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Messy Room, Messy Life?

BY CHADD 

From the moment your child got his own bedroom, the battle began over how clean that room should be kept. Now your child is a teen, and the battle is still going on. But is it winnable?
Your teen with ADHD is struggling with organizational skills, the ability to prioritize and judge how long a task will take. Many teens are simply exhausted from a lack of sleep, homework, and extracurricular actives, along with new pressures and the responsibilities expected of adolescents. The bedroom is an area where teens feel they have their own space and are working out their personalities, styles, and control in their lives.

The bedroom as battleground

Roberto Olivardia, PhD, a clinical psychologist who treats teenagers and their parents, points out that messy bedrooms become battlegrounds in many families. Dr. Olivardia is also the father of a child affected by ADHD and familiar with the messy bedroom struggle. He often tells his teen, “it’s not about me as a parent, but you’re going to live with other people at some point. I’m concerned about how it will affect your relationships.”
Teens affected by ADHD are also coping with delays in maturity and difficulties with organizing. Your teen, like many others, might simply not know how to organize his belongings and where to start the task. Often teens feel overwhelmed as part of the maturing process and with new responsibilities. That feeling becomes reflected in your teen’s environment, Dr. Olivardia says. Turning a messy bedroom into a battle intensifies those feelings and could make your teen draw further away from you.
So how much should parents push their teens to organize their bedroom? It’s a fine line: Your teen would like to have control of his own space, yet you’d like him to learn how to organize his life, and the room is in your house. Dr. Olivardia says. “There’s no question there needs to be certain rules and policies, but not necessarily from an authoritarian perspective.”

Getting teens’ bedrooms organized

Holly Graff, CPO, PCC, is a professional organizer who is often called by families to find ways to organize their homes, including teens’ bedrooms. Ms. Graff presented for our Ask the Expert series in All in a Row – Getting your Kids with ADHD Organized.
“Kids are kids, some are neat and organized, some aren’t,” she says. “I don’t think they notice or mind that it’s messy. It’s not the most important thing going on for them. There’s school, homework, sports, and other events. They may start something then go on to the next thing, put on one shirt and then another, and everything goes to the wayside. The wake is left on the floor!”
Ms. Graff agrees with Dr. Olivardia that parents need to keep a healthy perspective about the problem.
“Don’t get overly stressed out about it,” she says. “It’s only a room. There are more important things to worry about. Take a deep breath.”
“As parents, we want to be aware that we don’t go for perfection here,” Dr. Olivardia says. “They’re kids; they’re teenagers; and they will have a little level of messiness.”
Parents should establish some “house rules” to help their children create a functional space. These rules may include no food outside of the kitchen and that all laundry must be put in the laundry room on a specific day of the week.
With his own children, Dr. Olivardia says his family’s house rules include a “nothing on the floor” rule.
“When things are on the floor, I say just spend two or three minutes every day―120 seconds is all it takes to pick things up off the floor―until you at least can move through the room,” he says.

