One of the most popular gifts of this past holiday season, according to CNN Money, was Amazon’s Echo Dot, featuring their digital assistant, Alexa. If you are one of the millions of people who recently brought Alexa into their home, then you are now learning that Alexa can do all kinds of things, from giving you the weather forecast to turning on the lights in your home or operating any number of Internet of Things connected devices. If you have a child with ADHD, then you’ll be happy to know that Alexa can also help with many of the challenges that you and your child face every day.
Are you and your child having a hard time getting back into the swing of things after the holiday break? You’re not alone! The week following the winter holidays is one of the most challenging times of the year for families of kids with ADHD. The excitement and intensity of the holidays, the delicious treats, late bedtimes and lazy mornings, and extra screen time sets kids up for a difficult adjustment when they return to school. For kids with ADHD, their symptoms often seem to be at their worst this week, and many will be more argumentative and oppositional than usual. As a parent, you’re undoubtedly having a difficult time getting back into your own routine, and have less energy available to deal with your child’s challenges.
“But, it’s not fair!” This phrase, and the tone that comes with it, is a universal button pusher for parents. It inevitably comes a time when you’re already running low on patience, and calmly engaging in a discussion about the fairness of a situation is the last thing that you want to do. Your child is equally as distressed, and because he or she truly believes that he or she has been wronged, your child’s mind becomes focused solely on arguing his or her position in the fairness debate.
It’s December and your family has finally settled into the rhythm of the school-year. Homework time is firm, and work is getting done (most nights). Your child is getting to bed at a reasonable time, and waking up without too much difficulty in the morning. Finally! But just when you and your child have hit your stride, the winter holidays come around and you start to worry that the time off from school will send you and your child back to square one.
As an ADHD specialist, I’m often asked why so many more kids seem to have ADHD today compared to previous decades. Is it because kids are spending too much time in front of screens? Or that they’re eating too much processed food? Or is modern parenting to blame? Answering this question is complicated, because changes in rates of ADHD diagnosis aren’t accounted for by any single factor. However, it is unlikely that screens, parenting, or diet are the cause.
Flipped classrooms turn the traditional model of instruction upside down by migrating in-person classroom lectures into videos that are watched independently by students on their own time. Class time that had traditionally be spent listening to lectures is now replaced with interactive assignments designed to reinforce the previously-viewed video presentations. In effect, the activities of homework and class time are flipped – lectures are watched at home and assignments are completed during class. For students with ADHD who struggle to complete homework assignments efficiently and consistently, the flipped classroom model is appealing for two reasons:
For teens, passing a road test and receiving a driver’s license are exciting milestones. As drivers, teenagers gain the freedom and autonomy that they crave, and their parents are happily released from their carpooling duties! While there are many positives that come with driving, there are also significant risks that can’t be ignored. It is widely known that newly licensed adolescent drivers are at high risk for motor vehicle accidents. In fact, the risk of being in an accident is almost 3 times higher for teenagers than it is for adults over the age of 20.1 This risk explains why insurance rates are much higher for adolescent drivers, and why many states have graduated driver licensing programs in place (e.g., driving is only allowed until 9pm, no passengers are allowed in the car, etc.). Texting and using a cell phone while driving only compound these risks, and cell phone use accounts for 10% of all fatal car accidents.2 Despite laws in many states banning text messaging while driving, over 44% of teens say that they still text and drive.3 While the risks are already high for teen drivers, they are even greater when ADHD is added into the mix.
Many kids with ADHD struggle with spelling problems. They have difficulty learning to spell new words, may take longer to think through how to spell a word and write it down on the page, and make mistakes spelling simple words that they had previously memorized. In fact, studies have shown that kids with ADHD are even likely to make spelling mistakes when they copy words verbatim. Unfortunately, kids with ADHD who struggle with spelling are often perceived as not caring about the quality of their work, or being too lazy to double check for errors. In reality, one of the primary executive functioning components involved in spelling – working memory - is impaired in many kids with ADHD. As a result, kids with ADHD will make more spelling mistakes than kids without ADHD even when they are trying to do their best work. In addition, having ADHD makes it harder to identify spelling mistakes during proofreading, so traditional strategies for double checking work may not be very effective.
Many kids with ADHD struggle with feelings of boredom throughout the day, especially during activities that fail to meet their high mental engagement needs (see my previous post for more on this topic). When boredom kicks in, kids feel miserable and their ability to stay focused and engaged plummets. While every hour of every day can’t be filled with fun and exciting activities, there are many strategies that parents and teachers can use to make everyday tasks more engaging for kids with ADHD
Kids with ADHD thrive when they are engaged in activities that are exciting, interesting, and challenging. In fact, sometimes it may seem like their ADHD has practically disappeared when they’re doing something that they enjoy. On the flip side, when activities are more routine and less interesting, kids with ADHD quickly become painfully bored. They struggle to focus, and will try just about anything to escape the boredom. At school, you’ll find them jumping up to sharpen their pencil even though it already has a perfect point, asking to get up and get a drink of water even when they’re not thirsty, or asking for the bathroom pass just so they can leave the room. Why do everyday tasks seem so boring to kids with ADHD? Kids without ADHD might not enjoy these activities, but they don’t seem to be tortured by them.