ADHD – There’s an Accommodation For That
It’s no secret or surprise – our children with ADHD or learning disabilities are going to need accommodations within their home and school environment. Although some may argue that we are not preparing our children for ‘the real world’, it’s important to give our children the space and time to gain the skills they will need in the future. These skills we often reference are really executive functioning skills, confidence and the ability to self-regulate in disguise.
What is Your Child’s Learning Style?
First things first, how does your child processes information most naturally? There are two general learning styles: visual spatial and auditory sequential.
Visual Spatial Learning Style
This learning style is commonly seen in children with ADHD or a learning disability. In essence, this is the type of learner who thinks in pictures, not words. For example, if I said the word ‘bike’, the visual spatial learner would imagine a picture of a bike. This is also the type of learner that thinks in big picture terms. Instead of following the sequence of one detail after another in order to reach the big picture, this is the type of learner who sees the big picture first, and then needs help breaking down that big picture into its details. In fact, details are a bit treacherous and boring.
Auditory Sequential Learning Style
This learning style is best characterized by the student who thinks in words. Again, if I said the word ‘bike’, this type of learner would envision the letters, ‘b-i-k-e’. This child with this learning style is an auditory learner that is in tune with the details and is able to build on the details until the big picture is gained. That is, this is the step-by-step learner who is analytical and attends well to details.
By understanding your child’s learning style, you will be able to direct your teacher how your child learns best, and to also use the types of strategies that are best suited to your child’s needs at home. For example, for the visual spatial learner, note cards are boring and a horrible waste of time. Instead, draw diagrams, watch a video, or discuss how the concept works. Color, songs and music are also great ways to help your child to learn new information that can be overwhelming or tedious.
At home and at school, because our children don’t process the details of how to maintain an organizational system, we have to use their visual spatial tendencies to help them stay organized.
Share these strategies with your child’s teacher and create a supportive plan for your child. You can also use these strategies at home:
- Break down a multi-step task into 1-2 steps at a time
- Color code notebooks and folders for each subject so that your child isn’t processing the word ‘M-a-t-h’ but rather the color red, for example
- Set a timer for a homework assignment and work against the timer. This will take a task that can feel endless and give it a time limit.. and an end.
- Create a visual depiction (aka graphic organizer) for a writing assignment using the ice cream, hamburger, or spider.
- Post reminders or information to be remembered (e.g., pack lunch) on a post-it note and put it in a place that your child will definitely pass or look at in the morning.
- Take pictures of your child doing the activity, step by step, and use that to guide the morning or bedtime routine.
- Go through your child’s backpack once a month to take out the extra ‘stuff’ that’s hanging out without use
- Place your child’s desk in a corner between two walls, away from windows and doors. Keep the surface empty. Place all materials in bins in the drawers.
Time for a Sensory Break!
Is your child sensory seeking or are they under stimulated? The need or avoidance of sensory input can lead to poor focus and distraction, as well as restlessness and fidgetiness. Consult with your school or private Occupational Therapist (OT) to gain an understanding of your child’s sensory profile. Use those sensory strategies both at home and in the classroom:
- Add Kinetic sand into a bin and have your child explore and play.
- Use flexible seating in the home, yoga balls and bean bag chairs instead of traditional chairs.
- Chewing gum for calming and concentration
- Silly putty for hand strengthening
- Wall push ups
- Jumping jacks
- Deep breathing
By understanding your child’s strengths and how he processes the world, you and your teacher will be better able to reach your child at home and in school with less resistance and greater ease.