As an academic coach who specializes in working with students with ADHD, I heard these refrains often last March and April. Sheltering in place day after day, with little variety in their routine, my clients craved productivity and structure — they just didn’t know how to achieve that while stuck at home in the midst of a pandemic.
It turns out that our brains are very sensitive to novelty and may even delight in change. I remember nearly every detail about the amazing vacation my family took to Hawaii years ago, but what about my daily routine last week? Or even yesterday? It’s mostly a blur. So blame our ADHD brains; they just want to have fun.
So how can we harness the novelty-seeking component of our kids’ brains to keep them engaged in classwork and to maximize their retention in Round 2 of distance learning? By creating varied schedules and “new” experiences that also work to build much-needed executive function skills.
A reliable weekly schedule not only brings a sense of order to life — it has the added benefit of allowing variety and novelty in healthy doses, and strengthening the key executive function skills of time management, planning, and organization. Moving from one activity to another in a planned and mindful fashion — while adding in breaks, play or outdoor time — re-energizes the ADHD brain and improves alertness and attention for the next task at hand. This is especially important during distance learning, when students are at home so much of the day. Here are the components of an engaging schedule:
While working at home on a lengthy project or task, have you ever spontaneously picked up your work and moved to a new spot and suddenly felt renewed focus or energy? That is the novelty-seeking brain getting a jolt of energy. Our kids can benefit from this as well if they move locations for different remote classes or homework sessions. This simple move can improve memory of learned information as well as attention and focus, both critical executive function skills for kids with ADHD. To tap into these new spaces:
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Anxiety and ADHD can both cause difficulties with concentration, which many people have experienced during the pandemic. Distinguishing the diagnoses of anxiety and ADHD involves timing of onset, the theme of the person's worries, and psychological testing. Anxiety is more common than adult ADHD.
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