HADD's mission is to make life better for people affected by ADHD. We are an organisation in Ireland made up of volunteers- parents of children with ADHD, individuals with ADHD and professionals. We are dedicated to providing as much up-to-date information, resources and networking opportunities to individuals with ADHD, parents of children with ADHD and the professionals who serve them.
· Kids with ADHD feel the same emotions as their peers.
· Emotions are more intense with ADHD and impact everyday living.
· ADHD makes it hard to manage emotions.
If your child has ADHD, you probably know about the major symptoms. Trouble focusing. Impulsivity. And in some cases, hyperactivity. But many kids with ADHD (also known as ADD) share another symptom that often isn’t mentioned. They have trouble managing their emotions.
There are official criteria that doctors use to diagnose ADHD. Trouble with emotions isn’t one of them. But researchers and professionals who treat kids with ADHD often report that emotions play a big role in the daily difficulties kids face.
Kids with ADHD don’t have different emotions from most of their peers. They feel hurt, anger, sadness, discouragement, laziness and worry just like everyone else does.
What is different for many kids with ADHD is that these feelings seem to be more frequent and intense. They also seem to last longer. And they get in the way of everyday life.
What Trouble with Emotion Looks Like
When kids have trouble managing their emotions, it can show up in different ways. Some might be unable to put the brakes on their feelings when they’re angry or stressed about something. Others might struggle to get revved up to do something when they’re feeling bored.
Kids with ADHD, more than most others their age, may also:
· Worry too much or too long about even small things
· Have trouble calming down when annoyed or angry
· Feel wounded or take offense at even gentle criticism
· Feel excessive urgency to get something they want immediately
Consider how that might play out:
You hear your 11-year-old screaming at her younger brother. She comes running to find you and shouts about what he’s done. It turns out he’s made some comment about her hair. She wants you to punish him, and she gets mad when you don’t react. Then she complains all night long about how unfair that is.
Here’s another potential scenario:
Your 15-year-old has a ton of homework. But he doesn’t sit down to do it. Instead, he spends the afternoon texting with friends. You’ve already tried using consequences to try to motivate him to do his work. He just says it’s boring and acts like he doesn’t care. Nothing makes him stop what he’s doing and get moving on the homework.
Why Kids with ADHD Struggle with Emotions
How people feel and handle emotions starts in infancy. Some babies are just naturally quick to startle while others are generally calm and less reactive.
Some tend to get irritated easily. They’re quick to cry and slow to calm down. Other babies are not easily upset and are quickly calmed.
The basic temperaments people have at birth influence how they behave from the start. They may change quite a bit—or not that much—as kids grow up.
Like their peers, kids with ADHD aren’t all alike in their temperaments. Some are more laid-back or timid. Others are more reactive, outspoken and aggressive.
But often, they don’t have the same capacity to manage their emotions as other kids their age. They have less ability to react to their own emotions using their brain’s reasoning powers.
Kids with ADHD typically have trouble with working memory (along with other executive functions). And that makes it very hard for them to keep the bigger picture in mind. They tend to get stuck in whatever they’re feeling in that moment.
As they grow up, most kids who don’t have ADHD learn how to manage their emotions so they don’t get too caught up in them. If they begin to feel too angry or hurt, they learn to say to themselves, “Calm down, chill out—this doesn’t have to be such a big deal.”
If they’re getting too discouraged trying to do something, they might be able to tell themselves, “OK, that doesn’t look like it’s going to work. I’ll try again or will try to find a better way to deal with it.”
Kids with ADHD are slower to develop those processes (and many other aspects of their executive functions). It takes longer for them to gain the ability to calm down and get perspective. So they’re more likely to get too wrapped up in their own emotions.
· Be reluctant to get started on something they ought to be doing
· Avoid interacting with others
In other words, their immediate emotion of the moment takes over all of their thinking.
How You Can Help
When your child is struggling with his feelings, it may seem like there’s no way to get through to him or to stop his behaviours. But there are things you can do to help him get control of and manage his emotions.
Start by acknowledging how he seems to be feeling. “I can see how disappointed you are about coming in second in the science fair.” Don’t argue about whether he should be feeling this way. That usually just escalates the problem.
Once he’s calm, offer to help him figure out some better way to deal with that emotion—one that might help him switch his thinking. For example, you could say:
· “I know you’re upset and just want to leave the science fair and go home. But I’m proud of what you did.”
