Here we are again; the start of another school year; new school, new teachers, new classes, new homework. If you are the parent of a child/adolescent with ADHD and they are transitioning to a new school environment, you are probably feeling the anxiety as much as your child. The middle school environment will have your child moving at a faster pace with different classrooms and teachers for each subject. Will they be able to find the classrooms, on time and in order? Yes, they will…eventually.
Most schools will have an orientation/open house – take your ADHD student! As you are moving from class to class, use the school map and let your child lead the way. If there is confusion, it is a good time to let him/her figure it out before the first day of school. You know your child best. Help them develop strategies and reminders that work best for them. For example, they may need to post the schedule inside their planner and refer to it for classroom numbers and times before moving to the next class. Learning to navigate their school schedules will help set your child up with independence and life skills.
Time management and study skills are the responsibility of the student. You may set rules for a mandatory study time and place, but allow your student to prioritize their work each day. Avoid hovering and answering questions for them out of frustration and impatience. Encourage use of applications/sites provided by the school or recommended by other parents. Allow them to establish another valuable life skill – problem solving – by learning what study strategies work best for them.
Games for Their Brain
Taking a break for down time is just as important. Use games/apps to help your student improve his/her short term memory. Without knowing it, they are strengthening vital skills, not just playing a game. Check your student’s school website for recommended websites and resources- there are many. FunBrain.com,Khan Academy, and AcademicSkillBuilders.comare just a few examples. Also, if you are used to hearing, I left my math textbook in my locker, there is no longer a need to rush back to the school to retrieve it. If your student’s school does not utilize tablets or online textbooks, many publishing companies offer educational support links to access textbooks (e.g., Glencoe.com). These may require specific instructions to log in to the correct state/school district issued text, so be patient the first try. Remember the big picture, literally. It may be more important for your student to learn how to utilize the technology of a flash card app in order to improve short term memory skills, than it is to merely memorize dates and events for the History test.
Develop Short Term Memory Hacks
Executive functions and skills can be part of new challenges through the teenage years. Their frontal lobes have not yet fully developed, and children with ADHD may mature/develop at a much different pace. Smart, But Scattered Teensby Richard Guare, Peg Dawson and Colin Guare is a great resource. It guides you through utilizing checklists for those unable to complete daily routines or tasks. This helps your child learn to communicate in writing- To Do Lists and Post-It notes are a must. Give them the tools to refer back to instructions in case they can’t commit it to short term memory.
Celebrate and Reward Strengths
Remember that your ADHD child is not you. He/she will not learn, study, test or communicate in the same way that you do. Allow them to fail without making them feel like a failure. It is important to recognize their strengths and reward/praise them accordingly. Avoid only pointing out the missed assignments or low grades. While it is frustrating, building his/her self-esteem and confidence far outweighs a failed quiz in 7th grade Language Arts. Use motivation for good grades and accomplishments by establishing a reward system that is attainable and mutually agreed upon. Working for a pizza and movie weekend with friends or that new pair of custom shoes is a pretty good motivator for this age group. Using the points system that you have had in place since Kindergarten is perfect. They are used to the routine, so keep the results in place of tally marks or stickers for that visible reminder of progress…we all need that gold star or smiley face sticker to remind us of a job well done.
Focus on the Future
Along the way, make a habit of discussing the bigger picture- what is your child’s goal/interest after middle and high school? Their interests change as often as they change clothes, so keep checking in. Stress the importance of science if he/she is interested in research, medicine, horticulture, landscaping, or entomology. Encourage their interests by planning a family outing for the hands-on experience he/she may not acquire in the classroom. It will relieve some of the pressure of the weekly routine and may spark a new career path!
If you need help and support for working with your ADHD child, please feel free to reach out to us at Family & Child Development.