Self Help Skills/Teen ADHD Version
November 4, 2016 2:43 AM   Subscribe

This year in my special education classes, I have a handful of 15/16 year olds who have the most severe ADHD I've ever seen. What can I do to help these kids learn to help themselves? I modify their assignments and the classroom to help them (yoga ball chairs, etc.) but I want to teach them how to live with this. Adults with knowledge of ADHD -- what hacks work for you?

Up until this point in school, their ADHD has been managed for them so not only do they have zero self-help strategies, they don't even recognize when they feel off-task.

I've started working on self-awareness skills so they can monitor their attention levels and adjust accordingly. That's been huge for them because they didn't even recognize how often they're tuned in/not tuned in. They're learning appropriate self-regulation skills (go for a walk, jumping jacks, deep breathing, etc.).

But what else? Hacks? Apps? Strategies?

(note: suggesting medication is off the table for many reasons)
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I found that any dense material was better absorbed if read out loud.
posted by InkaLomax at 5:03 AM on November 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

If it's been managed for them in school previously, do they already have 504 or IEP plans that you can use to support them? If so, they should be having a yearly meeting so that the school and their parents can work together to create a developmentally appropriate plan as they mature, and self regulation skills should be part of it. If they don't have a plan yet, talk to the school counselor (and/or whomever is the 504/IEP plan manager for your school), and ask him/her to contact the parents to come in and set one up. I think a coordinated plan that grows with them year by year will do them FAR more good than one-off suggestions crowd-sourced from AskMe in a single class.
posted by instamatic at 5:04 AM on November 4, 2016 [5 favorites]

All that said, in class yoga breaks for the whole class, not singling them out has been shown to be effective at building mind-body awareness and to be very helpful for kids with ADHD, ASD, sensory processing issues, and pretty much any kid in your room.

Building executive function skills: also critical for all students, but especially kids with ADHD. A routine where everyone starts class by checking their assignment planner and ends it by updating the planner, for example. Routines and streamlined uncluttered environments can make it much easier to settle in and concentrate. My ADHD family members get very stressed out when there are too many choices presented.Here are some additional tips on working with ADHD kids, but again: they should have a IEP already in place, and if not, getting hem one is the best way to support them.
posted by instamatic at 5:18 AM on November 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

They're all on IEPs -- I'm their special education teacher. The IEP puts modifications and accommodations into place, but it's all stuff the school does for them.

I'm looking for what the kids can learn to do themselves.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 5:46 AM on November 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Gotcha! What types of things are you looking for help with? Developing executive function skills? Managing classroom behavior? Building good study skills? Emotional regulation?

It's been a while since I read it, but I wonder if ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life might be worth checking out from the library to see if anything there would be helpful in a school environment. Another resource is Problem Solver Guide for Students with ADHD: Ready-to-Use Interventions for Elementary and Secondary Students. (I haven't read the second one, but I'm about to put it on my wishlist!)

As far as apps/hacks, the ADHDers in my life are not big on them because they can be hard to maintain, which then becomes an additional Thing They Did Wrong and Can't Manage. Specific things I've learned: email reminders SUCK. Text messages usually work. Calendar appointments that pop up can go either way-- not as useful as I feel like they should be as a non-ADHD person. It's very easy to think you are providing something helpful, but for it to be counterproductive and resentment fueling/shame inducing. In the moment judgment-free personalized interventions and routines routines routines seem to help most. But as their SpecEd teacher, you may be way ahead of me on this.
posted by instamatic at 6:44 AM on November 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

There are a lot of Google-able resources on ADD hacks. I am personally a big fan of routines. Because I can't trust my memory - because I am often lost in other thoughts and not focusing enough to form memories - I rely on consistent routines that I force myself to use even when a shortcut is more appealing. So, things like where I put my keys, where I put away my earbuds when I take them off, when I charge my phone, when I download stuff from my phone, when I plan meals, how I record to-do tasks, etc., are all governed by replicable routines that don't require my thought. So, helping kids construct routines for whatever their regular tasks are - recording homework assignments, transitioning between individual tasks and group tasks, etc. - will be a godsend for them.

I have also found that bullet journaling is an incredible assist to my ADD brain. The routine is quite simple - you review it morning and evening - but suddenly, I have a place to record all the competing thoughts and plans that are crowding my brain, and no longer have to rely on using my executive function to recall and prioritize them. It's all in the book, and the twice-daily review means I get them done because they remain in front of me. And because it is somewhat gamelike, somewhat creative, and highly customizable, I find it actually fun, unlike any and every other planning system ever shown me. I see I am not alone in finding this method a great ADD coping strategy. This is a life skill I wish I had been taught in high school.
posted by Miko at 7:10 AM on November 4, 2016 [9 favorites]

Earplugs help me tremendously when I'm trying to focus in a place with a lot of people, like a lecture hall full of test-takers or reading a boring book in a classroom. I get really distracted in those environments where every sniffle and cough is amplified, and the earplugs block that kind of noise out.
Earplugs do not help in a situation where I'm supposed to be focusing on a boring book in a classroom, but there is a conversation going on near me. Earplugs just do not fully block out voices like that. I think even people with mild ADHD are going to have a problem in an environment where they are supposed to be focused on one thing while other people are doing other things.
posted by aabbbiee at 7:16 AM on November 4, 2016

Not a particular strategy, but rather a meta-strategy. Make sure they stick with whatever strategy is working for over 3 months. That they use it every day. I have a history of creating great strategies that help me for approximately a month and a half before they fall by the wayside and I start using them less and less. Creating the habit of actually sticking with effective coping mechanisms is something I'm still working on.
posted by Hactar at 8:22 AM on November 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

Someone put together a web page tool called "You Feel Like Shit: An Interactive Self-Care Guide" for their own personal use and posted it in case it was valuable to others, and many people here on MeFi liked it. (Not specifically for ADHD though, but in general for people who experience difficulty with self-care.)

As I mentioned in the original thread, it's a self-contained web page, so even someone who isn't super computer savvy may be able to (with the courage to make a foray into coding) save their own personal copy and change the text of the questions or even add new questions.
posted by XMLicious at 4:41 PM on November 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

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