As You Transition to Something New, Remember What Worked

As we approach transitions, whether it is transition to the new school year, a new job, or a move across country, we can build on our successes by remembering what worked. And then going from there.

School – love it, hate it or just tolerate it, the new school year is upon us.

Whether we are students, parents, other family members, or know someone who is, many of us are ruled by school academic calendars. Many K-12 schools and colleges have already started and others will start soon. So how do we make a smoother transition to another school year?

If we are going back to school or supporting someone who is, there are several questions to ask:

What worked?

Really – think through what worked last year. It’s easy to focus on the things that didn’t work. The should’ves, could’ves and might’ves where we can get stuck and wonder: What’s the use? Why try?

But if we focus on what worked, our mindset shifts and opportunities for success become apparent. Everyone’s wins are different, but it’s important to think about what worked so we can do it again.

As an example, it could be that keeping a calendar of assignments, tests, practices, games, and performances really made a difference…at least for a little while.

If it worked well, keep it up! Do it again. Rinse and repeat.

What could be tweaked?

If something kind of worked, we might look at the obstacles that got in the way and figure out what might be tweaked. For example, maybe you kept a paper calendar, color coded by family member or class, and it just got too much to keep up. What about trying an electronic calendar that can be easily changed as necessary? Maybe you kept an electronic calendar and it worked great … until it didn’t because you found that you weren’t really looking at it. What about figuring out a way to help you remember to check your calendar? That could be a reminder on your phone to check your calendar at certain times of the day or maybe a reward for yourself for doing so. Whatever it takes to make the habit stick more readily.

There is no right or wrong way of doing things. There’s just works for you and your brain.

If ADHD coaching or consulting might be something to add to the mix, contact us. We will be happy to help you set yourself up for success during whatever transition you are approaching.

Making The Most of Summer with ADHD

The prospect of a relaxing summer, unencumbered by the stress of school, is highly anticipated by both students and their parents. Students with ADHD deserve time to relax, hike, bike, swim, wiggle their toes in the sand, and otherwise enjoy the summer months. Parents of students with ADHD also deserve a break from the role of being a “homework cop.”

Despite the difficulty for both students and their families to keep up with the many demands of a busy schedule during the academic year, school does provide the structure that is helpful to students with ADHD. A lack of structure and routine can be trying for someone with executive function and self-regulation challenges.

So how do we, as parents, provide the right amount of structure during the summer months so that our students can have much-needed “down time” without overdoing it? What is the right amount of structure anyway?

For each student the ideal mix of activities is going to be different, of course, but parents of students with ADHD might aim for:

  • Some learning – either through a summer class, information-oriented camp, tutoring, self-study or daily academic time to keep skills up and avoid summer learning loss
  • Some exercise – either through organized sports, camps, lessons, shared exercise opportunities with family, or free play
  • Some routine – for sleeping, eating, chores, and self-care
  • Some socialization – with family, established friends, and friends-to-be
  • Some exploration of interests and passions, which can include limited screen time via smart phones, internet, videogames, or TV
  • Some relaxation, allowing time for students to look up at the clouds, think, and dream

It might be mentioned, too, that summer is often a great time to start ADHD coaching to help students develop the strategies, habits and tools that will allow them to “hit the ground running” once school starts again in the fall.

As the summer begins, you might talk with your family to discuss summer goals in addition to any planned activities, vacations, or classes that are on the schedule. What do they want to learn? What do they want to discover? What would they really like to do to make this summer one to remember?

Whatever summer looks like for your family, when parents and students are in agreement as to the goals and the new routines of summer, the easier and more fun it will be for everyone!

A Great Start for the School Year

The beginning of the school year is a great time to start fresh, appreciating what went well last year and figuring out ways to circumvent challenge areas.  Below are some tips that might help set your child and family up for success this new school year.

  • Adjust bedtimes and wake up times progressively earlier each day so your kids are accustomed to the school schedule and are well rested on the first important days.
  • If your child is attending a new school, you might visit the school and get a “lay of the land” – the location of classroom(s), lockers, gym, bathrooms, and how s/he might need to move from one class to another.
  • Review medication, if applicable.
  • Even if your child has a 504 or IEP, prepare a short letter introducing your child to the teacher, sharing strengths and interests, areas of ADHD or related challenges, what has worked in the past, agreed-upon accommodations and modifications, your contact information and willingness to be a partner in your child’s education. If the 504 or IEP document needs to be changed to reflect your child’s current needs, request a 504 or IEP review meeting.
  • Go to an office supply store with your child and purchase organization systems and supplies that have worked in the past – or that your child is interested in trying. (Such supplies might include a month-at-a-glance wall calendar, a magnetic white board for reminders, two-pocket notebook dividers for a place to put completed homework and things to file, etc.)
  • Talk with your child about what worked last year; attention to what went well (and why) is the first step to being able to repeat the actions that brought success.
  • Approach this new school year as a “fresh start” to address challenge areas. Explore what your child may want to do differently in class, on the playground, getting out the door in the morning, homework and study habits, etc. and help them come up with strategies they would like to try.
  • Come up with some family strategies/routines that will serve everyone…a set time to wake up and a routine for the morning; time in the evening to make the lunch, pack the backpack, and lay out clothes to be worn; a checklist and/or launching pad by the door for things that your child needs to take to school; exercise before starting to do homework or studying, an understanding about internet/music/phone use during homework time; and “incentives” to abide by the new routines.

