How to help my son not lose things.

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This topic contains 16 replies, has 11 voices, and was last updated by  mdasch2 2 months, 1 week ago.

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  • #87197

    CC
    Participant

    Hi, this is my first post here.

    My son is almost 13, first year of high school. He was diagnosed at 8 years and medicated until about 3 months ago (when he asked to trial going without his meds). He is actually doing really well without the medication and is performing well at school and studying well at home. His organisation has always been a major challenge and while the medication helped a little, it was still an issue.

    Now that he travels to school on his own he is really struggling with physically managing his things. He has so much to look after and is constantly losing his sport bag, his instrument and just this week lost a phone, lunch bag and a laptop. He gets really upset and angry with himself when he loses things and feels terribly guilty about the money he’s costing us, so it’s not that he doesn’t care.

    I have talked to him repeatedly about putting things away straight away, checking his seat when he stands up. I attached a long strap to his instrument which has helped as he keeps it wrapped around his wrist even if he puts it down on the bus. But he still loses things. I have watched him carry something around, place it down and then literally 10 seconds later he will have no idea where it is or when he last had it. His other symptoms have improved so much but this just isn’t getting any better. I’d be so grateful for any tips at all.

  • #87204

    Wendy Lichtig
    Participant

    I’m 50 years old and not so much different from your son. One thing that works for me, to some extent, is to try to catch myself thinking “I’ll remember.” Any time I think that, it’s a sure fire sign that I will not remember, so need to do something that second preventatively (eg, put the phone in my pocket rather than down on the table, etc….)

  • #87287

    strwbry
    Participant

    Just last week, my boss gave me an important paper. One of my coworkers asked for it 20 minutes later, and it was no where to be found. Looked everywhere for it. Ended up making another copy. Found it 2 hours later near the copier!! πŸ˜€

    Every time my husband leaves a location (home, work, restaurant), he repeats to himself “wallet, keys, phone”. Maybe your son could try that leaving school and on the bus? “Instrument, duffel, backpack”?

    When I was in high school (and sometimes even now), I would write important things to remember on my left arm. Bright colors help. Visual cues really seem to help. We still put post it notes on the front door. Maybe he could sit in the same spot on the bus every day, and the bus driver would allow him to put a random sticker on the back of the seat in front of him? Seeing a goofy sticker might be novel enough to remind him to check for everything before jumping up.

    Having a place for everything by the front door helps, too. Maybe he can find one spot to keep all of his stuff at each location?

    Checklists help me when bringing different things to different places. Maybe he could make a list in the morning of all the things to bring home, then put it in his pocket till the end of the day? Or make the list an alarm on his phone?

    High school is a tough transition. It’s just a lot more to juggle. But I know he’ll figure out what works for him in time. He is so blessed to have a mom who helps and accepts him the way you do. πŸ™‚

  • #87288

    strwbry
    Participant

    Brightly colored bags and cases help, too! Helps them stand out against the environment, just another visual cue to jog that memory πŸ˜‰

  • #87316

    ADHDmomma
    Keymaster

    We use a Tile on important/expensive things. My son has one on his iPad for school. Fortunately, we haven’t had to use it, because he’s good about putting it in his backpack when he leaves class — a rule we have been consistently pushing.

    Total Recall: Great Gadgets to Jog Your Memory

    Can your son keep all these things in his car? His car could be the landing zone? Maybe a quick checklist in his car to help him double check that he has everything before he leaves where he is? If he has an iPhone, there’s a Find My Phone feature. You have to turn it on, but it’s very useful. I think Android has something similar.

    Penny
    ADDitude Community Moderator, Parenting ADHD Trainer & Author, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

  • #87438

    CC
    Participant

    Thank you everyone for the suggestions! It’s good to hear from others who struggle with this. I also struggled with this a lot as a kid (I still lose things now but much less often) so I’m trying to teach him my techniques. So far we do have a landing pad area at home which has a hook for bag, drawer for shoes and a pigeon hole for books, papers etc. He dumps his stuff all over the place anyway but at least I have somewhere to put his bits and pieces when I find them all over the house! So at home we are managing ok, but it’s when he’s out or transitioning that is the problem. He just can’t seem to remember that he is supposed to have ‘stuff’ or how much.