Short and simple: steps to organization

 Holly Graff’s approach to helping your teen become more organized:
  • Keep it simple.
  • Keep it easy.
  • Keep it to very short increments.
  • Ask for your teen’s input.
When you ask your teen to deconstruct the jumbled mass of debris in his room into specific categories and tackle them one at a time, your teen gets practice in organizational skills.
Ms. Graff explains, “For example, I’ll say, ‘Pick up all the school books and put them in the basket or bin. This is short, sweet and to the point.”
Ms. Graff recently began a new system with her own daughter and her clients to help get bedrooms picked up and maintained. She says you will need colorful sticky notes and a bold ink pen. With your teen, list items that are in his bedroom and another room he’s responsible for, such as a separate bathroom. Be sure to name separate items, Ms. Graff says. Instead of general terms like “clothes” or “books,” break it down to “clean clothes” or “dirty clothes,” “school books” or “comic books.” Start with 10 to 15 items, she says, and keep the list short and simple.
“Now, have your teen write those items on the Post-it notes, one item per note,” Ms. Graff directs. “Have your teen stick them on the back of the bedroom door. On the front of the door, have your teen put one sticky note item.”
This begins the process of getting the room cleaned, she says. Repeating the process is a motivator for your teen to keep the room picked up.
“Let’s say the item is ‘papers,’” she says. “The teen will now pick up all the papers in the room. Then either trash or keep. If keep, have a folder or bin for them.”
You can select the next sticky note from the collection behind the door, Ms. Graff says. Picking out just two or three each day is a good step, rather than all of the items. It might take a few days, but the room gets cleaned. If you notice too many of one item that was cleaned away starting to gather in the room, such as the papers, you can put that sticky note back on the front of the door to remind your teen to tackle that item again.
“It’s easy, simple, focused, colorful, and it’s fun,” Ms. Graff says. “Every day, it’s a new item and by the end of the week the room looks pretty good. Plus, it takes only about five to 10 minutes.”
Remember, time with your teen is short
Your teen will live with you for a just a little while longer before going to college or establishing his own apartment as a young adult. Dr. Olivardia says parents need to remember that this stage of life is fleeting and to pick their battles wisely. The teen years begin the framework for a relationship with your soon-to-be-an-adult child for years to come.
“There’s only a limited amount of time that a child will be living with his parents,” Dr. Olivardia reminds parents.

 

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Every 504 Plan Should Include These ADHD Accommodations

BY ADDITUDE EDITORS

Impulsive behavior. Incomplete homework. Inconsistent focus. Whatever your child’s school challenges, these teacher-approved accommodations can put some real muscle behind his 504 Plan and put the attention back on learning.

Manage Impulsivity in the Classroom
If your child speaks out of turn:

  • Seat him front and center, near the teacher, and away from distractions
  • Seat him front and center, near the teacher, and away from distractions
  • Discuss the behavior in private rather than calling him out in front of the class
  • Have him sit next to a well-behaved role model
  • Increase the distance between desks, if possible
  • For younger students, mark an area with tape around his desk in which he can move freely

Help for Half-Done or Incomplete Assignments
If your child’s grades are suffering due to unfinished work:

  • Allow extra time to complete assigned work
  • Break long assignments into smaller segments, each with a deadline
  • Shorten assignments or work periods
  • Pair written instructions with oral instructions
  • Set a timer for 10-minute intervals and have the student get up and show the teacher her work

Help Classroom Focus
If your child doesn’t participate, drifts o when taking notes, or turns in work with mistake:

  • Have a peer assist him in note taking
  • Have the teacher ask questions to encourage participation
  • Enlist him to help present the lesson
  • Cue him to stay on task with a private signal — a gentle tap on the shoulder
  • Schedule a five-minute period for him to check over work before turning in assignments

End Disruptive Classroom Behavior
If your child is disrupting other students’ learning:

  • Ask the teacher to ignore minor inappropriate behavior
  • Allow the student to play with paper clips or doodle
  • Designate a place in advance where he or she can let o steam
  • Adjust assignments so that they are not too long or too hard
  • Develop a behavior contract with the student and parents (share info about what works at home and vice versa)

Help a Daydreamer Focus
If your child is inattentive:

  • Have the teacher use clear verbal signals, such as “Freeze,” “This is important,” or “One, two, three… eyes on me”
  • Allow the student to earn the right to daydream for 5-10 minutes after completing her assignment
  • Use a flashlight or a laser pointer to illuminate objects or words to pay attention to
  • Illustrate vocabulary words and science concepts with small drawings or stick figures

Settle Fidgety, Restless Behaviors
If your child taps his foot or pencil nervously in class or gets up out of his seat a lot:

  • Allow him to run errands, to hand out papers to students, clean off bookshelves, or to stand at times while working
  • Give him a fidget toy in class to increase concentration
  • Slot in short exercise breaks between assignments
  • Give him a standing desk or an air- filled rubber disk to sit on so he can wiggle around

Keep Track of Homework and Books
If your child forgets to bring home homework assignments or books, return papers to school, or to put his name on his papers:

