Published on ADDitudeMag.com
Routine Matters: 11 Rules for ADHD-Friendly Schedules
A reliable daily routine -- at school and at home -- is essential to your child's success. 11 tips for establishing a schedule that works for your family.
Why Structure Is Key
with ADHD also exhibit executive function deficits
That means they have a hard time organizing materials to complete homework or a
project, figuring out how much time a task will take, setting deadlines and
time management. Creating a daily routine, at school and at home, provides
external organization, gives your children the chance to focus on one task at a
time, stay focused, and succeed.
Adapt Routines to Your Child
should reflect your child’s personality, your family values, and your child’s
needs. If your child needs down time when coming home from school instead of
immediately beginning homework
, work this into your schedule. If your child
enjoys long baths or reading in bed before falling asleep, put this into your
routine. Take your child’s needs and personality into account when creating the
Establish a Home Schedule
haven’t used a schedule or routine at home
, it may be easier to start adding
one item at a time rather than to schedule the entire day. Start taking 15
minutes before bedtime to pick up toys and put them away. Once this has become
a habit, add another item.
Structure the Mornings
and ready for school is often a struggle for children with ADHD. Write down a
, beginning with waking up. Outline every step, such as eating
breakfast, taking medication, brushing teeth, washing her face, getting
dressed, checking her backpack for items needed for the day. Put all the steps into
a checklist your child can follow each morning.
Reinforce School Routines
follows a certain routine in school. From the time he arrives at school until
he leaves at the end of the day, he is expected to know where to go and what to
do. In the early grades, teachers often have the day’s schedule hanging in the
classroom. But older children still need to understand the routine. Ask your
child’s teacher for a copy of the daily schedule. Reviewing the schedule at
home will help reinforce it.
Break Down the Day
all of the tasks your child completes in a day. Include getting ready for
school, after school and homework time, chores, free time, dinner, and preparing
for bed. Break down each time frame
into steps. There may be activities and
other conflicts that make your schedule complicated—dance lessons on Wednesdays
and soccer practice on Thursday—but try to make every day as consistent as
Remember Fun and Exercise
As much as a
routine is important, kids deserve to have free time and fun. Schedules should
include time for your children to explore their interests, play outside, and
spend time with friends. Studies show that exercise and physical activity
increase attention and reduce impulsivity. Your daily schedule should include
time for outside activities or, on days when the weather is bad, active play
Build in Flexibility
always follow the schedule you set. If homework time usually begins at 4:30 and,
at 4:20, you are stuck in traffic – 20 minutes away from your house – your
routine for the rest of the day is going to be off. Be prepared to make
adjustments when needed and use this as an opportunity to teach your child that
everyone needs to be flexible from time to time.
Routines at a Glance
create a routine for your child, keep a copy of it in a central location — like the
kitchen or living room. For younger
children, use pictures as well as text. You, your partner, caregivers, and your
child can reference it to make sure every day is consistent and everyone is
following the schedule. If you laminate the routine, your child can use a
dry-erase marker to cross out tasks he completed.
Making Structure Routine
schedule is great, but don’t stop there. Use other tools to make sure your
family follows the routine every day.
> A kitchen timer helps your child stay
> Calendars on smartphones
allow you to set reminders
Behavior charts can be used to reward
your child for following the schedule
Keep the routine
as simple as possible; elaborate routines often get tossed after a few
Review, Revise, Tweak
should be consistent, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t ever going to change. Your
child’s needs may change, an after-school activity might be added or have
ended, your work schedule may change, or you may have miscalculated how long a
task takes, such as getting ready for bed. If you realize the schedule isn’t
working, review the routine once a month, or sooner, and make adjustments to
fit the facts.
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