    Find my iphone is very useful and has saved us many times, but the problem is it doesn’t work when the phone is out of charge which is what happened this time. We have a Tile on his instrument but having bluetooth on drains his phone which then causes the dead battery problem.

    We had a Watchminder for a while which was really helpful to remind him of things, unfortunately it was not waterproof and for a kid who can’t remember to take it off before swimming that was a fatal flaw! I like the suggestion of putting a reminder in his phone. I could put one in that is triggered when he gets near his bus stop to remind him to check his hand and then each morning he could write on his hand what he has with him that day.

    I am hoping that the fact that he gets really upset (like when he lost his beloved new sneakers after 1 week) will eventually make his subconscious start to remind him, even if consciously he is not able to.

    <He is so blessed to have a mom who helps and accepts him the way you do> Thank you strwbry, that means a lot! πŸ™‚

    • #87463

      ADHDmomma
      Keymaster

      “…but at least I have somewhere to put his bits and pieces when I find them all over the house!”

      Call your son over and have him pick up the items and put them where they go. Ask HIM where he thinks is a more appropriate place for each item. This is the only way he will learn to slow down some and not always drop things wherever. Yes, doing it yourself is so much easier, but you’re enabling the problem. Trust me, I’m a reformed enabler. πŸ˜‰

      Penny
      ADDitude Community Moderator, Parenting ADHD Trainer & Author, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

  • #87439

    CC
    Participant

    <One thing that works for me, to some extent, is to try to catch myself thinking β€œI’ll remember.” Any time I think that, it’s a sure fire sign that I will not remember, so need to do something that second preventatively > This is fabulous advice! Thank you! I do this myself but have had trouble explaining this to my son, this is a great way to explain it, thank you.

  • #87710

    CC
    Participant

    <Call your son over and have him pick up the items and put them where they go. Ask HIM where he thinks is a more appropriate place for each item. This is the only way he will learn to slow down some and not always drop things wherever. Yes, doing it yourself is so much easier, but you’re enabling the problem. Trust me, I’m a reformed enabler. πŸ˜‰ >

    Yes this is good advice I know. Generally I do this, but sometimes when I am tidying and he’s not home I just need a place to put school papers and things.

    Also I’m not sure if he will ever learn even with making him do it himself. Every single day for about 3 years I called him back to put his shoes away in his shoe drawer after he kicked them off in the kitchen. He showed absolutely no sign of improvement, it just became his routine. So now I call it close enough if his shoes are in front of the drawer. Pick your battles and all that!!

    • #87875

      mtugglet
      Participant

      “Every single day for about 3 years I called him back to put his shoes away in his shoe drawer after he kicked them off in the kitchen. He showed absolutely no sign of improvement”

      It took my father 22 years with me. But I vividly recall the day it popped into my head, “you know, if you put this away now, you won’t have to listen to dad nag you about it later.” At that moment, I started putting away my things. I’m 41 now, dad’s been dead 13 years, I still sometimes think to myself (with amusement and fondness), “no, put it away now so you don’t have to listen to dad nag.”

    • #87958

      ADHDmomma
      Keymaster

      Becoming routine is exactly what you want. πŸ˜‰

      Penny
      ADDitude Community Moderator, Parenting ADHD Trainer & Author, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

  • #87788

    MattColo
    Participant

    Sounds like me. And now that I’m almost 60, it’s getting worse.

    I’d suggest focusing on the expensive items and have a place where they ALWAYS go. It will eventually become rote. The laptop ALWAYS goes in the backpack. The backpack is ALWAYS on his back or in his lap while on the bus. Not on the floor or beside him. The phone is ALWAYS in his pocket or on the night stand charging. Not in the backpack, except in the small pocket when he’s swimming. I have places where I always put stuff. To this day I always have my backpack in contact with me when traveling. For the important stuff there’s a place for everything. My wife doesn’t understand why I want a phone that’s small enough to easily fit in my front pocket but I don’t even lose it as often as she loses her phone. Sun glasses and reading glasses are another story. That’s why I don’t spend much money on them and have multiple pairs.

    As for those inexpensive items, when he gets upset after losing them tell him it’s okay. I have to remind myself that it’s part of who I am. i lose stuff. When I get upset I intentionally stop and talk myself down from the anger. I give myself a mental hug. I really wish that when I was your son’s age someone would have told me that.

