

If you are not sure if a habit serves you or not you may want to look closer at it. Monitoring an action or habit is a great way to figure out what the true impact is on you. You would need to be able to measure it. For example, keeping track of how much TV you watch (hours/day) instead of just deciding to “watch less TV.” See the difference?

Good habit or bad habit they both have three things in common. According to Charles Duhigg in his book, The Power of Habit, a habit consists of a cue, a routine and a reward. Add in a craving for that reward and you’ve got yourself a habit – whether it is good or bad. To change it you would need to interrupt the cycle. Change the cue (ex. ding of a new email), the routine (checking your phone as you pick it up) or the reward (quick dopamine rush that happens in your brain and makes you feel good when on Facebook). You didn’t start out craving it, but after several times your brain started liking the feeling and ta dah! A habit was formed.

Changing just one habit can have a profound effect on your life. Where to start? Gretchen Rubin, in her book, Better Than Before, suggests that starting with habits that will help strengthen our self-control can serve as the “foundation for forming other good habits.” “They are: sleep, move, eat and drink right and unclutter.” Do you need to create a new habit in one of these categories? Start slow and look at the three parts of the habit (cue, routine and reward) and design an experiment to help you figure out the plan that will work best for you and the way your brain works. Tweak it if it doesn’t work but don’t give up – the long term reward will be worth it.

Now for your kids, they need help establishing habits that serve them. Some examples would be a morning and evening habit of what to do in what order. Often those with ADHD don’t have consistent habits and every day is a “new” routine. This puts extra pressure on their working memory and makes it very brain intensive to think through the steps of what to do next. Help your kids figure out a routine and a reward and then link the cue to something they already do automatically. It is easier to start that way. Other options for kids are homework habits; the habit of using an agenda, backpack habits, studying habits….the list goes on. We can help them take a look at their habits and figure out what is and isn’t serving them so they start the new school year off strong. Check out our Academic Coaching Classes for Middle School and High School.

Change 2.0

change buttonThere are only a few weeks left until the new school year starts and we all transition into the start of fall. If you had the power to change one thing about this time of year…..what would it be? Think about that for a few minutes and maybe write down a few things. Now pick the one that would make the biggest impact on your life. Stop dreaming about things like losing 20 pounds, getting organized once and for all, finding a new job, being less stressed or anything else that is on your mind and start changing your life TODAY!

I know from experience that sometimes, no usually, change is hard and often we don’t try until we reach a breaking point. That’s what happened to me almost 32.5 years ago when I “got organized.” What I have learned in the years since then has made a bigger impact on my life than getting organized did.

  • No one succeeds instantly
  • Change takes time
  • Relapses are normal
  • You CAN succeed!
  • You have to be flexible
  • It is worth the effort – no matter how many times you have failed before
  • The end result is better than you could ever imagine!

Often times we get so caught up in the moment that we don’t take the time to think through and problem solve what it is we are struggling with. I see this all the time with my clients, they “don’t know why x happens”, and they just accept it as if it is out of their control. But they ARE the one in control – with every decision or lack of decision. If you are ready to make a change, these steps can help:

  1. Analyze what it is you want to change? How is this impacting your life? What would your life be like if this wasn’t bothering you? Dream big!
  2. What would this change look like? Start with the end result and work your way backwards to the smallest step you can take today.
  3. Make space in your life for this change. How long do you need to work on this new “habit” in order to see a change? Where in your day can you find the 10 or 15 minutes you need to build this new habit? Link this time slot to a habit you already have like brushing your teeth, etc.
  4. Set reminders on your phone, put up sticky notes, find an accountability partner, or whatever else will help you remember this new time slot.
  5. Keep track of your success by using a chart, app or tick marks on a whiteboard, whatever will show you how you are doing. Reward yourself after “X” number of positive successes. Don’t expect perfection. New habits can take up to 300 practices before you “own” them.