· “I know you worked hard on it and a lot of the people who looked at it seemed impressed. Even though you feel really disappointed about getting second place rather than first, you still have good reason to be proud of what you did.”
If your child often struggles with managing emotions, it can be a good idea to talk with his doctor. You may want to discuss having your child see a counsellor, or if there’s ADHD treatment that could help.
· Kids with ADHD are slow to develop the ability to manage emotions.
· Trouble with working memory plays a role in this.
· The emotion kids with ADHD feel in the moment can dominate their thinking.
Thomas E. Brown, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
Telling lies is something all children do - not in an attempt to deceive but as a coping mechanism to deal with their own remorse, shame and inability to understand that their poor impulse control makes them say and do things they know they should not do but seem unable to control - yet they must also learn that all behaviours have consequences. Better to teach them to self regulate and self manage their ADHD
My child with ADHD had just done something impulsive — something outside her control — and was unable to stop herself in time. She wished she hadn’t done it. And magical thinking allowed her to imagine that she hadn’t.”
We were nearing the end of a very long day. My 4 year old clung to my thigh like a monkey to a flagpole, wailing because mommy was going to a PTA meeting after dinner. My 6 year old shouted “Mom, look at my LEGO ship” in machine-gun rapid fire, unsuccessful in attracting my attention because I only had eyes for my 8 year old — the one with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD). She looked back at me through an unbrushed nest of hair piled atop her sinewy frame, holding a thick, black marker, standing next to one of my brand-new dining chairs.
I had absolutely no business buying sand-colored, upholstered chairs, as if I lived in some other house with well-behaved kids and relaxed grown-ups. And, as my eyes fell to the thick black line drawn on the back of my pretty new chair, I realized my daughter had just proven that fact.
“You drew on my chair?” I shouted. “My brand new chair?”
She shook her head, gripping the marker tight. “No, I didn’t.”
I pointed to the marker. “Of course you did. What were you thinking? Don’t lie to me.”
Her eyes welled and she began to cry. “I didn’t. I didn’t. I didn’t.” She threw the marker down and ran from the room, stunning the rest of us into a moment of silence.
It wasn’t the first time she’d lied — and it wouldn’t be the last. She’d lie about taking something that wasn’t hers when caught red-handed, she’d lie about hitting her brother when I saw her do it, she’d lie about finishing her peas when the bowl was still full. I was confounded. Our family values cherished honesty and I was raising a misbehaving liar. Plus, now I had permanent black marks on my brand new chair!
Magical Thinking and ADHD
The key to understanding why my daughter lies is in a concept called Magical Thinking. My child with ADHD had just done something impulsive — something outside her control — and was unable to stop herself in time. A bit like if you’d slept-walked and ate a whole cake, then snapped out of it to realize what you’d done. She wished she hadn’t done it. And magical thinking allowed her to imagine that she hadn’t.
Beginning with the toddler years and waning close to about 10 years old, children are ego-centric, meaning they believe they are the cause of things around them, like whether a rainbow appears or someone is sad. They also believe in pretend and the animation of inanimate objects. They believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. This sense of magical thinking allows a child with ADHD to “wish away” the thing they’d just done. If they say it didn’t happen, then perhaps they can UN-DO it. Perhaps it didn’t actually happen after all.
It is important also to remember that the brain of a child with ADHDlacks the neurotransmitters necessary to control impulsivity. That lack of control likely accounts for whatever he or she did but shouldn’t have. It can also account for the lie. That lie would jet out of my daughter’s mouth so fast, I could almost sense that it surprised even her. But, once spoken aloud, she had to commit to the lie to have any chance of convincing me it was true. Taking it back would surely mean she’d get in trouble for whatever she’d done — and then also for lying about it.
My daughter with ADHD also struggles with tolerating big emotions— hers and mine. If she said she didn’t do it, then she had a shot at convincing me it was true and thwarting the potentially angry mom. But she was unsuccessful. Seeing my anger, coupled with her own frustration and disappointment in herself for her inability to control her actions, created a storm of feelings that were hard to manage. So, she erupted herself, letting it all out. And ran away to avoid having to manage it further.
Other times, children with ADHD lie to avoid a task. In the case of “Did you eat your peas?” or “Did you do your homework?”, the magical thinking is that the task will go away if the child says it is already gone. Then, caught in the lie, the impulsivity and magical thinking pushes them further down their rabbit hole of story-telling.
