Easing the transition back to school - for children with ADHD
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder can affect an individual’s ability to pay attention, remain still, or think before acting. It can also, however, affect executive functioning tasks which are the managerial components of the brain that control things like organization, time management, and planning. Because your child could struggle in these areas, providing them with compensatory tools to help them overcome these challenges will be critical. Planning and organization, skills often lacking in ADHD, will be important when you are preparing your child for the upcoming school year.
Now is the perfect time to begin planning ways to improve your child’s level of success and organization in school. Some things to consider include:
Communicate with teachers the needs of your child. It also may be beneficial to review their Individualized Educational Plan / 504 Plan and to schedule a meeting with the school psychologist, counselor, teacher, and previous teachers to identify interventions that could be advantageous for them.
Establish services that will be provided by the school for the year including accommodations, tutoring, etc.
Establish a familial routine prior to beginning the school year.
Set daily and weekly schedules.
Post a written schedule in the kitchen and in your child’s room.
Stick to the routine as consistently as possible.
When implementing the schedules, provide verbal prompts and reminders with 10 minutes, 5 minutes, and one minute left in tasks.
Include times for organized activities such as sports, art, drama, music, etc, therapy, tutoring, etc. Make sure to tailor these tasks to your child’s strengths.
If your child struggles with their morning routine, it may be beneficial to lay their clothes out the night before to save valuable time in the morning. Each night, have your child review a checklist to ensure that they have everything that they need for the following day. This could include, but would not be limited to:
Homework/projects in their proper folder
Some strategies you could utilize to increase your child’s level of participation in organizing activities include:
Allowing them to pick out and personalize their organizational materials (backpack, color or put sticker on folders, etc.).
Provide small reinforcers for participating in organizational exercises. For example, they could earn stickers to place on their folders, patches on backpack, etc.
If you children are older, create checklists that they can follow to help increase their level of accomplishment and autonomy.
Create a simple organizational system for your child’s backpack, study area, and desk (if permitted).
This can include color coded folders for subjects, designated pockets in the folders for homework, notes, etc. It will be important to communicate with your child and their teacher to identify specific needs.
Schedule time in your week, possibly on Sunday evening, to help your child reorganize his/her folders and backpack. Depending on their age and need, you may have to take an active role in this process and help them with the organization.
Go shopping and buy necessary organizational materials and school supplies.
Set up appointments with your child’s psychologist, psychiatrist, behavioral analyst, etc. to reestablish therapeutic participation.
Create and/or re-implement reinforcement schedules to provide motivators for your child.
Many of these strategies involve increased planning and organization on the part of the parent. This can, though, model valuable executive functioning tasks for your child as you help them. Planning and organizing are going to be areas of difficulty for children with ADHD. Engaging them in these type of strategies, however, can help them improve their level of organization and performance while teaching them valuable coping skills to utilize in the future.