Lastly, don’t forget that new habits, systems and routines need maintenance. Life interrupts but it doesn’t have to derail. Forgive yourself and get back to it. If you find you are starting over frequently, go back and take a look at steps 1-5. If it is important to you…..it’s worth fighting for, don’t you think?

Good luck with whatever it is that you want to change. I am working on getting to bed at a consistent time each night something I am constantly struggling with. Please share your struggles and successes in the comments below.

Summer Fun to Build Executive Function Skills

blooms-taxonomy-2-150x150Summer’s here and the learning never stops! Sure no one wants to even think about school during July and August. I understand that. But if your son or daughter struggles in school with organization, planning or focusing long enough to get through homework, then you might want to build some of their executive function skills this summer while having some fun. Below are three executive function skills with some activities you can do to strengthen them. Once you start to see your child/teen improving you’ll want to be sure they “transfer” their learning to school and their life by asking questions such as: “How might a stronger memory help in school?” or “What a fun day. Your plan was organized and we had everything we needed. Can you think of any other ways that great planning might be helpful?” Don’t forget to mention whenever you use planning, or working memory strategies so that your son or daughter sees that those skills are used every day.

According to Bloom’s new hierarchy of skills the first step is the ability to remember. Working memory has been defined as being able to hold onto information long enough to use and/or manipulate it. For example, understanding the rules of a new game and being able to play it while keeping track of other players’ moves uses the working memory.

Here are some ideas to increase working memory skills during the summer:

  • Write it down! Use a planner, smartphone app (Google CalendarColor note, EvernoteRemember the MilkHiveminder, etc.), or notepad to keep track of events, vacation, etc. so you don’t overburden your working memory.
  • Practice setting reminders in your phone for fun things because the summer is less structured.
  • Play the “I went to Grandma’s house and I brought my….” game that uses all the letters of the alphabet. Each person must repeat what was said before. I went to Grandma’s house and I brought my apple, blanket, cow, daffodil, etc.
  • Memorize license plates and repeat them backwards
  • Hold a family competition to name the 50 states, presidents or capitals.
  • Play card games or Memory type game
  • Bake cookies and keep two ingredients in your memory before looking again at the recipe.

planner-150x150Planning skills include the ability to organize your thoughts in a logical manner to accomplish a goal. It requires sequencing and figuring out the individual steps needed to get to completion. Students that struggle with story or essay writing, long term projects or even getting all their homework done may have a weak “planning” skill.

Here are some ideas to build “planning” during the summer:

  • As mentioned above, have your child/teen plan out their summer reading and math packet time on a calendar.
  • Plan a day trip and include all necessary details. Walk through it to check that everything important is included. Don’t forget museums, historic places, and parks.
  • Cook like they do on TV. Get out the ingredients and measure them all out first before beginning. Pick a new recipe and plan the shopping list and determine the cost before going.
  • Geocaching – pick where you want to go, what you need to bring with you, etc.
  • Pack for a day at the beach or camp – check before leaving that everything is included. Start with the end in mind.
  • Puzzles and brain teasers are fun. For the young ones “find the differences” activities involve creating a plan of where to look in an organized manner that you’ll need to show them. How will they put together a puzzle that doesn’t have any straight edges?
  • Discuss their video game strategies with them. Have them explain their approach. Better yet, play with them and discuss as you go.
  • Plan a scavenger hunt
  • Build a bird house or race car (Lowe’s sells kits for kids)

Time management starts by developing time awareness. Here are a few suggestions for activities that will get the family going and develop an understanding of time:

  • Time activities like emptying the dishwasher, setting the table, feeding the dog, reading 10 pages, etc. after your child/teen has estimated how long it will take.
  • Create an obstacle course and post the times to beat (give younger kids a few minute cushion).
  • Hold the family “Olympic games” and have everyone compete against themselves over the course of a few weeks.
  • How many baskets/goals can they get in one minute? Jump rope for one minute.
  • Start a monopoly game or “Life” and play for an hour each night until someone wins.

