A child with ADHD can place many demands on your time, energy and sense of competence. The constant interruptions, need for repeated instructions and close supervision can be taxing. The following strategies may be helpful.
1. Clear rules and expectations
Children with ADHD need regular reminders of the house and classroom rules so set clear targets for behavior and re-cap them at the end.
2. Strategic praise
Recognition of making the right choices will serve as a regular reminder of behavior expectations for a child with ADHD. Positive attention is powerful – “Catch them being good.”
3. Immediate or short-term rewards and consequences
Children with ADHD will benefit from immediate feedback for desired behaviors and likewise clear and proportionate consequences.
4. Be persistent and consistent
You may want immediate results, but that’s not likely. It can take months to see significant progress. When the boundaries are consistently applied the child will learn that you are in it for the long run and the relationship will form.
5. Establish routines
Children with ADHD get bored with routines but need them desperately, routines may include visual timetables on the desk and warning when the daily routine is going to alter.
6. Create clear plans and checklists for lessons and unstructured activities
Write these on their desks. A child will benefit from seeing the activities checked off and will feel a sense of accomplishment which also builds resilience in the learning environment.
7. Use timers
Timers are great for setting activities and movement breaks.
8. Reward for going above and beyond
Ensure that children have a personalized reward of their choice for completing their work or helping others in the classroom.
9. Plan your learning environment
Students with ADHD benefit from the learning environment having minimal distractions. Student and parent voice will help to establish the ideal environment for the child to access the learning.
Allowing a child with ADHD to feel empowered is a helpful step. Ask them where and how they think they will learn best.
The promotion of self-regulation should be encouraged too. This can be achieved through a time-out card and identifying a safe space when environment becomes overstimulating or when the child feels dysregulated.
Coach Benjamin Mizrahi. Educator. Learning Specialist. Family Coach. Father. Husband.
Trouble with sleep is a common side effect of ADHD medications (which are stimulants). To be sure your child can wind down at bedtime, ask their doctor about changing the dose, the timing of it, or the type of medication they’re taking. There are non-stimulant options that could work for your child’s ADHD. It may take a few tries to find the combo that works best for focusing during the day and going to sleep at night.
Welcome the Dark
You may have most of the lights off in your child’s room at bedtime, but does that make the room dark enough? Your kid’s body clock may need more of a nudge to know it’s nighttime. Unplug or cover any electronics that glow. Blackout curtains can help shut out extra light from outside. If your child will wear it, a sleep mask can also do the trick.
Skip the Screens
The blue light from the monitors on things like computers, tablets, and phones can trick your child’s brain into thinking it’s time to be awake. Limit screen use to earlier in the day and fill your child’s post-dinner hours with activities like board games, reading, or quiet play.
Focus on Food Choices
What and when your child eats (or drinks) can affect their sleep schedule. A bedtime stomach that’s too full or too empty can make it hard to start snoozing. So, can snacks and drinks packed with caffeine. Skip soda, tea, and chocolate in the afternoon and evening.
Stick to a Schedule
A nighttime routine can help ease your child toward sleep. A regular order of events at bedtime will help train their body and brain that sleep comes next. Write your plan down, with the help of your child. That’ll make sure you’re both on board (and help babysitters know the drill when you’re away).
A body that exercises daily sleeps better at night. Anything that gets the blood pumping and muscles moving works.
Build in Bath Time
A soothing soak in the tub might be just the trick to tire your child out. After they get out of a warm bath, their body will start to cool off. That can make them feel sleepy.
Set a Wake-Up Time
It’s easier (most of the time) to get a kid out of bed than to get them to fall asleep. Keep your child’s wake-up time the same every day, including weekends, so their body gets in the rhythm of the same sleep hours.
It’s likely your child’s bedtime happens before the rest of the household hits the hay. Block out extra noise that could distract your kid from dream time. White-noise machines create soothing static that can mask other sounds. Earplugs can also work for kids more sensitive to noise.
About 25% of kids with ADHD also have an anxiety disorder. That can make a child’s mind race and prevent it from drifting off. Talk to your child’s doctor about whether that might be part of their sleep problem. They might suggest other therapies or strategies.