If we can help you set your child or teen up for school success, contact us at info@FocusForEffectiveness.com.

Here’s to a great school year – for your whole family!

Getting The Right Kind of Help For Your Child – And You!

Parenting is simultaneously the hardest and most rewarding job a person can have. There are extra challenges when you have a child with ADHD, especially if your child is struggling in school, the main job of childhood. It’s heartbreaking to watch your child have difficulty with learning and homework, and particularly frustrating when you don’t know where to turn for help.

In order to set your children up for success, you need to match the assistance you seek with the specific difficulties your child is having. As there is a lot of help out there, parents need to know where to look and what to ask for.

Determine What Is Getting in the Way

Although it’s easy to see the poor grades, the reluctance to go to school, or your child’s acting out, it’s important to identify the possible reasons for the behavior.

Is your child doing poorly on tests? Are there gaps in his/her knowledge or skills, making school more difficult than it should be? Is s/he taking way too long to complete homework assignments – or not turning them in at all?

Trust yourself and your perception of what is getting in the way. You know your child best and have seen what has occurred over the years with different programs and teachers.

Work With School Personnel

If your child is having general learning or behavioral difficulty in school, you might work with school personnel to make sure that your child’s program and services are meeting his/her unique needs. This may entail such things as:

  • meeting with the teacher to discuss your concerns,
  • requesting a meeting with the school team to discuss interventions that have been tried and/or those that might be put into place,
  • pursuing testing to see if your child qualifies for specific programs, accommodations, modifications or services, or
  • requesting a review meeting with the IEP or Section 504 team as soon as problems are noted rather than waiting until the annual meeting.

It’s vitally important that the six hours or so that your child is in school are adequately addressing your child’s learning needs so that s/he can succeed.

Study Buddy for Homework Completion

Sometimes a child knows the material, but can’t sit down to complete the work without close supervision. If homework time is an undue struggle, perhaps a high school/college student looking for extra income might be all that is required for your child to begin – and finish! – required homework.

Tutoring for Specific Subjects

After a grueling day at school, it’s not uncommon for children to have difficulty working with their parents on homework or studying. If your child needs help with a particular academic area, a tutor can preview the material or re-teach what wasn’t understood so that your child can better understand the subject matter and improve grades.

Individualized Instruction with an Educational Therapist

Sometimes a tutor just isn’t enough, especially when there are learning difficulties due to ADHD and/or learning disabilities. An educational therapist can provide individualized instruction in keeping with your child’s unique pattern of strengths and weaknesses. Educational therapists work on specific academic subjects while addressing underlying weaknesses in areas such as visual or auditory processing, memory, and study or test taking skills. They help students develop appropriate learning strategies and gain more confidence in their abilities.

ADHD Coaching to Get and Stay On Track

As students with ADHD get older, it’s often difficult for them to deal with increasing life demands and higher expectations for independence. A coach specifically trained in ADHD can help your child manage his/her life and responsibilities in and out of school.

Coaches provide support, structure and accountability as students work to develop skills and strategies to plan, organize, manage time, begin tasks, sustain focus, and work toward completion. They help students get and stay on track by developing goals, designing actions and monitoring progress to support desired growth.

Support For Parents

It’s often a challenge to balance the desire to give your children help for today’s success while encouraging the development of strategies for tomorrow’s independence.  Parents can often benefit from coaching and consulting designed to provide support and information that will benefit not only your child – but you, as well!

Note: a version of this blog post appeared on www.ImpactADHD.com, where Roxanne was featured as a Guest Expert in August, 2012.

Middle and High School Students – Why a Coach?

During the middle and high school years, workloads increase while teachers and parents typically expect the students to take on more responsibility for their homework and outside activities. The combination of increasing environmental demands and higher expectations for independence is particularly difficult for students with ADHD. This is where a coach specifically trained in ADHD can help.

Focus on the Whole Person

Academic issues are often the focus of ADHD coaching for students, with the main concerns often being how to get and stay on track with schoolwork, be better organized, and maintain motivation. However, coaching is most powerful when it focuses on the whole person and the ways the student’s individual ADHD characteristics impact different aspects of daily life, inside and outside of school.

Empowerment

Teens often feel empowered by coaching because they are “in the driver’s seat,” choosing what life skills to explore with their coach and designing action steps toward their goals. Coaching has, at its core, a unique relationship between student and coach, which provides nonjudgmental and supportive structure, allowing students to build skills for desired growth and independence.

Working with Strengths

Coaching helps students to appreciate the gifts of ADHD and the ways their unique brains function best. With awareness of the way they learn and what may be getting in the way, coaching helps students learn personalized strategies, tools and new habits that are tailored to work with their strengths, and work around areas that do not come as easily.

Setting Students Up For Success

ADHD coaching provides support, structure and accountability as students learn to set goals, manage time, begin tasks and work toward completion, organize and prioritize, sustain focus, maintain life balance and develop self-advocacy skills. Working with an ADHD coach allows students to discover strengths, build self-esteem, and increase self-awareness, creating the opportunity for life-long success.

Call us for a 15-minute consultation (no charge!) to explore how coaching might help your child.