What to do about the ADHD-powered lies?
My angry outburst at my daughter’s action (and subsequent lie) is a good reminder that I, too, often struggle with an impulsive reaction to things. I would like to be able to react calmly and rationally, but it isn’t easy with a toddler hanging off you, another child vying for your attention, and your own shock at your pristine new chair lasting all of five minutes! However, when calm, I try to heed the following:
: “I understand that you wish you hadn’t drawn on my chair and that you would take it back, if you could.” If you come alongside your child and show her that you understand why she lied, you may find that she feels safe to acknowledge it. And your calm approach can scaffold her inability to handle all those big feelings that erupted.
: “How do you think we could make this better?” Give your child an opportunity to be part of the solution to the problem she created. This empowers her to take responsibility for her actions. She may just shrug at first, but if offered enough chances, this can help to create a mindfulness regarding the cause and effect of her actions.
: In some cases, the solution might be helping to clean up or to give back an item that was taken. It may be a simple apology or a written note. In other cases, it may be important to reflect on why your child may have lied. Was it impulse or avoidance? If your child is avoiding a task, then the onus may be on you to determine whether the task is too big. Did I serve too many peas? Maybe she hates peas. Is the homework too long? Maybe she has fine-motor issues that make holding a pencil difficult. Be a detective before being a judge and you may find your child’s need to lie diminishes.
Your lying child is not a bad seed. The lying is just another dysfunctional coping mechanism in your child’s ADHD box of unhelpful tools. While magical thinking does wane, remember that your child with ADHD is often three years behind in maturing, so magical thinking might last a bit longer. In fact, certain aspects of magical thinking may stay with us into adulthood, since at the end of the day, we all wish the world could be the way we want it. Some adults I know still cross their fingers, buy lottery tickets, and throw salt over their shoulder. Others pretend they live in grown-up houses and buy sand-colored dining chairs.
Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are often told to be quiet and sit still in the classroom. But new research suggests that letting them move around may actually be a more effective way to help them learn.
The study, recently published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, suggests that physical motion is critical to the way that children with ADHD recall information and solve problems.
“Our research indicates that targeting reduced movement in children with ADHD may not be in their best interest,” Dr. Mark Rapport, a psychologist at the University of Central Florida and the study’s lead author, told The Huffington Post in an email. “They need to move more than other children when engaged in learning tasks that require the use of critical executive functions such as working memory.”
The study’s findings suggest that traditional behavioural methods of treating kids with ADHD — which emphasize reining in impulsivity and hyperactivity — may be misguided. It appears that allowing children to move around (within reason) actually helps them maintain a certain level of alertness.
For the study, the researchers recruited 52 boys between the ages of 8 and 12, roughly half of whom had been diagnosed with ADHD. The boys were asked to perform a series of tasks designed to measure working memory, an important aspect of learning and intelligence. During the study, cameras recorded the children’s movement and their attention to the task.
The boys with ADHD who moved more during the test performed better than the boys with ADHD who did not move around. They also performed better than the boys who moved around but who did not have ADHD.
Rapport has shown in previous research that kids with ADHD only show excessive movement when they’re using executive functions like working memory, reasoning and problem-solving. The new study appears to show that physical movement not only occurs alongside these important brain functions, but seems to facilitate them.
Instead of encouraging children to sit quietly in their chairs, we should consider allowing them to sit on activity balls or at exercise bikes while they work, according to Rapport.
“Movement is functional rather than purposeless,” Rapport told HuffPost.
Children with ADHD, he said, should be given “the necessary means by which to engage in controlled, non-disruptive movement while they work on classroom or home activities that require executive control.”
A MOTHER who has been living in a family hub with her two children for a year-and-a-half has described it as “like prison”, saying her son’s ADHD medication has been almost doubled just to help him cope.
Selina Hogan (32) has been staying in a hub in Ballyfermot, Dublin, with her son Scott (10), who has ADHD and Asperger’s syndrome, and daughter Lauren (16).
The family had lived in a hotel for six months beforehand after her landlord announced the home she had been renting in spring 2017 would be sold.
“Scott missed out on playing on his own street with friends,” Ms Hogan told Independent.ie. He got really frustrated and because he has ADHD his medication had to be doubled in the last 18 months as he had no space. My son has Asperger’s as well, so he has trouble expressing his emotions. Scott kept saying he didn’t know why he was so angry but he didn’t like it and I knew it was because of the way we’ve had to live.
