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

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

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.