  • #87790

    Marrimem
    Participant

    A drawer has an extra step. If it had no covering he could flick the shoes off on the edge of the container or a container he could stand in and remove shoes. Have the drawer low enough for space to do this. I do this and so the shoes I wear most frequently are on top.

    I count the number of items I take with me, then try remembering before leaving places I go that I have that number of items. If handed something new the number goes up. I’m less likely to have a problem when I do this. I am an older adult though.

    Did he have as much trouble remembering while medicated? Pausing to put it in memory and retrieveing from memory are all part of brain Executive functioning issues.

  • #87802

    donsense
    Participant

    First some good news.. in the next few years he may start doing after school and weekend jobs that will go a long way in helping him overcome these problems. At his age i started working with my much older brother in general house repairs and spruce ups. Every tool he used had a special place both in certain tool boxes and those boxes in the van and trailer we hauled and in the triple garage we built to hold everything. (His kids that gave his eulogy said that was because he bought 3 of every tool) This started me on my recovery to be able to find my own things most of the time. 5 years in the army helped as well.
    Somewhere in this process i learned to trace my steps usually but not always from entering home and then follow until I found the mislaid object. This worked more often than not but the habit never completely left me. It returned in spades when Casual Fridays turned into casual everyday at work. I missed those 5, 6, or even 7 pocket suits and sportscoats as I had gradually learned not to put things down that could fit in a pocket.

    Now for the bad news….it gets worse after the age of 40. Just about the time the kids are leaving to go to university and the pressure eases up I found myself back in that terrible habit at home.
    Now that i am in my 70s i am probably the duplicate of him for losing things. I have however learned to laugh and not blame my daughter who used to borrow all the things i had at the lake while they completed their cabin. I know they will show up. Meanwhile every surface in my home has things i put down until that day i lose my patience and have a massive put away or throw out event. Great feeling of accomplishment when its over.

  • #87836

    ohleyer_a
    Participant

    I am 47, ADD continues to be expensive. You know the saying “Everything has a place and everything in its place”? The big key to this one – is everything has a place first (and I am still working on this first bit). The launching and landing pad mentioned above is really important. It took my husband a couple of years but he has finally trained me to hang my keys on the hook when I get home – instead of setting them down randomly in places like, say, the refrigerator.

    I always wonder at folks who hang their coats on coat racks at restaurants – I would never see the coat again. Neuro-typical folks seem to have a place in their brain that hangs onto locations where they set stuff down, most ADDers don’t have this function – that spot in our brain is busy doing something far more creative and interesting (I am sure).

    I need to have a place for things and put things in places where I have to remember them. Put the bills to mail in front of the speedometer in the car. I literally put things I must remember where I will “trip” over them. This is a form of a mnemonic device. These are great to learn about if he has not already.

    When he has a big day the next day tell him to “set yourself up for success” by preloading the backpack/car with everything he needs and setting out his outfit.

    Remind him to be gentle with himself. Teach him how to “retrace his steps.” This is something that gets stronger with practice and can’t be done while one is upset.

    I think the Tile idea is a great one – someone got me something similar for Christmas last year… it’s in a box somewhere – you might have to facilitate that! Make sure you have the “find my phone” website saved to your hotbar on the home computer (it is least likely to wander off).

    Never put off something that he can do NOW – then folks will think he is on the ball and when something is done you can’t forget to do it later.

    This brain type takes some significant self-managing techniques – but it is awesome, creative and one of the brain types that moves the human race forward!

    Give your son a hug, it’s just a phone and a learning experience in the rearview mirror.

    Good luck – A. O. – Ph.D. MSW

    • This reply was modified 2 months, 1 week ago by  ohleyer_a.
    • This reply was modified 2 months, 1 week ago by  ADHDmomma.
  • #87867

    mom of 2
    Participant

    For what it’s worth, at least some of your son’s challenges are probably exacerbated by the normal forgetfulness of the teenage years. I have one son with ADHD and one without. I was sure that all of the forgetfulness and losing things I saw with my ADHD son was due to his ADHD – until his non-ADHD, supremely organized brother hit age 13 and overnight became just as forgetful. So go easy on both of you. It does get better.

  • #88000

    mdasch2
    Participant

    My son is 12 and is the exact same way

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