Head Off Homework Early
Schoolwork often causes stress, which can delay sleep. Help your child organize their time so they can finish their work early enough that bedtime can stay the same. Try using checklists and a specific work area to help them stay on task.
Maybe a Sleep Supplement
Melatonin is a hormone your brain releases at a certain time of day to tell your body it’s time to go to bed. You can buy it in pill form and take it before bedtime to treat insomnia or other sleep problems. Experts are still studying the long-term effects of using melatonin, but they consider it safe to use in kids. Ask your child’s doctor if it might work as a sleep aid.
Brain and body calming methods can help some kids. Breathing exercises and guided imagery are two ways to slow down a racing mind and jittery limbs. Ask your doctor to help you find ways to show you and your child what to do.
Choose the Right Time for Bed
Be sure your child’s bedtime is setting them up for good sleep. Figure out how many hours they need based on age:
Two-year-olds and younger need 14+ hours.
Preschoolers need 10-13 hours.
Kids under 13 need 9-11 hours.
Teens need 8-10 hours.
Count backward from their wake-up time and start there. Some kids do OK with less than the average and may go to sleep faster with a later bedtime.
Your doctor can help find out what works best.
Rule Out Other Things
Sometimes ADHD isn’t behind sleep problems. If you’ve tried good strategies without success, think about seeing a sleep specialist. Your child could have:
Sleep apnea or another disorder that disrupts rest.
Snoring or pauses in breathing can be signs of a sleep struggle other than ADHD.
When it comes to ADHD, you shouldn’t automatically assume that your child does not listen. They, in fact, might, though, it might appear that they don’t. Alternatively, they could hear and understand and decide to act defiantly instead of obeying. Ultimately, there could be several things going on. Let’s look at some of the most common possibilities.
🟣You don’t have their full attention
For a child with ADHD, their mind often jumps from one focus point to another. If nothing specifically grabs or demands their attention, their mind quickly moves to the next thing. To make your ADHD child listen, do everything you can to request and maintain their full attention.
🟣They don’t understand what you are saying and can’t process the information
Many children with ADHD might struggle with verbal commands because they do not learn best in an auditory setting. If processing is an issue, change your approach and possibly try to explain what you want through demonstration. You could also try to write out instructions or use pictures or drawings.
🟣They are being willfully defiant
In response to defiance, if you want to make your ADHD child listen better, you can try a few things. First, you may want to explain the consequences of their actions again. If they still choose not to obey, you should carry out the consequences. You can’t back down, though, or change the results from what you had said. By doing that, your child might believe they have won the encounter and choose to continue to be defiant in the future. Instead, you should do what you said and carry through on the consequences. Hopefully, they eventually will learn to obey to receive positive results instead of negative ones.
Secondly, if you find that negative consequences have little effect, you might consider seeking out professional help. Many individuals with ADHD also have Oppositional Defiant Disorder, or ODD. ODD is a separate disorder in which a child willfully and persistently opposes the authority of others. If you continually have concerns about your child’s defiance, this might be the underlying cause.
Making your ADHD child listen can be a difficult task. You don’t have to be alone in figuring it out, though. While it might take time, you can learn to communicate in ways to make your ADHD child listen.
Coach Benjamin Mizrahi. Educator. Learning Specialist. Family Coach. Father. Husband.
If a child has Executive Functioning Disorder or delays, it does not mean that all the skills and tasks are negatively impacted. A child may be delayed in one skill or all skills.
Since there are many other diagnoses associated with EF skills, such as, ADD, ADHD, ASD, and Traumatic Brain Injury, many tend to look at the larger diagnosis and not look through the EF lens. This can lead to missed opportunities to assist a child with gaining independence and confidence. Often a child may be called “lazy”, when in fact they have EF difficulties and are unable to plan out how to do something.
Here are some great tools to help a child that may be experiencing EF difficulties:
1. Rationale: When a child learns new skills, provide the rationale behind them or things like planning for the task might feel like a waste of time.
2. Outline steps: Support the child by defining the steps involved in tasks ahead of time to make a task less daunting and more achievable.