He was only on 20mg of Ritalin 24 months ago but now he’s on 35mg. For special needs children like Scott, in this situation, sleeping in one room, in a bed with his mother – that’s not acceptable.”
Ms Hogan said families were being left with “emotional trauma”.
“You have nothing, no space. We’ve had nearly two years with no proper amenities, having to live like prisoners,” she added. “We have a bunk bed. My daughter sleeps on the top bed and my son and I in a double bed at the bottom.”
Ms Hogan spoke about her family’s experience in the wake of the No Place Like Home report from the Ombudsman for Children’s Office, which revealed children as
Ms Hogan said that, while children and friends could theoretically visit the hub where she lives, it was only for two hours at a time. She said they were not able to visit the play or communal areas.
“So there was no point. If kids visited you’d have to take them out to the park,” she said.
“There wasn’t room for them to sit in the one room with us to play. Even if we wanted to stay out overnight, to go away on a trip spontaneously, we couldn’t. We were only allowed three nights a month to stay out. And to access those nights I’d have to ring the homeless unit and request booking ourselves out.
“That’s like a prisoner asking can I go away for the weekend. My daughter told me she went from being 14 to feeling like she was 25. She missed out on a whole period of her teenage life, when she should have been having friends on sleepovers, doing her hair and make-up and going off to teenage discos.”
Ms Hogan said she had heard extremely concerning stories from several mothers at other hubs. “They told me about their teenage children, some as young as 16, feeling suicidal,” she said.
“We’re about to move into our own council house finally but it’s going to take time to convince my children this is a permanent home, that we won’t have to leave. The kids had to see a part of life they should never have seen and they now know life isn’t fair and the Government let them and all the other homeless families down. We were made to feel less by a system that treated us like criminals for being homeless.”
Brain breaks and focused attention practices help students feel relaxed and alert and ready to learn.
I’ve enjoyed creating and sharing brain breaks and focused attention practices here over the past few years—practices that benefit every student as their brains prepare to learn. Brain breaks create a state of relaxed alertness, while focused attention practices help students slow down and focus on a stimulus, enhancing their executive functions of sustained attention and emotional regulation. These practices address discipline proactively, before any problems arise.
I hope you and your students enjoy these activities as you prime the brain for attention and a state of relaxed alertness. These all work well with elementary students, and some can be used with older students as well.
Peeling a tangerine: Give every student a tangerine. To begin, ask them to guess what they might be doing in the next couple of minutes before they eat the fruit. You can prompt them with a question such as: How is this tangerine like our brains?
Next, ask them to hold the tangerine behind their backs—or just close their eyes—and peel it without looking. Can they peel it without splitting the fruit? Was this easy? Harder than they expected? How fast could they do it? As they eat the fruit, ask what sensations, feelings, or memories they experienced.
Paired mirror drawings: Have students find a partner. Each student will take a pen or pencil and a sheet of paper, and sit facing the other. One student will lead and the other will follow: The leader starts drawing an image related to the class subject matter, and the follower copies the drawing and tries to guess what the drawing is supposed to represent.
Have students switch roles, so the other person can lead. Once again, as the leader begins to draw, the follower should mimic the leader’s drawing and guess what the drawing is.
Pouring water: Give each student two small paper cups, and fill one with water. Have students practice pouring the water back and forth from cup to cup, finding a rhythm in the pouring. After a few times, have students close their eyes and see if they can continue to gently and carefully pour the water back and forth without spilling too much of it. Give them 30 seconds for this, and then see who still has water in their cups.
FOCUSED ATTENTION PRACTICES
Breathing: Have students inhale deeply, lifting both arms in the air over their heads and holding their breath for four seconds. As they exhale, have them slowly place their hands on the back of their neck and massage their neck. They can repeat this three or four times until they feel more relaxed.
Tracing a hand: Have students take a marker, crayon, or pen and trace their non-dominant hand without lifting the pen as many times as they can until they begin to feel calmer. They should focus on their breathing during this activity.
Swimming in the deep end: Have students lay on their bellies and move their arms and legs, breathing in and out five times; on the sixth breath, they should slowly relax their arms while still kicking their legs. On the seventh breath, they should stop kicking and lay still, imagining that the water is pulling them down or the clouds are pulling them up into the sky. Tell them to imagine they’re weightless and drifting or floating to their favorite place. They can imagine the colors and sounds as they breathe deeply for a minute.
