While it may appear that a disorganized child with ADHD is careless or sloppy, often these students care very much about their materials and wish they could have a neat desk like their classmates. The problem is that the executive functioning skills required for organization are underdeveloped, making it almost impossible for them to maintain an organized desk and work area on their own.
Your child says that listening to music or watching television helps him or her concentrate when doing schoolwork. But is he or she right? Sitting down to concentrate on homework is hard when you have ADHD. Not surprisingly, kids, teens, and their parents are always on the lookout for ways to make homework less painful. For many families that I’ve worked with, arguments often erupt over whether or not the television, music, or other noise should be allowed during homework. Desperate to help their kids get their work done, many parents are willing to make more concessions during homework time than they would for other activities and chores throughout the day. But do things like television and music really help kids with ADHD concentrate? Or are they simply fun distractions? Let’s look at what the science has to say.
All kids need time each week to engage in creative play outside of their structured extracurricular activities. It’s during this time that kids develop important social skills, problem solving strategies, and independence while fueling their imagination and creativity. Even just 20 minutes a day during the week coupled with a few longer stretches of time on weekends can make a big difference. For many parents of kids with ADHD, who often rely on highly structured activities to help manage ADHD symptoms, however, the idea of allowing time for play without rules, structure, or adult supervision can seem intimidating. Ideas of free play quickly spiral into visions of a “free for all” filled with impulsive behavior and complaints about boredom! Fortunately, with a little planning and a modest amount of structure and support it is possible to create successful free play opportunities for even the most active kids with ADHD.
Have you noticed that your child’s ADHD symptoms seem better on days when he or she is more active? Is your child able to sit and focus on his or her homework more easily once he or she has run around and “burned off some energy” after school? Researchers have only recently begun studying the effects of exercise on ADHD, but results from early studies are promising. Engaging in moderate-to intense-exercise multiple days a week appears to improve ADHD symptoms, executive functioning (read more about executive functioning in my previous post), social skills, and motor control. A recent study by Dr. Betsy Hoza, published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, compared two interventions in elementary schools. The first was a 30-minutes exercise intervention that included moderate- to-intense physical activity through games like tag and “sharks and minnows”. The second intervention was sedentary, and included 30-minutes of classroom art projects. Both occurred before school every day for 12 weeks. At the end of the 12-week period parent and teachers rated the children on ADHD symptoms, moodiness, social skills and motor skills. Kids in the physical activity program showed improvement in each of these areas.
You know that you need to stay focused when you are doing your homework or studying for a test, but sometimes it just seems impossible. If you’re like most teens with ADHD, you always have intentions but no matter how hard you try you always seem to get distracted. Usually, the longer you work the more easily distracted you become! Why? Because our brains are not designed to focus on a single task for hours at a time, even when ADHD isn’t part of the picture. Add ADHD into the mix and trying to focus for long stretches become truly overwhelming. Research shows that the average amount of homework assigned to high school students is 3 hours a night. So, how can you possibly complete that much work if your brain can’t seem to focus for a 3-hour stretch? Well, a tomato may be able to help!
In my last post I talked about reasons why ADHD and procrastination often go hand-in-hand. ADHD tendencies like preferring instant rewards over long-term payoffs, difficulty with time management, feeling overwhelmed and not knowing where to start, low self-confidence, and being easily distracted all contribute to difficulties with procrastination. Take a minute to read thought my last post and see if any of these ADHD tendencies apply to you. Once you understand why you procrastinate you’ll be able to take some simple steps to stop the procrastination cycle. Start with one or two of the procrastination busters below that you think might be most helpful for you. With the right strategies for you and your ADHD you’ll be able to stopping putting off all of those things that you should be doing today!
Everyone procrastinates sometimes. It’s human nature. But when you procrastinate so often that it prevents you from reaching your full potential and adds stress and anxiety to your life, then it’s a problem. You’re not alone. Most people with ADHD (and many people without ADHD) struggle with procrastination. The good news is that you can break the procrastination cycle with two steps: first identify the ADHD tendencies that cause you to procrastinate and then make some relatively simple changes that will help you overcome these challenges.