Did you know that routines are an essential tool for managing ADHD? Routines help create daily habits that allow us to shift into “autopilot mode” so we can get things done without having to repeatedly plan each step and focus intently on every detail. For kids with ADHD who are getting ready to head back to school, developing a powerful and effective autopilot mode can be invaluable. Routines make it much easier for kids to remember everything they need to bring to school each day. They also build independence so they can get up and ready in the morning without repeated reminders from their parents. As a result, routines lead to less frustration and family conflict over things like leaving the house late in the morning or forgetting to bring completed homework back to school the next day.
With the first day of school just weeks away, it’s time to stock up on all of the school supplies, clothes, and accessories that your kids are going to need this year. Back-to-school shopping can seem overwhelming when your child has ADHD. The idea of having to keep track of an active, impulsive, and distractible child while also managing a long shopping list is daunting for parents. For kids, the stress, overstimulation, and temptations that accompany back-to-school shopping lay the perfect foundation for the predictable arguments and meltdowns. No one can avoid back-to-school shopping, but there are many things you can do to make it a more positive experience for you and your child.
Family road trips are fun and exciting, but they can also be stressful when one or more family members have ADHD. Some of this stress comes simply from being in close quarters and having to stay seated in the car for long stretches of time. While you can’t do much to cut down on the amount of driving that’s required for your trip you can tackle another source of stress – disorganization. When you’re in the car with kids, especially kids with ADHD, things can get messy quickly. You may start off with a clean car, but buckle kids into the back seat with their games, drinks, and food and the car can go from clean to a disaster zone in 5 minutes or less! This chaos makes it hard for kids with ADHD to keep track of their things, and can be the source of arguments, whining, and even tears. Often this backseat chaos doesn’t get left behind once you reach your destination. When things are disorganized at the beginning of a trip, it is very hard for kids to become organized once they’re on the road. As a result, the hotel room quickly mirrors the messy car.
As an ADHD expert one of the questions that I’m asked most often is, “What is the difference between ADD and ADHD?” Sometimes people share with me that they were diagnosed with ADD is as a kid and wonder how the ADHD that they hear about today is different from the diagnosis they received in childhood. With both terms being so prevalent, people are often surprised to learn that ADD is actually an outdated term. Today healthcare providers only refer to ADHD and no longer use ADD as a diagnostic label. Labels like ADD and ADHD originate from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the DSM), which is the healthcare “manual” for all recognized mental disorders. The DSM is used by healthcare professionals as a reference guide for the symptoms, impairments, and diagnostic criteria associated with ADHD as well as other disorders, like depression and anxiety.
Children experience significant learning loss during the summer months when they do not engage in learning activates. This summer slide is responsible for up to two months of lost learning in math and up to one month of lost learning in reading. For kids with ADHD, who often finish the school year behind their peers academically, summer learning activities not only help offset the summer slide, but also help build skills that may have been missed during the school year. Unfortunately, because school is more challenging and stressful for kids with ADHD, they are typically more resistant to participating in summer learning activities. While structured academic enrichment activities are an important part of any summer learning plan, there’s also room for fun learning activities at home that won’t feel quite so much like schoolwork. When kids with ADHD are doing something that they enjoy, their resistance disappears and their enthusiasm soars!
There is so much discussion online about possible causes of ADHD – watching too much TV, eating too much sugar, lax parenting, schools that don’t allow for enough creativity or physical activity, etc. Surprisingly, one of least discussed topics is the connection between our genes and ADHD. We know that genes strongly influence our appearance, our intelligence, our athletic ability, and even our personality, so why not ADHD symptoms as well?
Everyone looks forward to summer family vacations! This fun, memory-making, quality family time can be the highlight of the summer. Unfortunately, before the fun can begin parents of kids with ADHD must endure the long trip to the vacation destination. Without fail, long car and plane rides stir up some of the most challenging ADHD behaviors in children and cause sibling squabbles to reach new heights. In an effort to keep the peace and minimize boredom, most parents rely heavily on tablets, phones, and in-flight movies. They do this with good reason - screens can be very effective at keeping behavior in check. Unfortunately, for kids with ADHD, long stretches of screen time can have negative effects on their attention and behavior for hours (and sometimes days) after the journey is over. Many kids with ADHD have difficulty regulating their attention around screens. They become hyper-focused when they’re watching a show or playing videogames, but when the screen is taken away struggle to transition to another activity. In fact, research shows that some kids with ADHD continue to “crave” screen time for hours after they have spent a significant amount of time in front of screens. For these kids, taking the device away at the end of the trip can lead to meltdowns and outbursts, as well as seemingly constant begging for more screen time during the entire vacation. Not an ideal way to start off your family holiday!
Many parents consider having their child take a break from his or her ADHD medication over the summer. Research shows that there are in fact some benefits to summer medication holidays for children who take ADHD medication. For kids who experience medication side effects, such as insomnia, decreased appetite, or slowed physical growth, a summer break can provide relief and chance to catch up in weight gain and growth. Summer medication breaks also give parents an opportunity to observe their child’s ADHD symptoms when his or her medication is not in effect.
When you have ADHD it’s important to make studying as fun as possible. After all, it is much easier to focus on something that you find interesting, right? With ADHD, knowing how to study for the SAT is half the battle. While nothing can take the place of a structured SAT study program, these fun activities can be great supplements. Since they’re fun and interesting, you’ll be able to stay focused even after you’ve reached your attention span’s limit with your traditional test prep materials.
Summer gives kids with ADHD the opportunity to take a break from the pressure and hard work that comes with staying focused and on-task all day long. They have more time to explore their creative side, burn off their extra energy while playing outside, and become absorbed in activities that they truly enjoy.