  • Use an assignment notebook/student planner
  • Allow students to dictate assignments into a Memo Minder, a small three-minute tape recorder, or their phone
  • Staple the teacher’s weekly lesson plan in the student’s planner
  • Reduce the number of papers that are sent home to be signed
  • Appoint monitors to make sure that students write down homework assignments
  • Allow student to keep a second set of books at home

Put Time on His Side
If your child has trouble with due dates and deadlines:

  • Give advanced notice about upcoming projects and report
  • Stand next to the student to make sure that the assigned task is begun quickly
  • Present all assignments and due dates verbally and visually
  • Use timers to mark transitions — putting materials away before starting a new subject or project

Expand Her Social Network
If your child is clueless about social cues, doesn’t work well with others, or isn’t respected by peers:

  • Set up social-behavior goals with her and implement a reward program
  • Request that the school establish a social skills group
  • Encourage cooperative learning tasks
  • Assign her special responsibilities or a leadership role
  • Compliment positive behavior and work
  • Acknowledge appropriate behavior and good work frequently

Take the Fear Out of Writing
If your child is challenged by written assignments:

  • Allow more time for written assignments and essay questions
  • Shorten reports or assignments
  • Allow students to print; don’t require cursive writing
  • Allow the option of a recorded or oral report in lieu of writing
  • Encourage students to use a computer for written work
  • Allow the use of spell check and grammar check software

Reduce Math Anxiety
If your child does not finish math tests, is slow to finish homework, or has problems with with multi-step problems:

  • Photocopy pages for students so they do not have to rewrite math problems
  • Keep sample math problems on the board
  • Allow use of a calculator for class and homework
  • Give review summaries for math exams
  • Give extended time on tests

 

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Does my Teenager Need a Reward System?

BY JEREMY DIDIER

My beautiful daughter and I recently had the honor of presenting at a conference on the topic of Girls and Women with ADHD. As we worked on our presentation, I asked her what she thought parents should do differently to better support teenage girls with ADHD. Her answer both humbled and surprised me.

She said, ‘You guys always compliment and reward my brother when he does the smallest thing, but you never reward or compliment me unless I do something really big. It would be nice if I got recognized for the good things more often, too.”

Wait – does my teenager need a reward system?

In spite of all my years of coach training and ADHD education, the first thought (god help me) that popped into my head was this: ‘I shouldn’t have to reward you for doing the stuff you should be doing anyway!” Yup. Shocked even myself.

Thankfully, I kept that thought to myself.

Because she was right. Again.

My teenager deserves recognition and incentives, just like her younger brothers – and honestly, just like most adults, do, too.

In our home, we celebrate loudly and often when my younger sons with ADHD remember to throw away their trash, hang up their coats or brush their teeth. Both were diagnosed at an early age and needed systems and structures from the start to accomplish basic tasks.

On the flip side, our daughter was already 15 when she was finally diagnosed, and she didn’t need (or so we thought) systems and structures at all; she’d being sailing through basic tasks for years!

But it turns out, she does need and deserve systems and structures that support her challenges. Because even though she has no trouble doing the things her brothers struggle with, she has major challenges when it comes to decision-making, time management and impulse control.

As I reflected on the situation, I realized that it had been at least 3 weeks since she had an “issue” (i.e. gotten into trouble for making a bad choice.) Unfortunately, I also realized that I had not once acknowledged her for her hard work, nor praised her for making choices that kept her out of trouble. If I were in her shoes, I think I’d wonder if all this hard work was worth it? She’d been struggling every day to make appropriate choices, and was not getting recognized for it! I admit, I was embarrassed and ashamed.

So, what to do? How do you parent reward & encourage a teenager (in this case, a 16-year old girl) for making good choices and refraining from risky behavior?

