The start of the school year can be challenging for any family, especially those with students who have ADD or ADHD. That’s why it is important to get ready early and have a plan. Pediatrician Don Shifrin joined Margaret to offer helpful tips on how to prepare children with ADD/ADHD for school.
Here are his notes, as well as helpful resources for families with students who have ADD/ADHD:
It's not just about the meds.
Although it is officially “Attention Deficit Disorder,” I like to think of it, as “Attention Different Disorder.” It is as much a bona fide medical diagnosis as vision problems or diabetes. There is ample evidence that ADD children can be as academically competent and skilled as those without ADD. Yes, these kids and teens need additional and often different attention from parents and teachers. You would not tell a child with vision problems to "try harder", or a child with diabetes to just take insulin and all would be normal.
So with school starting in less than one month, here are 3 things you can do to smooth out those first few days- and hopefully most of the school year as well.
1) PREPARE (this means now)
Most kids and certainly teens stay up later in summer - and get up later too. Start preparing for early rising by transitioning to earlier sleep times. If you cannot coax them to bed earlier start waking them earlier by 30 minutes and watch those late nights improve. Lastly, check that everyone agrees on what time arising will take place and when medications will be taken daily. (This is especially important if there are living arrangements including two households).
Organize, organize, organize: school supplies, clothes and shoes in closets (maybe by colors). Maybe even a color coded filing system for each subject? Pick out that special backpack. (Remember weight is not more than 10-15% of your child's weight). Buy a whiteboard to track progress of schoolwork. projects, anything you want, or should measure. If we see it, it is more likely to get done.
Where to study? Prepare a special clean, quiet, well supplied (so we don't have to bounce up and search for tape, hole punches, or glue) and impenetrable study space from TV, internet, dogs, little brothers or video game aliens. Make sure that you have a timer so you will be able to help him stay on tasks and enforce study breaks- and getting back to homework!
Although you are the CEO of the household, you are your child's executive consultant. That means planning ahead. Finding you own child's organizational style is important, but plan for the "oh no's". Where's my backpack? Forgot my homework. Can't find my shoes? Plan for sunrise and sunset. Routines provide structure and improve daily functioning. And decrease stress. So plan then commit to them.
“Hope” is not a strategy. Routines need time- to become routines. Make it a family affair and practice before school starts (Morning routines for happier dressing, eating; and picking up their backpack in the same location. Oh- and no TV/computer-please! Evening routines for free time: activities, snacking, studying, dinner, bathing, and a sweet and calm bedtime).
For studying, stay close but do not hover. You are the available, askable parent. Take breaks. Have some fun afterward (games or even a little computer time). Note that the dinner table and bed are absolutely electronic free zones. (These devices are well known for stealing family time and sleep).
Organize, analyze, and prioritize are not intuitive functions with ADD children. So even though you have prepared and planned, your house often may not operate until it is on red alert. Stressful as it is, maintain a sense of humor. As you go so goes the household. Manageable mornings, after-school, and evenings with ADD children require a tremendous amount of understanding and work. You have to observe, learn, and rebalance if things are too hectic. Model the skills you want your child to learn. Show your love often. Praise immediately following a well done assignment or chore is received best by your child. Children with disorganized behaviors will not change when told to "try harder".
additudemag.com (Please subscribe)
healthychildren.org from the American Academy of Pediatrics: http://tinyurl.com/kpvju47
A Mind at a Time: How Every Child Can Succeed. By Mel Levine
Smart but Scattered: Peg Dawson (a must for parents to assess learning styles and organization at home and school)
Learning Outside the Lines: Jonathan Mooney and David Cole (for high school and college students)