Have some fun and please share your activities on our FaceBook​ page. Check out our upcoming classes here.

The Busyness of Back to School – Five Steps to Calm the “Crazy”

Doing skill posterSo much to do, so little time…..I hope that is not what you are thinking as we reach the end of September. It is a busy month for sure and often the transition from summer to “school” can make the new situation seem even more challenging. Here are five things to think about to make this year more manageable, less stressful and not quite as “crazy” as last year.

  1. Each school year is a new start. Although each grade comes with its own challenges, it also comes with its own rewards. Major transitions are in first, fourth, six (or whatever grade your middle school starts at) and 9th grade. If it’s a new school, take time to tour it and find the bathrooms, locker, lunch room and office. Notice when your child is struggling – is it a lack of understanding, frustration, distraction or boredom? It’s a new start for you as well. Set yourself a goal of making this a calmer, more organized year and notice what is getting in the way. This year fix it so that tomorrow is better than today.
  2. Don’t overbook. Children need time to play and be outdoors and they can’t do that if they are overbooked and running from one activity to another. Make choices and remember homework should not be an afterthought. Don’t expect your child to have any energy left for homework if they are going all day long. They have a right to some “free” time too and need it to recharge, so make sure homework doesn’t use up all available time. Sleep 8+ hours is best. Remember your role in extra curricula activities, are you the pick up or drop off person? What does that mean for your schedule and for the family’s evening?
  3. Get organized! This is probably the most important thing you can do for yourself and your family. When the morning runs smoothly, the day goes better too. It’s important to have routines and habits that serve you and the family like a morning routine, an evening routine that includes getting ready for the next day, a regular shopping day or at least a meal plan so you know what is for dinner each night. Having a family meeting helps everyone know what is up for the week with extra curricula activities and/or appointments.
  4. Prepare for the week ahead. Everybody knows that having clean clothes makes getting dressed easier. Same goes for having a clean and organized backpack, it makes the homework go easier. Take the time to prepare what you can for the week ahead. Some ideas are laundry done, snacks and food choices, rooms picked up and backpacks organized. Use a planner whether it is digital or paper doesn’t matter but the pace of your life means you shouldn’t rely on your memory without some backup. Use the reminder app on your phone for really important things.
  5. Lastly, if your child has ADHD or Executive functioning challenges, then no amount of coaxing, rewarding, threatening or seizing of things they hold dear, is going to help them get their work done any faster or better. Imagine what it would be like if they understood what was getting in the way of their success and had some strategies that they could use to push through the homework. You have the power to make this year better for the entire family. We are now running monthly group coaching classes for middle and high school students. http://tinyurl.com/o4aaq9u

Back to School Basics – My Five Essentials

planner-150x150Just a quick reminder about some of the basics that  are important for students heading back to school.  It may not seem like much but it can make the difference between your child using or not using the systems and when that happens, not using it can mean not doing well. So here are my top five favorites:

  1. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you have surely seen that I am passionate about planners. It doesn’t matter to me if your child has the greatest memory ever, if they don’t have it written down somewhere then for many of them, it just conveniently slips their mind. It can be electronic or paper as long as it is used. Most schools supply an agenda or planner but fail to help the students learn to use it effectively.  Deadlines need to be where they can be seen, not just written in on the day that they were given. That is one great advantage of using a smartphone app; it will remind you about that project that is due or that upcoming test if you set it to.
  2. Binders that open with one hand or rather one finger. Fill it with notebook paper (not those spiral notebooks that always get stuck) and plastic pocket divider tabs. Some schools require separate notebooks but it is really difficult to put four or five binders into a backpack. Your teen could probably use one and just clean it out each term. I would suggest a 1.5 or 2 inch binder. Label the dividers and leave an empty pocket divider in front for a quick stash.
  3. Homework space that is ergonomic to their size and well lit. I learned that not having your feet on the floor actually raises your blood pressure. The key is to make sure your child’s arms are bent at almost a 90⁰ angle when writing with feet flat on floor or on a stool. Light the workspace rather than the room. Overhead lights often cast shadows on the work area.
  4. Pens and pencils – the good kind. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to get one of those cheap pens to write when the teacher is spewing out the homework. Buy more than you think they will need and every week have them check to be sure they have two pens and two pencils in their backpack.
  5. Create a launch pad area near the door where the backpack will live as soon as it is filled up with the day’s completed homework. Other belongings that are needed for the next day should also be there. It is helpful for younger children to have a picture checklist of what they need or a “here’s what I look like when I am ready to go to school” picture showing everything needed. Putting all necessities in the launch pad the night before allows even walking “zombies” to show up at school prepared.