Melting an ice cube: Give each student a small ice cube to place in their mouth or hold in their hands. Ask them not to crunch or chew it but to notice how it slowly melts. They can imagine a worry or concern meting away with the ice chip, taking deep breaths until it has disappeared.
Balancing tree: Have students place both feet solidly on the ground. They should slowly lift one foot and touch it to the inside of the other calf or upper leg, and raise their arms in the air over their head. Next have them wave their arms as if they were a tree with its branches blowing in the wind. Have them switch legs and repeat this motion. Next ask them to show a tree in a rainstorm and to notice how the trunk of the tree—their body—stays strong: Even though they might wobble, they’re still standing tall.
Focusing on balance: Ask students to stand on one foot, holding the other foot off the ground and keeping their balance. With each breath, they should try to lift their foot higher. Have them pay attention to how high they can lift each foot.
Not chewing gum: Give each student a piece of gum and have them hold it in their mouth for one minute without chewing, just feeling the sensation. Ask what they noticed as they tasted the gum but did not chew.
Following on from highly successful sold-out events last year ADHD Ireland, Ireland’s support organisation for people with ADHD, is delighted to let you know that internationally renowned expert Colin Foley from the ADHD Foundation In Liverpool is returning to Dublin for a full days' training.
This course will deliver a range of practical strategies to support learning, behavioural and socialisation objectives within schools and the home environment. The coping skills explored will increase classroom productivity & attendance, so improving confidence and peer to peer relationships in pupils with ADHD and engagement of Educators, improving understanding and awareness of ADHD nationwide. This programme will motivate Teachers to become ADHD champions in their school, enabling them to take appropriate individual and collective action within their schools towards a positive classroom experience.
Our ADHD course for educators is structured in three sections- 1) What ADHD is and isn’t, including up to date research, key features, diagnostic criteria comorbidities, executive functioning impairments, emotional disregulation and the different presentations of ADHD, including gender. 2) The learner’s experience of ADHD, including working with parents. 3) Strategies that work in the classroom- including support for executive functioning, literacy, anxiety, movement and activity and therapeutic approaches.
The course is structured around the 6 key strategies for achieving good outcomes in education for learners with ADHD of all ages. This event will be delivered by Colin Foley who is the training director of the ADHD Foundation, the largest patient led service of its kind in the UK. Colin has trained 4,000 teachers in the past year alone! After a twenty five year teaching career in the secondary sector up to Senior leadership level, Colin was the first Specialist Leader in Education to be appointed in his area and led the Outstanding Teacher Programme and the Improving Teaching programme for the National College in St Helens and Knowsley. Colin’s work for the ADHD Foundation is grounded in empowering teacher’s to deliver outstanding outcomes for children and young people with ADHD through raising awareness of the specific symptomatology of the condition and through providing practical classroom strategies that every teacher can use at all key stages.
ADHD Ireland's mission is to make life better for people affected by ADHD. To help us achieve this we are looking to appoint a part-time Volunteer Manager and a part-time Communications and Education Manager. Please see below for details:
Seven tools to help parents bring out the absolute best in your their children with ADHD.
One parent, troubled that her child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) didn’t do as well in school as his classmates, began to look for his strengths. She noticed her boy’s creative and artistic talents, and started to foster those qualities.
Whenever she fell back into the habit of comparing her son with kids who seemed to easily excel in school, she asked herself, “What’s right with my child?” Answering this question always led her back to encouraging him.
Think of your role in parenting as being a coach. A coach doesn’t hide in shame when she sees a player miss a shot or goal. A coach doesn’t punish the person in training for not executing techniques correctly, or yell about what the person needs to stop doing. A coach thinks of her job as building skills and solving problems. She knows that sometimes a simple change in technique can improve performance.
Move your focus from patching up weaknesses to identifying and building strengths in your child. Toward that end, here are seven activities that will nourish emotional intelligence, social intelligence, physical activity, and fun. They contain within them the seeds of positive suggestion and will give your child control over her environment. Finally, they will help you and your family open up to joy and learn how to play in an over scheduled, stressed-out world.