Turns out, reward systems for teenagers work just as well as the ones we use for younger kids with ADHD. The rewards change, but the process is similar. Here’s what a solid celebration plan could include:

  1. It must be simple – pick 1 behavior you want to reinforce or change.  Make it clear what you’re measuring and what the payoff is.
  2. It must be time bound – For younger kids, you would want to start with a time frame of 30 minutes to an hour (possibly less, depending on the behavior you want to change). For teenagers, I recommend starting with a half day at first (less if you find your teen isn’t able to be successful) and then working up to a full day, then 2 days, etc.
  3. The reward must be immediate & meaningful – I could promise my kids with ADHD a first class trip to Disneyworld and Universal studios if they could stay out of trouble for a month, but it’s a safe bet because that trip will never happen! A month feels like forever to a kid with ADHD. Teenagers can typically delay gratification a bit longer than younger kids, but they still need immediate reinforcement. So, talk with your teen to determine what rewards work best for them (and for you! This isn’t intended to break the bank!) before you put your plan into effect!

I took my daughter to Starbuck’s after school today (one of the options on her list of preferred rewards) to recognize her for the amazing job she did presenting at the ADHD Conference. And tomorrow (if all goes well,) she’ll get to go shopping with friends because she’s used social media appropriately for the past week.

So, you tell me – does your teenager need a reward system? A little verbal acknowledgment – and a gift-card or two – can work wonders as an incentive and reinforcement for teenagers. So ask your teenager – and find out what will work in your house.

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Does my Teenager Need a Reward System?

BY: JEREMY DIDIER

My beautiful daughter and I recently had the honor of presenting at a conference on the topic of Girls and Women with ADHD. As we worked on our presentation, I asked her what she thought parents should do differently to better support teenage girls with ADHD. Her answer both humbled and surprised me.

She said, ‘You guys always compliment and reward my brother when he does the smallest thing, but you never reward or compliment me unless I do something really big. It would be nice if I got recognized for the good things more often, too.”

Wait – does my teenager need a reward system?

In spite of all my years of coach training and ADHD education, the first thought (god help me) that popped into my head was this: ‘I shouldn’t have to reward you for doing the stuff you should be doing anyway!” Yup. Shocked even myself.

Thankfully, I kept that thought to myself.

Because she was right. Again.

My teenager deserves recognition and incentives, just like her younger brothers – and honestly, just like most adults, do, too.

In our home, we celebrate loudly and often when my younger sons with ADHD remember to throw away their trash, hang up their coats or brush their teeth. Both were diagnosed at an early age and needed systems and structures from the start to accomplish basic tasks.

On the flip side, our daughter was already 15 when she was finally diagnosed, and she didn’t need (or so we thought) systems and structures at all; she’d being sailing through basic tasks for years!

But it turns out, she does need and deserve systems and structures that support her challenges. Because even though she has no trouble doing the things her brothers struggle with, she has major challenges when it comes to decision-making, time management and impulse control.

As I reflected on the situation, I realized that it had been at least 3 weeks since she had an “issue” (i.e. gotten into trouble for making a bad choice.) Unfortunately, I also realized that I had not once acknowledged her for her hard work, nor praised her for making choices that kept her out of trouble. If I were in her shoes, I think I’d wonder if all this hard work was worth it? She’d been struggling every day to make appropriate choices, and was not getting recognized for it! I admit, I was embarrassed and ashamed.

So, what to do? How do you parent reward & encourage a teenager (in this case, a 16-year old girl) for making good choices and refraining from risky behavior?

Turns out, reward systems for teenagers work just as well as the ones we use for younger kids with ADHD. The rewards change, but the process is similar. Here’s what a solid celebration plan could include:

  1. It must be simple – pick 1 behavior you want to reinforce or change.  Make it clear what you’re measuring and what the payoff is.
  2. It must be time bound – For younger kids, you would want to start with a time frame of 30 minutes to an hour (possibly less, depending on the behavior you want to change). For teenagers, I recommend starting with a half day at first (less if you find your teen isn’t able to be successful) and then working up to a full day, then 2 days, etc.
  3. The reward must be immediate & meaningful – I could promise my kids with ADHD a first class trip to Disneyworld and Universal studios if they could stay out of trouble for a month, but it’s a safe bet because that trip will never happen! A month feels like forever to a kid with ADHD. Teenagers can typically delay gratification a bit longer than younger kids, but they still need immediate reinforcement. So, talk with your teen to determine what rewards work best for them (and for you! This isn’t intended to break the bank!) before you put your plan into effect!