3. Use aids: Use tools like timers, computers, iPad, or watches with alarms.
4. Visuals: Prepare visual schedules and review them several times a day.
5. Provide 2 types of information: Provide the child with written (or visual) instructions as well as oral instructions.
6. Create checklists and “to do” lists, estimating how long tasks will take. Use checklists for getting through assignments. For example, a student’s checklist could include items such as: get out pencil and paper; put name on paper; put due date on paper; read directions.
7. Use calendars to keep track of long-term assignments, due dates, chores, and activities.
8. Improve working environment: Assist the child to organize their workspace and minimize clutter and distractions.
9. Establish routines to try to consolidate skills and memory of what needs to be done.
10. Cut and paste projects requiring multiple steps in which they must complete tasks in a sequential manner.
11. Mind mapping to assist the child to get ideas down on paper strategically.
12. Games: Planning and problem-solving games such as puzzles or games like ‘Go Getter’ (River & Road game).
13. Lotus diagrams: Use lotus diagrams with the child to help with structuring thoughts on paper whilst creating clear expectations as to how much to write.
14. Block building: Get the child to copy block designs from a picture or a 3D model.
15. Drawing: Draw a picture as a model. Then draw an incomplete version of the same picture and ask the child to finish the picture to make it look like the model.
16. Practice goal setting with the child (e.g., Help the child to set attainable goals that are well-defined). Break goals down into smaller steps and talk about alternative approaches with the child.
17. Recall games that require the child to recall information such as Memory: “I went to the shops and bought a…”
18. Multi-tasking: Practice doing several activities at once (it may be helpful to number the activities) to encourage the child to learn to shift from one activity to another.
Coach Benjamin Mizrahi. Educator. Learning Specialist. Family Coach. Father. Husband.
Today, I wanted to share with you a great article I found on LifeHacker which talks about how you can help your kids develop better social skills:
“… Your children’s social development will be a critical part of their success and happiness as they get older—even more important than their academic skills or intelligence. (Also, no one wants to be that parent who’s raised “Mean Girls”-like bullies.) You have a chance now to greatly influence your kids’ social intelligence and teach them things even we awkward adults are still perfecting, like how to build friendships and deal with rejection. They’re important lessons we all keep learning, and the sooner we start, the better.
The Social Skills All Kids Need to Learn
It seems like some kids (or people of any age) are more naturally socially adept than others—you know, the kind of people others gravitate to and for whom making friends comes easily. Don’t worry if your children don’t fit that mold or aren’t winning any popularity contests. Like any other skill, social skills can be learned, and, besides that, “being social” or outgoing isn’t the end goal in itself.
What is important, however, is that kids are able to form meaningful bonds with others, can empathize and interact with others appropriately, and have the skills to adapt in uncomfortable situations. Unfortunately, as the University of Memphis points out:
Many students do not know how to handle interpersonal social situations that involve following directions, holding a proper conversation, listening, giving compliments, proper behavior during transition times, teasing, bullying, or just “hanging out” with friends.
Those are basic skills we want all kids to be able to have. Depending on your children’s ages, they might also need more specific social skills.
Skills for Preschool and Elementary School Kids
Vanderbilt University found the top 10 social skills kids need to succeed in school, based on surveys of 8,000 elementary teachers and two decades of classroom research, are:
Listen to others
Follow the steps
Follow the rules
Ask for help
Take turns when you talk
Get along with others
Stay calm with others
Be responsible for your behavior
Do nice things for others
These might seem like social skills promoted just to turn out “nice girls and boys” who earn the “gets along with others” check on their report cards, but they’re fundamental behaviors that help kids succeed (not just survive) in a world that emphasizes social norms. The goal isn’t just to make them cooperative, but to hone their social GPS so they can both advocate for themselves and care for others. (Heck, we probably all know a few adults who could stand to learn many of these skills too.)
Social Skills for Pre-Teens and Teens
Older kids, in middle school and high school, have more complex social skills to learn, thanks to growing peer pressure and that simply awkward period called adolescence. It’s a time when they’re becoming more independent, but everyone’s forming cliques; when they’re making big decisions about who they are and what they want to be, but also might start to care a bit too much about what others think.
