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Improving & Supporting those with ADHD

Friday, August 23, 2013

Executive functioning refers to a set of complex cognitive processes that support ongoing goal-directed behavior. Some examples of executive skills are working memory, organization, and emotional control. These skills help people to behave in an organized, deliberate, and predictable fashion, just like a conductor provides the direction necessary for many different musicians to play the same melody in the same manner, creating beautiful music. When there are difficulties with these skills, people can appear distracted and disorganized, and display inconsistent skills.

Individuals, especially students, need the right tools and basic skills to be organized. By developing good organizational skills, children can be more successful in school and in life. Some individuals are more organized than others by nature; however, some need direct, systematic instruction to develop these skills. Children, particularly with learning disabilities or weaknesses in executive function, can learn organizational skills, but they need specific instruction and sufficient practice to do so. Learning to manage their materials allows for more time-on-task learning and a feeling of control over their learning. Here is a list of strategies to help children develop strong organizational skills at school and home. The most important thing to note - avoid the temptation to revamp everything at once. Talk to your child about what should be tackled first.

Organization for School

  • Use a homework planner
    homework planner can be used to write down each daily assignment in each subject. Crossing completed items off will help children feel a sense of accomplishment. Check regularly to see that the homework is being done. Some schools provide homework planners to students, and if not, parents can work together with the  parent organization or PTA to provide planners at your school.

  • Organize homework assignments
    Before beginning a homework session, encourage the child to start with an assignment that they need help with first. By providing assistance, you are better able to see what is difficult for your child to complete and whether or not this should be brought to the teacher’s attention.

  • Maintain a binder with pocket dividers for each subject
    Coach your child to slip all assignments into the proper section, putting things in order, and discarding unneeded items.

  • Provide a consistent place to study 
    Children should study and do homework in a quiet area with a desk or table surface big enough to spread out papers and books. Good lighting and a sturdy chair are a must.

  • Studying for tests 
    Studying for tests is a skill. Parents can help their children manage their time and attention – which means turning off the TV, the iPod, or the cell phone. Parents can review notes, make study cards, or even create practice tests for their children to take.

Organization for Home

  • Weekly planning
    Set aside time each weekend to plan the upcoming week with your child. Provide a family calendar in a common area of the house to list after school events, school tests/projects due dates, and other important information for all family members to see.

  • Morning routine
    Prepare the night before to prevent unnecessary chaos each morning. Choose
    clothing, pack your child’s backpack, and put everything in a specific place (i.e. beside the front door).

  • Structure for your child’s room
    Use creative storage solutions to keep the room neat and organized (i.e. door-hung shoe holder for action figures, games, or trading cards). When the room is neat and organized, take a photograph of how it looks to encourage your child to check it frequently to see if his room still matches the pictures.

The good news is that significant advances in recent research have proven that it is a neurobiological disorder, even though the exact cause of ADHD remains unknown. 

The sad news is that ADHD is estimated to affect between 3-8 % of the school-aged population. Typically children with ADHD exhibit symptoms such as poor attention skills, poor vigilance (paying attention over time), poor planning and organizational skills, easy distractibility, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. These characteristics usually are evident in early childhood, typically before age 12, are chronic, lasting at least 6 months, and maycontinue into adulthood. A thorough evaluation is necessary to make an accurate diagnosis of ADHD.

The good news is that there are a variety of treatment interventions to address ADHD that can, if necessary, be used in combination. Whether at home, or in school, children with ADHD respond best in a structured andpredictable environment. Rules and expectations should be clear and consistent. Consequences should be set forth ahead of time and delivered immediately. By establishing structure and routines, parents and teachers can cultivate an environment that encourages the child to control his or her behavior and enhances success at learning. Participation in sports such as Karate or Taekwondo provides an appropriate outlet for the excess energy, while teaching discipline, self control, mindfulness (awareness of self) & relaxation.

What have you found most effective in the organizational process??