I took my daughter to Starbuck’s after school today (one of the options on her list of preferred rewards) to recognize her for the amazing job she did presenting at the ADHD Conference. And tomorrow (if all goes well,) she’ll get to go shopping with friends because she’s used social media appropriately for the past week.

So, you tell me – does your teenager need a reward system? A little verbal acknowledgment – and a gift-card or two – can work wonders as an incentive and reinforcement for teenagers. So ask your teenager – and find out what will work in your house.

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“Because I Said So!” (Is That Really the Best You Can Do?)

By the editors of ADDitude

There are good ways to discipline a child with ADHD. Nagging, yelling, and punishing are not among them. Learn how to break the ignore-nag-punish-yell cycle here.


Break the Nag Cycle

Parenting ADHD children can challenge a mom or dad’s patience — and good judgment. Just like all kids sometimes make bad choices regarding their own behavior, parents can make bad decisions disciplining this misbehavior. Instead of using firm and compassionate approaches, parents of ADHDers are often driven into the ignore-nag-yell-punish cycle. Sound familiar? Try these discipline strategies to break that cycle once and for all.

Do: Get Involved, Quickly

Quickly move people or objects to prevent bad behavior. For example, if your children start quarreling over a toy, you might say, “Alex, sit over there. Maria, stand here. I’ll take this and put it up here.” Similarly, if your child comes in from outside for supper and refuses to wash his hands before eating, immediately take his plate off the table and silently point to his hands.

Don’t: Ignore Your Child’s Misbehavior

You should respond to your child’s behavior, when it’s good and bad. Otherwise, your child may read your silence as “I won’t give you my attention or concern” or even “I reject you.” She might also assume that your silence means you approve of what she is doing — even when you don’t.

Do: Be Brief

Keep your words to a minimum when disciplining. Some of the best ADHD parenting advice that can be given is summed up in the following statement: The fewer words you use to discipline your child, the more effective (and heard) they will be. Tell your child once, very clearly, what you expect of him. Then stop talking.

Don’t: Be a Chatterbox

It’s important that you don’t go on-and-on about what your child is doing wrong. Words are like tires: Each time they rotate against the pavement, they lose tread, and become less efficient at starting, stopping, and steering. Eventually, they will have no “traction” at all — as tires will eventually become bald.

Do: Keep Calm

Don’t let your own anger get the best of you. Tell yourself that you won’t open your mouth until you’re calm enough to speak at normal volume and in a cordial tone. To calm down, spend a few minutes alone — something as simple as excusing yourself to get a glass of water may do the trick.

Don’t: Shout

Try not to bark orders like a drill sergeant. Yelling shows a child that you, the almighty parent, has lost control. Shouting also opens up the door to your child to return the favor and to yell back.

Do: Punish Fairly

Use appropriate punishment when responding to a misbehavior. The consequence for spilling milk might be that your child cleans up the mess, and then pours another glass and sets it in a safer place on the table. No reason to blame or yell at him, or even withhold food.

Don’t: Overdo It

It’s important that you don’t go overboard with punishment. In most cases, harsh punishments, like spanking, encourage ADHD children to become sneaky so as not to get caught next time. They may even cause your child to doubt your love for him — something you want to avoid at all costs.
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Behold the Magic of a Consistent Routine

By: ADDitude Magazine

Reliable daily schedules provide the external organization that a child with ADHD needs to focus, manage their time, and wind down from stressful days. 11 tips for cementing your family’s routine.


Why Structure Is Key

Many children with ADHD also exhibit executive function deficits. That means they have a hard time organizing materials to complete homework or a project, figuring out how much time a task will take, setting deadlines and time management. Creating a daily routine, at school and at home, provides external organization, gives your children the chance to focus on one task at a time, stay focused, and succeed.

