ADHD: Back to Education, but not as we know it...
Now is the time to understand how we learn best.
With the ‘Easter holidays’ over and home education becoming the new albeit temporary norm, now is the time to understand how we learn best. There is no set rule, however us ADHDers may benefit from a more non-traditional approach to learning. In our household there are two camps, my daughter Eva, fortunate enough to attend an independent school, has been furnished with a rather packed out compulsory virtual timetable. This leaves us with questions as to how we best manage her focus and minimize distractions with a full house. And in the other camp are my other two daughters attending state school, who are more flexible in their approach, providing comprehensive guidance rather than explicit scheduling. There is no hard or fast rule as to how to optimize 'learning versus sanity' we are after all, in unprecedented times and making it up as we go! Most importantly anyone studying can be kind to themselves in recognizing that we are only human ‘beings’ with outside influences and differing moods. It's helpful to have structure, planning and resources, however it’s essential to take each day at a time If you need some help creating a plan to suit your family's needs during this challenging time, I would love to help. Feel free to get in touch with me to arrange an introductory call by clicking here. In the meantime, here are some working examples as to how we as a family are managing to make things structured and enjoyable for everyone. Hopefully some are applicable to you in your quest to keeping yourself or your children engaged in studies.
As a family we've been sticking to a rough timetable - the girls know where they are and roughly what activities they'll be doing when. This includes physical activities, downtime, learning and of course break/lunchtime. It’s good to make a plan for the week and each day spend 5 minutes in the morning fine-tuning your objectives for the day.
The girls find it easier to engage in their learning after they have done a bit of physical activity. The brain tends to follow the body - get the body moving and the brain will follow. Joe Wicks at 9am works a treat ;)
In addition to the mandatory Maths and English learning, we have taken the opportunity to implement "Reading hour". This is great for the girls but also serves as a much needed break for us parents who are usually trying to get some work done too.
We are also taking the opportunity to give the girls a wider curriculum. Schools are under so much pressure to teach the core subjects that often real world learning just doesn't happen. For this reason, we have the girls watching documentaries and writing down three points they have taken away as well as drawing a picture - covering English writing and comprehension, Art and actually acquiring some useful general knowledge. And again, some much needed time for us parents to get things done.
To keep interested, we intersperse learning with "flow time" - time for the girls to pursue their own interests whether that involves Arts and Crafts, recording themselves playing Roblox or planning their upcoming birthday parties (albeit in lockdown). The importance of flow time for ADHDers cannot be underestimated. Make sure to build this in for yourselves and your children on a daily basis. You need to keep your tank full!
To incentivise the girls to do their home learning and chores we invested in some Advent calendars. ADHDers are motivated by immediate rewards. The little surprises waiting for them at the end of the day keeps our girls motivated and enthused. Be sure to keep the calendars out of reach of your little ADHDers or you may find the calendar empty the next morning (I learnt the hard way...)
For couples working from home and taking care of the children - we have clearly defined childcare responsibilities - husband is on the early shift until 3pm and I'm 3pm until bedtime. We are actually looking at changing this as its a big ask for one parent to supervise the home learning everyday. We are potentially going to work it so that he covers some days and I cover others (and get a much needed break in between.)
Enlisting the children/family members in cooking dinner and preparing dessert, making sure everyone chips in, takes the pressure off studying and also a welcome distraction - there is more work to be done whilst everyone is home. Cooking is a perfect activity for ADHDers as it ticks all the boxes - novelty, challenge, urgency and most importantly - immediate reward/dopamine hit... YUM!
Getting the little ones to "pitch in" and help with the chores like folding clothes, feeding the dog, unstacking the dishwasher (with supervision), setting and clearing the table. And mums don't feel guilty - you are actually doing the kids a favour, building their independence and empowerment
Try and get into the routine of doing specific work at the same time each day so it becomes habitual (reducing our currently too heavy mental load.)
This is the perfect opportunity to understand what works best for the learners in your family, whether it’s a child or yourself you can begin to experiment and play around with your learning environment. Don't be scared of trial and error... For example, ask, is learning better... ...standing up or sitting down? ...in hyper focus for 20 minutes and then exercising for 10 minutes and repeating for a few hours? ...early evening, late at night or first thing in the morning? ...throwing balls around the garden and listening to a lecture/audio book? ...doing origami and reciting maths homework? ...making notes in pictoral form? ...drawing a mind map? Our ADHD brains are suited to working and learning from home: We can make our own schedules – tailored to when we work/learn best and break it up in the way in which we can focus best We can work and learn where we want – on our beds, in the kitchen standing at the bench, outside in the garden - we don’t have to sit still (or in a chair) We can work and learn in the ways that suit us best –immersing ourselves in our learning topics, listening to music/white noise, watching videos and listening to audible texts and books rather than reading, creating mind maps and flow charts instead of copying down points, buddying up with friends and co-workers virtually revising and working together debating topics/action points We can follow our interests
Due to not being able to go out/see friends there are less distractions/less opportunities to get way laid – perfect time to focus on achieving goals and creating habits and healthy routines! It is also the perfect time for parents to really understand how their child best learns and start thinking about how they can work with their child's school to ensure that the school can continue their child's best way of learning. It may be that an alternative school could better meet your child's needs... Using this time in lockdown to reflect and plan ahead could make a huge difference to your child's future.