1. A Hearty Whoops!
One of the most important things you can do is motivate your child to keep going when the child goofs up. In other words, teach her to “whoop” the problem. Practice this by having your child make silly mistakes at home, and shout out an exaggerated “Whoops!”
Imagine a clown who slips on a banana peel, exaggerating the fall and making silly faces. You want your child to wince and admit mistakes — but not be stopped by them. Take turns with your child practicing a mock pratfall. You can also practice it by dropping a big load of laundry you are carrying on the floor. Then have your child “whoop” the problem in real-life situations — when she brings home a quiz with a mistake in it or makes a bad play in a sporting event. This fun and entertaining activity will teach her not to be failure-phobic, but to rebound from setbacks.
2. The Magic Can
Most children don’t like to clean their rooms, but kids with ADHD take this to a new level. You can coach your child toward taming his messes in a playful way that’s more effective than threatening consequences or nagging. The Magic Can game can develop good organizational habits while increasing the fun quotient of doing it. Create an enchanted receptacle out of a trashcan. Dress it up by pasting photos of his favourite superhero or storybook character — Harry Potter or the Jedi from Star Wars, whatever engages him — on it.
Explain to your child that he increases his magic powers every time he throws out unneeded papers or other things he doesn’t need into his magic can. When he drops an item into the trash can, he should declare, “May the force be with me!” You can create variations on this game with a dirty clothes hamper or a toy storage bin.
3. Can I Do It? Yes, I Can
Bob the Builder, a popular TV and book character for younger kids, has a slogan he uses when faced with a building job that runs into trouble. He asks, “Can we fix it?” And the crew shouts back, “Yes, we can!” The following activity is inspired by Bob the Builder and life coach Anthony Robbins, who developed the term “CANI” to mean Constant And Never-ending Improvement.
Let your child know that when he comes up against a challenge or problem-homework, sports, or relationships- he can say, “CAN I do it? Yes, I can!” This simple phrase reminds him not only to plow ahead with confidence, but to aim for constant and never-ending improvement. Demonstrate this technique for your child when you are trying to solve a problem. When your child is disappointed because someone else is doing better, remind him that the goal is his own improvement (CAN I), not to compare himself to other kids.
4. Joy, Joy, and More Joy
Two of the best gifts of ADHD are high energy and emotional intensity. These can help your child pursue what inspires him with a verve others probably don’t possess. Find an activity that combines his interests in a creative way. As one example, my daughter loves Elmo, dogs, drawing, climbing on the couch, and Uncle Eye’s CD. She sits in her Elmo chair (which I put on the couch) surrounded by her favourite stuffed doggies, while she draws and listens to her favourite songs. By increasing your child’s joy, you teach her to live a life guided by pleasure, rather than one of avoiding fear or running away from punishment. Another bonus: Engaging her passions will build skills and the capacity to pay attention and organize herself.
5. You’re the Champ
Children with ADHD often feel defeated by the competitiveness of school life. They see other kids sit still, follow directions easily, and complete school tasks without struggle, and they wonder why they are different. As a coach, you can turn your child’s discouragement around by exposing him to the power of praise. Teach him to say — to himself or to another child — “You’re the champ. Great job!” Show him that he can increase his own powers by asking those who are successful for tips on how they pulled off their achievements. Teach your child to admire and learn from those who are a few steps ahead. This may turn around your child’s school performance, and will also help his social relationships.
6. The Secret Reservoir
Everyone has untapped resources they may not know about. When your child is struggling with a problem, turn the struggle into a search for a resource, relationship, skill, or gift — the secret tool — that can help him solve his problem. Ask your child, “How do you find your secret reservoir?” Let him generate as many answers as possible.
If he gets stuck, ask him the following questions to jump-start the process: Is there a person who can help you solve the problem? Is there a skill that you need? Is there a gift or talent you have that could solve it? Is there a technology that can help? Turn it into a mystery that can be solved. This will help your child gain hopefulness in the face of his struggles, and will reinforce the message that, if he keeps looking, he can find a solution.
Many people agree that the path to a happy and successful life is a career that uses our greatest passions and allows us to help others. Next time you are driving in the car, ask your child to think of an activity that is a lot of fun and that also helps other people.