Adapt Routines to Your Child

Your routine should reflect your child’s personality, your family values, and your child’s needs. If your child needs down time when coming home from school instead of immediately beginning homework, work this into your schedule. If your child enjoys long baths or reading in bed before falling asleep, put this into your routine. Take your child’s needs and personality into account when creating the routine.

Establish a Home Schedule

If you haven’t used a schedule or routine at home, it may be easier to start adding one item at a time rather than to schedule the entire day. Start taking 15 minutes before bedtime to pick up toys and put them away. Once this has become a habit, add another item.

Structure the Mornings

Getting up and ready for school is often a struggle for children with ADHD. Write down a morning schedule, beginning with waking up. Outline every step, such as eating breakfast, taking medication, brushing teeth, washing her face, getting dressed, checking her backpack for items needed for the day. Put all the steps into a checklist your child can follow each morning.

Reinforce School Routines

Your child follows a certain routine in school. From the time he arrives at school until he leaves at the end of the day, he is expected to know where to go and what to do. In the early grades, teachers often have the day’s schedule hanging in the classroom. But older children still need to understand the routine. Ask your child’s teacher for a copy of the daily schedule. Reviewing the schedule at home will help reinforce it.

Break Down the Day

Write down all of the tasks your child completes in a day. Include getting ready for school, after school and homework time, chores, free time, dinner, and preparing for bed. Break down each time frame into steps. There may be activities and other conflicts that make your schedule complicated—dance lessons on Wednesdays and soccer practice on Thursday—but try to make every day as consistent as possible.

Remember Fun and Exercise

As much as a routine is important, kids deserve to have free time and fun. Schedules should include time for your children to explore their interests, play outside, and spend time with friends. Studies show that exercise and physical activity increase attention and reduce impulsivity. Your daily schedule should include time for outside activities or, on days when the weather is bad, active play indoors.

Build in Flexibility

Life doesn’t always follow the schedule you set. If homework time usually begins at 4:30 and, at 4:20, you are stuck in traffic – 20 minutes away from your house – your routine for the rest of the day is going to be off. Be prepared to make adjustments when needed and use this as an opportunity to teach your child that everyone needs to be flexible from time to time.

Routines at a Glance

Once you create a routine for your child, keep a copy of it in a central location — like the kitchen or living room.  For younger children, use pictures as well as text. You, your partner, caregivers, and your child can reference it to make sure every day is consistent and everyone is following the schedule. If you laminate the routine, your child can use a dry-erase marker to cross out tasks he completed.

Making Structure Routine

A written schedule is great, but don’t stop there. Use other tools to make sure your family follows the routine every day.
> A kitchen timer helps your child stay on schedule
> Calendars on smartphones allow you to set reminders
> Behavior charts can be used to reward your child for following the schedule
Keep the routine as simple as possible; elaborate routines often get tossed after a few weeks.

Review, Revise, Tweak

Your routine should be consistent, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t ever going to change. Your child’s needs may change, an after-school activity might be added or have ended, your work schedule may change, or you may have miscalculated how long a task takes, such as getting ready for bed. If you realize the schedule isn’t working, review the routine once a month, or sooner, and make adjustments to fit the facts.
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Why Executive Function Is A Vital Stepping-Stone For Kids’ Ability to Learn

By Katrina Schwartz

Neuroscientists and educational psychologists are constantly learning more about how children learn and the various influences beyond IQ that affect cognition. Some research, like Carol Dweck’s on growth mindset or Angela Duckworth’s on grit, quickly became catch phrases among educators. At the same time, critics have pushed back against the notion that students underperform only because of cognitive deficits, pointing to an equally pressing need for big changes to teaching practice. Many teachers are trying to combine the research about cognitive skills with more effective teaching practices. They are finding that whether students are working on self-directed projects or worksheets, executive functioning skills are important.

Bruce Wexler has been studying executive functioning — a group of cognitive abilities crucial for managing oneself and information — for the past 20 years. He first worked with adults, but he began to wonder if he could design interventions specifically for young children to get them started down a positive path before any of the negative secondary qualities associated with under-achievement — like disengagement, low self-esteem and behavior problems — began to manifest at school.

