Strengths over challenges
By Kristine Shiverick – published in Queen of the Castle Magazine Sept. 2015
Twelve years ago, ADHD came into our life, when our son was diagnosed in first grade. ADHD? How? Here was a kid who sat quietly in class and followed the rules. Despite those unanswered questions, and desperate to do what I could to support my son, I was immediately launched into several complex, interrelated roles: mom, advocate and researcher.
All of these job titles share a common end result: raising my child to become a confident, resourceful individual. One who is able to take positive approaches to manage his ADHD challenges, see his strengths and use them to create a successful and meaningful life for himself.
I was also desperately searching to find “the answer,” that one piece of information that would tell me what to do and how to do it. About six years ago I did find that answer: understanding the uniquely wired ADHD brain and approaching ADHD from a strength-based mindset.
ADHD is a complex, neurobiological condition that is often characterized by distractibility, hyperactivity and impulsivity. So what does this mean for a parent? If you have a child affected by ADHD you might see your child experiencing difficulty with maintaining focus, planning, managing and finishing a task, regulating emotions, organizing steps in a task or organizing her physical environment, prioritizing, regulating impulses and managing their time.
Challenges also impact working memory or the ability to remember; homework, where the car keys were dropped, the different steps that are needed to complete a task and the ability to learn from past experiences.
ADHD is not all about challenges. While they do exist, understanding and appreciating the unique way in which the ADHD brain operates can help reframe how you view ADHD; shifting from a mindset of “disorder” to one of strength and potential. Our children are creative, out-of-the-box thinkers. Embrace these qualities, and help your child identify and build on his strengths, which are many, to create a successful environment for himself. These strengths, when used to build effective strategies can help compensate for some of the executive function challenges your child is facing.
Everyday tips: rethink homework
Each September brings the start of the school year and daily homework. If your child is impacted by ADHD there are several things that you can put in place to help make homework a more successful experience.
First, accept that your child might need a different way of “doing homework” that works with their ADHD brain wiring.
Get creative. This might mean:
- Reframing a homework routine so that a child can take frequent breaks. These breaks should include some movement
- Breaking longer, more complex tasks into shorter segments to allow for natural break times. An added bonus, your child will experience success in completing the smaller steps and gain the momentum necessary to complete the rest
- Allowing for movement or fidgeting. My son often studied for his tests by walking around the room and answering questions I quizzed him on.
- Enlisting the auditory stimulation of music or some sound enables many individuals to focus more efficiently
- Using a Time Timer to show your child the passage of time is beneficial to students who struggle with time management
- Using graphic organizers, like a mind map, to help organize ideas and anchor the information
- Providing a body double; many people find it easier to stay focused when someone else is in close approximation
Our children are amazingly unique individuals. While they share some commonalities, no two are alike in the combination of strengths and strategies that will be most effective for them. As their parent, give yourself the permission to relax and enjoy their uniqueness.
Allow yourself to get creative in the ways that you help support and teach your child about his unique brain wiring. Above all, bask in the celebration of your child’s strengths. Helping your child to understand how they operate most efficiently will lay the foundation for his success.
Abundance of thoughts and ideas, adventurous, creative, curious, dramatic, driven, empathetic, enthusiastic, fun to be with, good problem solver, good sense of humor, hard working, helpful, highly productive in areas of interest, high energy, imaginative, inquisitive, intelligent, intuitive, non-linear thinking, out-of-the-box thinking, passionate, playful, resourceful, sensitive, spontaneous