October is ADHD awareness month. I’m not sure if that timing is because this is the month that many families and teachers become glaringly aware of it without even needing an awareness month. September is usually a month for letting the dust settle, and October is the month of IEPs, phone calls from school, and more heavy-duty assignments. For families who already have an ADHD diagnosis this is a great time to check in with the teacher and make sure that our kids are managing well at school, and to tweak anything that isn’t working. And for families without a diagnosis, it can feel like a bit of an overwhelming time trying to get to the bottom of what is going on at school if things aren’t going well.
I had the opportunity to chat with Dr. Adelaide Robb, Chief of Psychology & Behavioral Health at Children’s National Health System, about strategies for helping my child with ADHD to be successful at school. She suggests that this is an excellent time of year to check in with our kids’ teachers to see what is working and what isn’t. If marks are lower than we would expect, or homework isn’t getting turned in, then October is a great time to implement strategies to turn that around.
Dr. Robb mentions that there are three key aspects of ADHD and how they affect children in the classroom:
- Struggling with paying attention – this can result in not listening when parents tell the child to grab their backpack from their room, or difficulty in paying attention in class to the information that is given.
- Impulsivity – this can show as shouting out answers in class before the question is finished, or starting the assignment before all of the instructions have been given.
- Hyperactivity – this can be seen in a child who can’t sit still for the whole class period.
Molly struggles the most with the attention piece, and I find that I need to constantly remind myself about that because sometimes it can fly under the radar more than hyperactivity. In fact I think that is the biggest misconception around ADHD. Even though it is right in the name, I find that people tend to only think of the hyperactivity piece, which Molly does not have. Her brain is what is constantly moving rather than her body, but it’s hard to see sometimes as an observer, so it can appear that she is being lazy or defiant. As her parents, who know what it is like to have inattentive-type ADHD, even we sometimes forget that. So I imagine that it is even more difficult for her teachers to remember. And there is an anxiety component that is even more difficult to advocate around.
Organization is another area that is challenging for my whole family, so I asked Dr. Robb about some tips around keeping school work organized. She had a great suggestion of using the brightest coloured folder you can find as a homework folder, so it always stands out in the backpack or locker. Keeping only what is necessary in the locker is key as well. Grace’s locker has become known as a closet among her friends and teachers because she just takes extra clothes in but never brings anything home. And then she can’t find what she needs. And weekly backpack clean-outs are key. Wear a hazmat suit for this (that’s my professional advice).
I also asked about striking the balance between keeping a child with ADHD busy versus having enough downtime and not having to scramble as much. I find October and November are when I start to regret signing up for so many activities and I feel like we hit a wall. But in August and September I feel this weird pressure to sign up for all the things. Do you find that? Watch the video below and listen to what Dr. Robb’s advice is around that.
Happy ADHD awareness month! How are things going for your child? Things are going well for Molly, but I am meeting with the school this week to see what needs tweaking. If I am feeling particularly brave I may do a locker sweep.
Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post or the interview, however the interview was sponsored.
Fantastic interview Tara! Well done.