“The data just keeps coming in about the importance of focus, self-control and working memory for learning and life,” Wexler said in an edWeb webinar. One meta-analysis of six studies found that a child’s executive functioning skills in kindergarten predicted reading and math achievement into middle school and beyond. This research is particularly important because students who have poor executive functioning skills because of trauma, poverty, or diagnosed disorders are missing out on learning. Often these children haven’t had a chance to develop executive functioning skills required for school before arriving there.

Many kinds of interventions can work to improve executive functioning, another reason researchers feel confident that this cognitive ability is not innate, but rather taught. Martial arts, yoga and exercise, among others, help improve students’ ability to focus and control themselves. Wexler helped design his own intervention, called Activate, which uses a mixture of online games and physical activities to target focus, self-control and working memory, the skills most closely linked with academic achievement.

To test whether the program works Wexler’s company, C8Sciences, took executive function tests designed by the National Institutes of Health and made them Web-based so teachers could use them in class. These tests helped Wexler’s team learn about the relative areas of cognitive weaknesses in students before using the Activate program.

“Soon it became evident that not only did we want that information, but that it was very valuable for teachers,” Wexler said. It’s often hard for a teacher to know when a student isn’t learning something because of a lack of executive functioning capacity, because it hasn’t been taught well enough, or because the student just needs more time with the content. The online diagnostic tests helped give them valuable insight to tailor their teaching.

After determining a baseline for students, Wexler’s team asked teachers to use the Activate program and then tested students after four months to see how it affected their cognitive abilities. Early tests showed the training improved working memory, but Wexler was more interested in whether the training would carry over into academic achievement, so he tested third-graders from a low-income school on reading proficiency. In the test group that used Activate, 83 percent of students reached third-grade reading proficiency, compared to 58 percent districtwide. On a first-grade math proficiency test, 92 percent of students in the test group reached proficiency, compared to 63 percent districtwide. In another first-grade class at the same school that did not receive the training, only 53 percent of students reached proficiency.

“Training these executive functions leads to improvement in achievement schools,” Wexler concluded. And the effects seemed to last through the summer. Another test showed kindergartners who received the training showed better executive functioning skills when they started first grade than their peers.

When Wexler compared the effects he was seeing to other interventions — like one-on-one tutoring, summer and after-school programming — improving executive functioning skills had a much bigger effect. “Training a whole classroom in focus, self-control, and memory has a bigger effect on math achievement than providing one-on-one tutoring,” Wexler said. Tutoring had the next strongest effect.

Executive functioning training also seems to make a difference regardless of student IQ. “Its effect was four times as big as the differences in IQ,” Wexler said. “Of course IQ is important, but executive functioning is something we can do something about.”

SCHOOLS FOCUSING ON EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONING

Carlisle Area School District has taken the research on executive function and put it into practice, especially in K-5 schools where educators hope to improve these cognitive skills early so students don’t fall behind. District leaders started by educating teachers about different neural pathways and why problems with executive functioning could lead to problems with learning. In trainings they give teachers scenarios, and ask them to identify a student’s cognitive weakness based on behavior, and then design an intervention. They also ask teachers to reflect on their own cognitive weaknesses and where they might be able to identify with a disorganized student or one who has a hard time staying on task.

Carlisle teachers also have a long list of strategies they integrate into the day with the whole class that emphasize brain breaks, exercise and routines. Additionally, some children need more help developing executive functioning, and educators differentiate strategies for them as well. They often talk to students about how their brain works and emphasize that when their “amygdala is hijacked,” they need to stop and think about the next action rather than lashing out.

