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A Psychologist’s Guide To ADHD Organization: Part 2

A Psychologist’s Guide To ADHD Organization: Part 2

If you missed last week’s post, be sure to read the first part of this article by clicking here.

ADHD Organizational Skills From Psychologist Ann Marie

Organization is key for all families, but can be particularly challenging for families with ADHD children. They may have every intention of bringing their homework to school or keeping track of their backpack, but problems with focus can make even small organization tasks difficult. Here are some small ways families can improve organization:

Folders

Pick brightly-colored folders to identify outgoing homework and incoming assignments. It may help to keep a special folder in the child’s backpack so that they simply put the homework into it immediately after completion (rather than putting it in a folder and then remembering to put the folder in their backpack).

Homework Station

Create a homework station at home that your child does their work at each day in a location that is away from distractions such as the TV or younger siblings. Set a rule that the area is free of clutter and contains only the items needed to finish homework tasks. This may change per assignment, but return the homework station to its original condition each night so the area is clear for the next day.

Communication

Communicate, communicate, communicate. Parents should keep in close contact with teachers and notify them of the organizational tools that are used at home, such as color-coded folders. While it’s imperative to communicate closely with teachers in subjects a child struggles in, it’s also important to speak frequently to teachers in coursework where the child excels. This not only allows the child to have pride that their caregiver notices their successes, but those particular teachers may have innovative ways of helping the child attend successfully to the schoolwork or organize themselves!

Inventory List

Sports and other activities can present organizational chaos when children have to remember uniforms, equipment, and other items. Consider creating an inventory list that the child can check when putting items into their bag. A laminated sheet can be used, so that the child can check off each item with a dry erase marker as they put it in their bag (younger children can look at picture cues rather than words). For older children who have smartphones, the list can be made on an app such as Keep.

Alarms

External alarms can help with time management for ADHD children. An egg timer can be used for younger children to remind them when it’s time to clean up, or to remind them to check their work. For teens, alarms can be helpful in reminding them of due dates, changes in daily routine, sports events, etc.

Apps

Consider using apps or systems for older children that are all connected. For example, Google profiles can significantly increase organization and task completion as the different features can be combined and tracked in conjunction with google alarms and reminders. Tasks can be added to a google calendar that has a link to a document (e.g. book report) right on the calendar reminder. The Google documents or calendar can be opened on a computer, a phone, or a tablet so that no matter where the child is they can complete their work or check their reminders (even if they forgot their phone at home). The task can be shared with the caregiver’s own Google calendar as well.

Phone Usage

Smartphones can be a lifesaver for teens with ADHD, and can help them stay more connected with their parents. However, they can also create more distraction due to endless apps, texts, notifications from social media, links within links when researching topics, and fun distractions such as silly videos or memes. Limit phone use during homework time and ensure that children are not looking at any screens at least one hour before bedtime, as the light coming from the screens can affect the body’s ability to recognize sleep cues.

Scheduling

Be strategic about organizing the child’s schedule so that they have time to de-stress, and also are not too stimulated before bedtime. Build in time for fun! ADHD children may need to complete homework in small chunks of time, and may need to take frequent breaks. Sometimes physical activity can be helpful during these breaks to expend energy, allowing the child to return to sitting calmly for a few more minutes while completing a homework task. Parents should be careful to balance this time for each child, as some need to have a quick dance party while others may become overly silly and active with even the smallest activity (those children may benefit more from stretching or doing a quick yoga pose rather than jumping jacks). Letting your child dissolve into giggles is ok once in a while, though, because everyone needs some spontaneous fun. It just might not be on the night that a book report and science project are both due!

Success

Celebrate your child’s successes, and celebrate them often! Children with ADHD are used to constant redirection from adults. They may begin to feel that they are only noticed for the things they struggle with. Building your child’s self-esteem and noticing the ways in which they have improved or been creative can go a long way in preventing depressive symptoms, which are fairly common in children with an ADHD diagnosis due to struggles with attending to social interactions and having to work harder to maintain academic performance.

boy holding fidget spinner

Unstructured Time

Allowing children with ADHD some time that is unstructured, unmedicated, and unpressured can be liberating. Some children need structure and benefit from medication at all times, so talk to your child’s providers to see if this is a reasonable option for your child. If your providers agree, many families choose to have unstructured time on the weekends or during school breaks. It can provide time for the child to be themselves, which can build self-esteem, and can also highlight for them the ways in which their brain cues them differently in different settings or structures (self-awareness is necessary when students go to college and no longer have a parent creating the structure). It also allows caregivers to notice the unique type of creativity that their child with ADHD possesses, a gift that has allowed for some innovative solutions in science, amazing artwork, and unique inventions throughout history!

Thanks, Ann Marie!

So, there you have it: some super useful tips that you can start incorporating into your daily routines now. We hope they’re as useful for you as they were for us!

We don’t know about you, but a lot of these organization tips are helpful to those of us without ADHD children, as well. Setting up structures that will help our child (and us!) stay on task is something that certainly takes work, but always seems to pay off in the end, as long as we stick with it. (That’s always the hard part, isn’t it?!)

Do you have any tips for organization with kids who have ADHD? What works for you? Let us know in the comments!

There Is A Genetic Component To ADHD And There Are Things You Can Do About It

With so many children (and adults) affected by ADHD today, I’ve done a lot of research on the subject. As parents, we always want to know if there’s something we could be doing to help with both the symptoms and the causes. This leads to the basic question of whether ADHD is genetic?

The short answer is yes. Something called the human genome project actually mapped out people’s genetic makeups and found a connection between mutations of the MTHFR gene and ADHD. This has led me to do a lot more research on the MTHFR gene and see what can be done once we are aware of this condition – whether it’s in ourselves or in our kids.

First of all, MTHFR stands for methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase. It’s basically an enzyme that helps break down the folate in our diets into a more useable form. Once in its usable form (5-MTHF), this enzyme is responsible for doing a lot of the basic things that keep our bodies going: cellular functions, synthesis of DNA, production of platelets and red and white blood cells, etc.

Basically, if the MTHFR gene is functioning properly, your body is eliminating toxins and heavy metals from the body. But, if you have a mutation on the gene – some defect – it can lead to everything from headaches and acne to depression and addiction. I found a great blog that breaks down the process in more detail if you are interested in all of the science behind it.

If you think you might have this mutation or want to check for it in your kids, you can order a simple blood test. Now, some will say what’s the point of knowing? Well, there are actually some things you can do about it. While you can’t repair the gene itself, there are ways to treat some of the symptoms.

Diet – and we often hear about this in conjunction with kids’ behavior and ADHD – can play a very important role. Foods containing folate (think leafy greens) become even more important for people with this mutation. Avoiding supplements and processed foods that contain folic acid is also very important.

A lot of this can seem overwhelming at first, but in truth, much of the population suffers from this genetic mutation to some degree. Some research suggests up to 40% of humans have MTHFR gene variations of some kind. The level to which the gene is mutated can vary greatly. Also, if you know you have this mutation, speaking to your doctor while you are pregnant can decrease the risk for your baby.

Overall, I think awareness is key. Talking to your doctor about things like diet and supplements and understanding that there is in fact a genetic component to some of the health and mental issues we face as both kids and adults can go a long way in helping us to avoid self-blame and get the help we need.

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