5 Things Your Child Needs to Know Before School Starts

1. New Beginnings: First and foremost students need to understand that each year is a brand new start. Yes, it is easy to fall back into old habits but if last year did not go the way you or your child wanted it to, then you both have the opportunity to start fresh. A self-fulfilling prophecy has been defined by www.businessdirectory.com as, “Any positive or negative expectation about circumstances, events, or people that may affect a person’s behavior toward them in a manner that causes those expectations to be fulfilled. In other words, causing something to happen by believing it will come true.”

This is not what we want to see happen. Thinking about your approach to homework difficulties before they arise and being aware of what caused you and/or them to get frustrated is a good start. What else was going on at the time? Did you find you were trying to rush your tween/teen to keep them moving on your own schedule? Were they so involved in after school programs that they “ran” from one thing to the next with no time to themselves? Were your expectations really realistic? Or were you just assuming that it, “shouldn’t take that long?” Your child is NOT you. They need above all else to know they are loved and that this year is truly a new beginning.

2. Mindset: Kids also need to know they are capable of doing anything they put their minds to. It is okay to fail provided they learn from that and figure out what to do to improve. The learning is more important than the grade. Let me repeat that, the learning is more important than the grade (suggested reading Carol Dweck, Mindset)

3. Job Requirements: Children need to remember that school is their “job.” As a job there are certain responsibilities just like any other job. You are required to do the work, put in your best effort, manage your time and your attention so that you can get your work done and still have time to yourself. No one should “work” a 12 hour day. FYI: Homework does not need to be perfect. The teacher needs to know what your child really knows and is capable of on their own, versus what they assume when they see a perfectly neat, correct homework that the two of you spent hours on.

4. What’s up? Each week everyone in the family needs to know what is up and what might interfere with homework time. Try to not schedule dentist appts or one-time events into their week without giving them notice. If something is scheduled like an organization class each week, have them block it out in their agenda and set a reminder on their phone. Sunday family meetings are a great way to start the week. Everyone knows what is happening that week and there are no surprises. Remember how it feels when your boss throws something at you unexpectedly?

Also decide together what time homework will start. Allow a 20-30 minute break when coming home. Take a 5 minute active, non-electronic break in between subjects. Keep an analog clock within view. Read the directions and picture what the finished homework will look like and then begin.

5. The basics: the school layout and where key places are such as: locker (and the combination), bathrooms on each floor, classrooms (and the quickest path to each), office and lunch room. Know the rules about cell phone use and iPods. Listen for teacher expectations like the homework rules, (late policy) where to find HW information (back board, online portal, does it get passed in or corrected together, etc.), test days, gym days, and any other information that can easily be assumed they “should” know but may not.

It’s a new beginning for students, parents and teachers too. This is your opportunity to set the expectations before problems begin and have a plan of action before it is needed. No homework is worth the stress that it can create. If you and your child “battled” last year, it may be time for a third person to step in. We are offering group classes in cooperation with the South Shore Learning Lab in Norwell and our one on one weekly or biweekly sessions now include accountability check-ins between sessions and parent updates. Contact us today as slots are filling fast.