STRATEGIES

  • Breathing buddies: Students lie down on the floor with a favorite stuffed animal on their chests. They slowly breathe in and out, watching the animal rise and fall. This helps students calm down when they are upset and gives them a strategy to implement when they feel themselves getting worked up.
  • Teachers keep “meta boxes” in their classrooms full of fidget toys students can use to help them pay attention when they feel like they need to move.
  • When transitioning between subjects or recess, teachers often play calming music and let only five kids in at a time to limit the chaos.
  • Many elementary school teachers have had the experience of asking a question, seeing many hands in the air, but then calling on a student who says he forgot. That could be a working memory problem. Some Carlisle teachers are proactively addressing this by letting those kids record their thoughts on paper or a device so they can contribute when they’re called on.
  • Carlisle was an early adopter of Wexler’s Activate program, too. The iPad lessons focus on typical working memory games that require students to remember the order of things, progressively getting harder as the game develops. The physical games reinforce the online learning with social interactions that help embed the memories in movement. Mass ball is one game that requires students to throw a ball in a specific sequence. Students have to juggle paying attention to the order and catching the ball.
  • Carlisle teachers also have students do a lot of balancing games, which help with executive functioning. Teachers might ask students to walk on a line balancing bean bags on their heads or to do the same walk on tiptoe. Teachers also use relay races to get kids moving, since exercise alone helps with executive functioning.

Adults have an attention span of about 12 minutes with a fully developed executive functioning system, so it’s no wonder kids can’t focus without a break. “It cannot be overemphasized that all of us need to be thinking about taking information in smaller chunks,” said Malinda Mikesell, the reading supervisor for the Carlisle Area School District. She said kids need an opportunity to do something with the information on their own before having the chance to reset for the next chunk of information.

“We have mature executive function systems as adults, so we have to be careful that we’re not putting our perspective onto very immature executive functioning systems,” Mikesell said. She also emphasized that teachers in her district have successfully involved parents in their effort to improve executive functions, educating the adults about the brain and what cognitive weaknesses look like. Often parents have noticed the same lack of short-term memory, difficulty focusing, and disorganization affecting kids at school, and are happy to learn tips to help their child.

Mikesell said Carlisle is in the early stages of evaluating data on how well their approach is working. Early data showed that kids in the Activate program were outperforming peers not in the program on reading tests. Teachers are also reporting stories about disorganized students improving, who never had what they needed for the day or activity. Now those students are able to follow the classroom routines and are benefiting from checklists and visual organizers that teachers put together to help them with their working memory weaknesses.

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ADHD in girls often misdiagnosed, leading to mental health issues in adulthood

“Almost every year in the [report card] comments, regardless of the subject, it would say Anna needs to focus more, she has trouble paying attention.” 

– Anna, 17-year-old high school student in Toronto with ADHD 

By: Anna Maria Tremonti

Read story transcript

According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, boys are three to four times more likely to be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder than girls.

But increasingly doctors and researchers who study the condition believe those numbers can mean girls are being underdiagnosed with ADHD or misdiagnosed altogether. That’s because ADHD can look very different in girls than it does in boys.

And mental health experts say misdiagnosing or missing ADHD in girls can lead to mental health issues in adulthood.

Guests in this segment:

  • Dr. Doron Almagor, child and adolescent psychiatrist and chair of the Canadian ADHD Resource Alliance.
  • Katherine Ellison, diagnosed with ADHD when she was 48. She’s a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has authored three books on ADHD.

Do you know a girl or woman who has struggled with misdiagnosed ADHD? 

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heartWhat the ADHD Experts Say about Coaching for ADHD

We recommend that you hire an ADD coach to assist you in the process. Get yourself a coach to help you stay on track- Kate Kelly and Peggy Ramundo. Authors of You Mean I’m Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?!
Coaching, it turns out, is one of the most powerful and effective ways for people with ADHD to achieve success.- Thom Hartmann. Writer of 7 books on ADHD who has ADHD.
Coaching is the single most effective tool in ADD self-management.- Dr. Edward M. Hallowell, M.D. Author of several books on ADHD who has ADHD
Coaching intervention can make a real difference in how people with AD/HD negotiate their own particular deficits and cope with life on a daily basis- ADDA - Attention Deficit Disorder Association

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About Take Flight Coaching

The name "Take Flight Coaching" was inspired by travel as a metaphor for living. Travel encourages and expands skills and qualities such as exploration, discovery, self-reliance, recognizing strengths, planning, awareness, and an overall openness to following what might be a completely foreign path in order to get where one wants to go.

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