You may need to coach him — if he says, “Playing video games,” lead him on to think of a way to play video games that would be helpful to others. If he says, “To feed the poor,” help him to figure out how he could accomplish this while maximizing his fun. When you come up with a way, take it to the next level. “How could we make this more fun?” And, “How could we help even more people?” This process will introduce him to brainstorming. Your child will also learn that he can always improve on his ideas. When you come up with an activity that meets the criteria of “fun” and “helpful,” make a commitment to do it together.
The Dalai Lama once said: “If every 8 year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.”The world needs this more than ever now.
According to recent news articles by Newsweek and the New York Times, the students in detention at Robert W. Coleman Elementary School in Baltimore aren’t staring at chalkboards and walls during detention—they’re meditating and practicing yoga as part of an after-school program.
Here’s how the project, created by the Holistic Life Foundation, works: Holistic Me hosts 120 male and female students in a program that runs from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. and involves yoga, breathing exercises and meditative activities. Disruptive students are brought to a special place called the Mindful Moment Room for breathing practices and discussion with a counsellor and are instructed on how to manage their emotions.
The project, which focuses on pre-kindergarten through to fifth class students, approaches punishment in an entirely different way and reports an incredible result: zero suspensions in the last year. Comparatively, the 2013–2014 school year had four suspensions.
“With the first year being so successful, I started seeing a difference in their behaviours. Instead of the students fighting or lashing out, they started to use words to solve their problems,” the school principal, Carlillian Thompson, told the Holistic Life Foundation in a news interview. “We see the success rate of those students who began in the program now. They are middle school students who are very successful; they come back and participate in the program.”
The nonprofit was started by two brothers, Atman and Ali Smith, and their friend Andres Gonzalez in 2001 in their hometown of Baltimore. Their goal was to provide kids from a low-income and high-crime-rate neighbourhood with the tools to cope with stress and anger. Over the past 15 years, students of the program have graduated and transitioned into mentor roles—former students now make up 50 percent of its workforce.
When we learned Michael had executive functioning issues, everything started to make sense. We began to figure out what we needed to do each day to help our son better manage his challenges.
Here are five things I wish everyone knew about parenting a child with executive functioning issues.
1. It takes patience.
Understanding how executive functioning issues affect your child is really important. For us, we learned from our son’s half-done papers, books that had been forgotten, and last-minute announcements like, “Mom, this project is due tomorrow!”
Getting mad doesn’t help. I know this first-hand because I used to get mad and frustrated when Michael didn’t do things that seemed so logical and easy to me. That approach just didn’t work.
One of the things I learned very early on about executive functioning issues is the importance of a schedule. By that I mean a planner that can be written on and kept in a prominent place so everyone can see it.
The schedule should show all practices, homework and project due dates, tests, family commitments and social activities. By having everything on paper, it’s easier to help your child meet the demands of the week in an organized and calm fashion.
Before we had a schedule in place, Michael would study on the day of a test on his way to school. Now we plan for the entire week every Sunday.
3. It’s important to write lists with very specific steps.
I learned how important lists were after watching my son struggle to stay organized. Things like remembering to read all the directions for a school assignment or bringing home certain folders just didn’t happen.
That’s why we make lists that have every step he needs to do to complete his work. Things you might not think to add—“read all directions,” “cross them off when you’ve done them” and “check paper for mistakes”—are all on his list.
You can even create a check-off list of things to bring home each day. It’s important to customize that list based on what your child needs and adapt it over time.
4. Social situations can be an issue.
Michael is literally the most social person I’ve ever met. But does he read social cuescorrectly? Not all the time. He has to work on them.
Sometimes, he’ll wonder why a friend said something in particular. Or he’ll wonder if someone’s mad at him because they didn’t answer in a certain way. He even used to ask people if they were still friends, because he felt he just needed to be sure.
This happens because executive functioning issues can make it hard for him to organize subtle social information. For instance, he can struggle to understand the meaning behind what someone else says or does.
We talk a lot about situations like these. Together, we made a checklist of things he should think about before he asks someone a question. It’s gotten better, but he still has to work at social situations.
5. Kids with executive functioning issues may need help seeing the bigger picture.
My son can have trouble seeing a situation in its entirety. Instead, he’ll focus on just one thing.
For example, years ago one of his teachers told me he interrupted a meeting she was having with the principal. He needed to ask a question about a paper (a question that had already been answered in class).
My son didn’t “see” anything except his need for an answer. He didn’t notice that the teacher was busy in a meeting or that she wanted privacy. Since then, we’ve taught Michael to look outside himself and “take notice.”