Sunday, September 8, 2013

ADHD - Giving them coping skills.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has many many myths that go with it.
 One is that the child will outgrow it, this is NOT true and most pediatricians will tell you this. 
Medication is the ONLY way to deal with ADHD, again NOT true.
They are just acting out, in a truly ADHD child this is NOT true.

And so on and so forth.

My son, Elder Cracker Jack, is now 11. He was diagnosed (by 5 separate doctors) as being ADHD at age 5. I just thought he was a really active and forgetful boy until then. I had homeschooled his preschool just fine as I knew how to get him to pay attention but when he entered public school kindergarten the teachers just could not handle him. And many of them tried (we moved several times during his elementary years) some even gave him extra things to do to keep him busy. By the end of first grade he was on medication, then the medication was "adjusted", then upped, then changed, and the vicious circle continued. 

My happy go lucky, clumsy, aggravating, forgetful little boy was a zombie more days than not. I could not look at him like that any longer. The medication affected his appetite, his growth (he was never a very big child), and how he looked at the world. I talked to him about stopping the medication and asked him what he thought. "I like it because it helps me think," he said,"but I don't like it because it makes me not feel right."

How to teach an ADHD child how to "think" without medications was a tricky idea and new to me when he was at the end of third grade. But I decided it was best to give it a try. You can teach these to your child with or without the use of the medications.

Step 1 is routine, routine, routine. No one ever thinks about keeping these in place for a child after they reach second or third grade. But, having set things done at set times really does help children (and some adults I know) with ADHD. You don't always have to put times with it either ... my son's routine for ex. is:

Get up, get dressed, and do chores.
School (binders, english, and math)
School (science/social studies/health/art)
Free time and afternoon chores.
Free time (usually here he reads)
Get ready for bed, change to pj's, say prayers, and go to bed.

This works for him because he knows what order he does his chores in (they've been the same for several years now) and he does them every morning without fail. We eat around the same times each day and I try not to make things too late or early. If he has a doctor's appointment (or his sister does) then I begin by telling all the kids about it about a week ahead of time, and then bring that up each day at least once ... this lets him know ahead of time that for that specific day his routine is interrupted. 
We went for years with lists everywhere about what he needed to do in what order. They were on the back of the bathroom door, his bedroom door, the refrigerator, on the inside of the door he used to leave the house, in his backpack, just everywhere that I could think of that he might want to check his routine before doing the next thing. Eventually I cut that down to just one in his room and one on the refrigerator. And right now he doesn't have a list anywhere but in his head, but if he asked me to print one of them out (make one up and save it on your computer) I would do so immediately.

Step 2 is organization. Ok, those of you who've been to my house don't laugh at that. It's the CHILD'S organization you need to worry about most. Make sure they know where all the things are that they need each day. Make a special place for each group of things ... a basket in the bathroom with just that child's stuff that's always in one place, drawers in dressers organized so they know where to find their clothing items right when they want them, school supplies in one spot, and if you can organize their toys it helps too. Make sure they have enough folders for school (if you homeschool or not) and get them a student planner ... then show them how to use it and make that part of their routine. These things will help them each day in all the aspects of their lives (and their teachers will thank you when they start getting all of the child's assignments).

Step 3 is a private spot. This does not have to be a whole room or a large space. Just a place in the house that your child can go and know that they won't be bothered. Sometimes they just need a few minutes by themselves to get their heads back in the game of life and not running at a million miles an hour with fifty different thoughts.

Step 4 is to buy them headphones. This sounds counter-intuitive but trust me on this. Go to the dollar store and buy a small personal radio with headphones. Then allow your child to listen to some music while they concentrate on doing their homework (or other important tasks). Any music will usually do, and you want them to keep the volume moderate. This gives their brain something to think about (as well as what they're supposed to be doing) instead of veering off into several different directions. The more familiar the music is to them the better this will work. I started using this after I noticed my son humming often while he worked.

Step 5 is to catch them being good and PRAISE. No matter the child's age this is good to do. Any time they finish their school work in a timely matter praise them. They do their chores without reminders praise them (even with reminders if they do all the steps). When you see them going to their to do lists or when they come home and their student planner is filled out praise them. This reinforces what you want them to do like nothing else will.