Set personal goals
Identify and change self-defeating behaviors
Be assertive about his or her needs
Have feelings for others
Handle anger constructively
Resolve conflicts peacefully
It’s easy to say a toddler should learn how to follow directions or a young adult should know how to be assertive; it’s another to know how to best help them do that. So let’s look at a few strategies.
Model Social Skills
The first place we learn social skills, of course, is at home, and what we do as parents is more important than what we say. As All I Really Needed to Learn in Kindergarten author Robert Fulghum says, “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.”
Modeling positive social skills includes showing confidence ourselves when we relate to others, being friendly to strangers, offering to help others, and also treating our kids with respect (no matter how much they might be pulling at our last straw). Dr. Laura Markham writes on Aha! Parenting:
Teach your child that people are important. All parents have to choose their battles, so put up with messiness and dawdling if you must, but teach your child consideration for others. Model it for him early on, praise it, help him brainstorm to solve peer problems, and don’t let your child intentionally or unintentionally disrespect another person. It you can’t confront it as it happens without embarrassing your child, be sure to talk about it later. As kids get older, you may need to be very explicit about insisting that they acknowledge adults in their presence, as well as other kids. Often preteens and young adolescents need to be reminded of this, and to be given coaching on how to handle interactions that feel awkward to them.
The funny thing about being a parent is it forces you out of your shell and can help you become a better person through analyzing your own behaviors and attitudes. In a great article summarizing research on children’s social skills, Auburn University professors Jacquelyn Mize and Ellen Abell write:
Parents of these socially competent children endorse interpretations of social events that encourage resilient, constructive attitudes (Mize, Pettit, Lindsey, & Laird, 1993). Rather than making a statement such as, “That’s a really mean kid!” they may say something like, “Gosh, maybe he’s having a hard day.” They make constructive attributions such as, “Sometimes kids just want to play by themselves,” rather than expressing a sentiment like, ‘They’re not very nice if they won’t let you play.” These parents avoid defeatist comments such as “Maybe they don’t like you,” and offer instead suggestions like, “Maybe they don’t want to play that, but there might be something else they think is fun.” Such positive, constructive statements encourage children to take an optimistic view of others and themselves as play partners. They reflect an upbeat, resilient attitude toward social setbacks and the belief that social situations can be improved with effort and positive behavior.
Don’t Label Shy Kids
If your kids are naturally shy or feel insecure, try not to label them as such or try to force them out of their shyness. Instead, if your child is socially anxious, Dr. Markham recommends empathy and a problem-solving approach:
Don’t label your child as shy. Instead, acknowledge his feelings and point out that he can overcome his fears. For instance, “Sometimes it takes you awhile to warm up in a new situation. Remember Billy’s birthday party, how you held my hand all through the games? But by the end, you were having lots of fun with the other kids.”
Teach your child effective strategies for dealing with shyness. The general rule of thumb is to accept the nervousness that comes up as a part of normal life that affects most people, reassure yourself that you’re ok anyway, and focus on others rather than yourself. For instance, remind your child that she doesn’t have to be interesting, just interested, and teach her to ask other kids questions and listen to their answers. Brainstorm with her how she might handle a situation that makes her nervous.
Another reason not to label young people as shy is it could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I was told I was shy as a child, when really I think I was just naturally quiet and introverted. Having that label, though, led to me feeling tense and anxious during social situations—true shyness, which often starts out as a reinforced habit.
Give Plenty of Opportunities to Practice Social Behaviors
Kids learn social skills first from you, but then to a large degree from their peers. The more chances kids have to interact with others, the better.
Kids also will learn crucial skills from simply playing with you. According to Dr. Mize and Dr. Abell, the research suggests that children whose parents frequently play with them have more advanced social skills and get along better with their peers. It’s especially true if you play with them on their level, following their lead and in a “peer-like” way:
Children benefit from this type of play for several reasons. From balanced, responsive play with a parent, children may learn many of the skills commonly displayed by the socially competent preschoolers described earlier. In addition, when parents are responsive to children’s play ideas, children may come to feel that they are good, effective play partners and thus are eager to play with peers. Finally, fun, balanced parent-child play may instill that positive outlook toward others that makes children look forward to play opportunities with people outside the family.
