If you have Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) or if you have a child with AD/HD, you know that school is a difficult place to be. Why do I say that? Well, because teachers in the average school setting expect that students are able to sit down, take out their notebooks, listen to a lesson, take notes, maintain an organizational system that will allow for homework to be completed, returned and turned in, as well as plan ahead for upcoming project, assignments, and tests. And by the way, you can use some technological devices, but don’t even think about taking out your cell phone. Wow! Most adults still struggle with these types of tasks, and therefore rely on other people, post-its, secretaries, and all sorts of devices to get through the day.
One young man describes his experience with inattention as an inability to stay focused in class because he becomes internally engrossed in his own thoughts. He doesn’t remember what triggers his drifting nor does he know what pulls him out of it. He appears like he is attentive but because he is not impulsive or hyperactive, he is perceived as paying attention. However, his experience is that he misses large amounts of information in class. He also misses information in his conversations with his peers, parents, etc, etc. He can be perceived as forgetful, unmotivated or even lazy. But is he really? No, he needs strategies to help him get through his day…
So, how do does one manage all of the academic and life demands? Here are a few strategies:
Tag it, Clip It, Post It
If you are struggling to remember to do something at home or in school, like write down your homework in your planner, place a visual cue on the top loop of your backpack. One particular young man attached a lock to his back pack and each time he looked down, he saw it and it reminded him to take out his daily planner and write down his homework assignment.
Use whatever you have or anything you find to be interesting or strange – like a clothes pin, a ribbon, or whatever else you can think of. Use post-its to write down reminders in prominent areas (e.g., on your mirror with a note that says, “Pack sneakers in backpack).
Set your alarm – yes, you can use your cell phone to set an alarm that can be used to remind yourself to take your medication at the same time each day. Set it and forget it!
Use the stop watch on your phone to time a break so that you return to an assignment in 10 minutes instead of 60 minutes. Set your cell phone alarm to give yourself 30 minutes to work on a writing assignment before taking a 10 minute break.
Color code each of your subjects (e.g., History-blue, English-red, etc). Cover your books in covers that correspond with the subject and use folders, binders, etc that are the same color. That way, each time you open your locker, you see red and that means English book or notebook. No words to process, only colors
Now that you have color coded your subjects, create a white board schedule of the month and write down all of your homework assignments, papers, and projects in the color that corresponds with the subject. One quick glance at your white board and you know which assignments are coming up based on the date and color.
Do you have a daily planner on your phone? Great –use it! Many people DETEST the paper and pencil based daily planner but are more than happy to write down assignments into their phone and reference their phone often.
Do you have an upcoming dentist appointment you don’t want to miss, put it into your phone and now you won’t forget it.
This is just a small sampling of the different types of strategies that students with AD/HD can use to stay organized and encourage follow-through and completion of assignments.
There are many more and many can be tailored to your specific interests and areas of strength. Think outside of the box – it’s what you do well without even trying!
In the interest of your well-being,
Dr. Liz Matheis
Dr Liz Matheis and her team specialize in assisting children and their families with Anxiety, Autism, AD/HD, Learning Disabilities and Behavioral Struggles