Step 6 is to give them permission and understanding. This means to give them permission to forget and understanding when they act up. My son comes to his father and I and tells us when he's having a bad day (when he remembers to, usually we just catch it ourselves). If they know that you won't be upset by this (it can be hard) and that you understand that some days are hard for them they are more willing to come to you about it. We all have bad days whether we're adults or children, have ADHD or not.

There are more coping skills that I've taught my son and later this week I will be posting something he's written himself about it. Some things I'm sure he does without my knowing that helps him. I am not going to correct what he write for either spelling, grammar, or sentence structure. I feel that sometimes just letting him write it out helps him and perhaps what he chooses to write will help others.

Whether you choose to give your child medication or not these coping skills will help and many of them they will carry into their teen and adult years. Start them early so that these become habit and when they enter the workforce later they'll be better able to deal with the distractions and set up their own daily schedule.


  1. My sons has been diagnosed ADHD and has done many of these coping skills on his own, and I've never put two and two together. He loves music of any kind especially if he's using headphones and often hums himself to sleep. On his own he keeps a journal to record his thoughts and feelings (sometimes makes up a song). I have had routine in place since my oldest was a few years old, I think I need the routine as much as my kids do. While I love the routine, my son came become very ridged about any abrupt unforeseen changes to it, so I try to throw in little hiccups once or twice a month so we can work on when things don't go as planned (i.e. an extra stop on the way home from school which will end up pushing dinner back a bit). This seems to help with the anxiety he use to display when his routine was disrupted. Also I like you pointed out giving them permission to have an off or bad day, as adults we have them, but seem to want our kids to always be able to handle anything and always been happy; life just doesn't work that way.

  2. I was trying to research what color ribbon represented ADHD awareness, but found two different colors and months. Purple for awareness in September and Orange for awareness in October. Do you know which it really is? (Guess it's an example of some of the disorganization that comes from ADHD...LOL)

    1. The month has been both September and October. For 2013 ADHD Awareness Month is October and the color is Orange ribbon with black lettering. I was able to get ECJ more able to handle the little schedule changes by loosening the schedule a bit as he got older ... when he was younger the littlest things would have him stressing out. But even now if we have to many hiccups (lol love the word choice of yours) in a row or too many days with hiccups he becomes very easily frustrated and angry and disorganized for several days.

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  4. Great resource for moms dealing with ADHD! I have an extremely overactive child which many parents would have been happy to medicate however I have not ever had him fully diagnosed. He is now 15 and is still extremely hyper but learning how to handle himself appropriately when he needs to. Thank you for taking the time to stop by and link up at the Homeschool Linky Party, hope to see you again next week!

    1. Thank you for the compliment! I chose to take my son off of medication a few years back and I always am happy to hear of other parents who either stopped medication or never medicated their children. I do understand why many people do medicate their children and I don't tell them they're wrong to do it because as I'm often heard saying: "It's what works best for YOU and YOUR family." I am planning on linking up every week if I can manage it!

  5. Chrystal,

    This is an issue - for what seems to be more families than not. Wow, the number of kids diagnosed with ADHD. There seem to be so many levels of the syndrome.

    You have made some EXCELLENT ideas on how to work with your kids and help them succeed without medication. Bravo to you! There are so many poor souls on medication - and parents have reported negative mood changes, It's really scary. I sometimes wonder if we know what we are doing?

    Thank you for this. And thank you so much for linking up with us this week at the homeschool link up! I am pinning this post to our homeschool link up board as well as our mommy blog hop pinterest board. I think parents will find comfort in this post.

    Thanks again!

    1. Lisa,

      Thank you for pinning us!! It is a great compliment for you to pin this post, the ADHD issue is one close to my heart as both my son and step-son have ADHD and my youngest daughter has ADD. I worked hard to find ways to help my children and I know many parents who needed help to help their children. I wanted to share this with as many people as possible.

      Thank you again!

  6. You know him being my biological son I could have told you all this as I had the same issues when I was younger. You are self absorbed though and wouldn't even consider that as your goal is, "how you yourself look to others", rather then putting your children first. But no you wanted to con and steal him instead. You may want to get him an IQ test, It's probably superior to genius level like his father, which means he learns fast and gets bored easily. It's amazing when I had him we had ZERO problems!