"I know ADHD kids need consistent routines, but what can working parents or parents with inconsistent schedules do to help their children?" one parent of an ADHD child asks.
by Linda Karanzalis, M.S.
Being consistent with schedules, instructions, and discipline as parents to children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) is hard enough for parents who work regular hours, so I understand your dilemma, but hopefully my experiences as an adult with ADD/ADHD and as a special education teacher and ADD/ADHD coach will help.
Just because your schedule is inconsistent doesn't mean the basic structure that ADD/ADHD children need on a daily basis has to be. If you can incorporate the following routine-builders -- even at varying hours of the day or with help from a partner or another adult caregiver -- your child will benefit.
Because children sometimes have the comorbid condition of sensory processing disorder, I recommend that you set up a scheduling system based on visual and tactile input. If you have non-ADD/ADHD children, they will benefit as well. Putting everyone on the same system creates a smoothly running household, and your child with ADD/ADHD will be more likely to participate if he doesn't feel singled out.
Here is one example of a way to create a visual, tactile system to structure your ADD/ADHD child’s daily schedule.
A consistent, structured method will allow your child to better learn how to manage time, how to pre-plan, and how to transition, which are often the root causes of behavior problems. This system develops independence, creates less stress, and improves self-esteem. Instead of repeating yourself over and over, you can simply say, “Check your schedule.” When your child is ready, you can add time breakdowns to the schedule.
Once your child has mastered the system, you can also add a behavior-management component. This can be accomplished by setting up a reward system based on completing tasks each day. Some examples of rewards or privileges your child may earn through good behavior are time to watch TV, surf the Internet, and listen to their favorite music. For example, if he completes all activities, he gets all privileges. If you have 10 activities on the schedule and he only completes between six and nine of them, he will receive fewer privileges.
You can also change the rewards and privileges that can be earned each day, which will offer different unpredictable opportunities for your child to work on completing tasks on his best behavior.
Linda Karanzalis, M.S., is an adult with ADD/ADHD, a learning specialist, the founder of ADDvantages Learning Center, and an ADD/ADHD coach who specializes in helping both children and adults with ADD/ADHD and learning disabilities to reach their potential.