10 Ways to Shake Things Up and Build Your Brain Too

pail and shovel beachAugust is known as the back to school month. It is usually a month of anticipation and anxiety. Parents are out purchasing school supplies and clothes for kids that are both excited and nervous about the new school year. College students are getting ready to head to school this month and so you may notice a bit of an “attitude”. It is really just their excitement and anxiety building as they try to define their evolving relationship with mom and dad. What about you? How do you feel now that the summer is coming to an end?

If you have kids then the switch back into the school calendar is a jolt to your child’s routine. It is smart to start “practicing” some skills now before the mad rush begins. Maybe you start working the bedtime back, insist they get dressed before coming downstairs, have them lay out their clothes the night before….all simple things that will help create positive habits for the school year. What new habit would you like to create that will make your life better? You can’t expect this year to be any different if you don’t DO anything different.

The fall is a great time to take an evening course, pick up a new hobby or sign up for an exercise class with a friend. Check out what is available in your area and fits your schedule. Stepping out of your comfort zone and learning something new is a great way to keep your mind active. It builds new brain synapses (or connections) and that’s a good thing. Changing up the daily routine helps too. Here are some ideas to shake things up a bit.

  1. Take a different route to/from work (maybe stop at the beach for some quiet time before heading home).
  2. Eat with your non dominant hand (it will slow down your eating and make you more mindful).
  3. Change up your morning routine and turn off the auto pilot
  4. Go to bed earlier
  5. Watch less TV (or make one or two days TV free)
  6. Shut down electronics an hour before bed (the blue light they give off messes with your sleep hormones)
  7. Get up and move every ½ hour for at least two minutes during your workday. Better yet walk for 30 – 45 minutes every day. Wear a pedometer and try to beat each day’s steps.
  8. Learn something new or challenge yourself in some way. New recipe? New language? New hobby? New vegetable?
  9. Check email only three times a day (unless it is work related) and never before your first “to do” is done.
  10. Use a planner or calendar app to actually plan out the night before the top 3-5 things you will accomplish tomorrow. Start each day fresh; don’t just move items to the next day. Pick the things that you really want/need to get done.

We often become so programmed that we are on autopilot throughout a large portion of our day. There’s one month left to the summer, make the most of it and “shake” things up. Your brain (and probably your family) will thank you.

This is from the Laine’s Logic Newsletter Archives. If you would like to get our monthly newsletter, you can sign up here: http://www.laineslogic.com/children

Conquering the Summer Reading List

Summer’s just about ½ over! That means along with camp, sports practice and summer fun, children and teens also need to find time for reading. Many schools provide a summer reading list beginning in the fourth or fifth grades requesting that students read two or more books from a selection. Requirements vary from one to five books and students may be asked to either write something about each book or take a “test” on them once they are back at school.

If your child has a list and has not started it here is a way to create a plan and avoid the last minute rush. First figure out how many books are required and either borrow them from the library, download them onto an ipad or tablet or buy them. Look at the calendar and divide the number of weeks left by the number of pages in the book. For example, if you have two books to read and each is 200 pages then your child would need to read 400/5=80 pages a week (based on 5 weeks left of summer) to finish both books. That would mean reading about 16 pages a day five days a week. A reality check with a calendar and the books required will help your child develop a better sense of time management. Or you can divide the book by its chapters and figure out how long it would take to finish if your child read a chapter a day.

To encourage children to read, there is no better way than to model it yourself. Set aside 20-30 minutes of reading time for the whole family each day. Find a time that works for your family such as, after a meal, late afternoon, or before bedtime. Summer is a great time for you to get some reading in too. Nothing beats reading a good book in the shade while sipping an iced tea. Sharing and discussing books is a great way to keep those communication lines open. What are you reading? Let me know on my Facebook page or in the comment section below.

“Connecting a child and a book is like dropping a pebble into the water. You never know where the ripples will end up.” Ronald Jobe