Parenting Science has a few social skill activities you can do with your kids (school-aged and teens) based on research—and they’re actually fun games like charades.
All that said, chances are your kids are learning positive social skills the way most of us do, simply as we go along and through trial and error. Don’t worry or try to intervene too much unless there are serious signs of social trouble (for example, if your kid’s teacher warns of discipline problems). Most kids are insensitive (or even unkind) or socially clumsy sometimes.
Here are some signs that your child might need more social coaching(from you and/or teachers):
Lacks at least one or two close mutual friends
Has trouble losing or winning gracefully
Doesn’t show empathy when others are hurt or rejected
Acts bossy or insists on own way a lot
Can’t seem to start or maintain a conversation
Uses a louder voice than most children
Seems constantly ignored or victimized by other children or constantly teases or annoys other children
In those cases, you’ll want to take a more active approach to helping your kids with their “interpersonal skills.” Otherwise, just keep playing with your kids, being a model of social grace, and helping them build their relationships.
Research shows that students with ADHD can concentrate better when they’re allowed to fidget (here’s a link to the study). But what if this becomes a distraction for the rest of the class? We received hundreds of Facebook comments from teachers, parents, and students with great ideas for letting students quietly fidget, and here are some of our favorites:
1. Squeeze Balls
Squishy balls, stress balls, koosh balls, hand exercisers… there are dozens of objects that can be squeezed quietly. Teacher tip: make sure that kids use them under their desks for minimal distractions to others. Fun activity idea: fill balloons up with different items (seeds, playdough, flour, etc.) to squish.
Fidgets are small objects that help keep students’ hands occupied. You can buy these on my facebook page or use objects like beaded bracelets, Rubik’s Cubes, or slinkies.
3. Silly Putty
Silly putty, playdough, or sticky tack can also keep students’ hands occupied.
Tape a strip of the hard side of velcro under the student’s desk. It gives them something to touch. Many types of objects can work, such as emery boards or straws.
5. Gum or Chewable Necklaces
Chewing gum can help keep some ADHD students focused. In no-gum classrooms, necklaces with chewable pieces can also work. You can also wrap airline tubing or rubber bands at the ends of pencils for students to chew.
Doodling can help many students focus, not just ones with ADHD (here’s the research if you’re interested). Some students also benefit if they can draw during storytime or a lesson.
7. Background Noise/Music
A fan in the back of the room can help some students focus. Letting them listen to music on headphones (as long as it doesn’t interfere with what’s happening in class) can also help. One teacher had success with an aquarium in the back of the room — the students liked hearing the calming swish of the water.
8. Chair Leg Bands
Tie a large rubber band (or yoga band) across both front legs of the chair for students to push or pull against with their legs.
9. Bouncy Balls
AKA yoga balls, stability balls, or exercise balls. These are potentially great for all students, not just ones with ADHD.
10. Swivel Chairs
Kids can twist a little bit from side to side. A rocking chair also works.
11. Wobble Chairs
Similar to swivel chairs or disk seats, these chairs let students rock within their seats. Teacher tip: don’t let students wobble too much, or they may fall off!
12. Disk Seats
These sit on a chair and allow students to rock in their seats (without being as dangerous as rocking the entire chair). Cushions can also work.
13. Standing Desks
Great for all students, not just ones that need to fidget. Learn how students brought standing desks into their classroom in this Edutopia community post: Using Stand Up Tables in the Classroom. If it’s within your budget, you can also use treadmill desks.
14. Desks with Swinging Footrests
A built-in footrest can help reduce the noise that would otherwise happen with foot tapping.
15. Stationary Bikes
Putting a stationary bicycle at the back of the classroom is a great way to help students be active, with the added benefit of exercise!
16. Classroom Space for Moving Around
Clear an area in the side or back of the room to let students stand, stretch, dance, pace, or twirl. If you’re brave, you can set up small trampolines for students to jump on.
17. Flexible Work Locations
Students don’t have to do their learning at their desk. One student did his work at the windowsill, while another moved from one desk to another. Having different learning stations can benefit all types of students.