I just want to help my brother…

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    • #104661

      I’m not actually a parent, but this seems like the best place for my problem here. I’m 17, and my little brother and I both have ADHD. He is 10 years old, in 4th grade, and in the process of getting a diagnosis.

      The problem is that he has a lot of trouble with math. If I help him and walk him through it, he can do it pretty easily, but if I have a lot of homework and no one else is there to help then he can’t do it by himself. Because of this, he has to bring most of his math work home from school, even though the teacher gives him shorter assignments than all the other kids. He also has trouble with focus too and he can’t seem to do anything without an adult’s undivided attention. We have to prompt him constantly to keep him on task.

      I think the main problem is with his executive function skills. He has a lot of trouble breaking problems into smaller steps and then he gets overwhelmed by everything at once. When I give him each step he’s fine, but if I ask him what we should do next, he tries to explain the entire problem at once and can’t divide the task up. I want him to be able to do the work himself but I don’t know how to teach him good coping mechanisms like the ones I’ve learned to deal with this stuff.
      Should I just wait for him to get treatment and let the professionals sort it out? Is there some way to teach these things? I know from my own experience that getting treatment and finding the right medication can take a while. But if I knew how to give someone executive functioning skills I’d be doing a lot better myself.

    • #104672

      Hey there,

      This one is a bit of a pickle, because the method you’re using to teach him is the same one I’d recommend- break the problem down into its component parts, then solve each bit one at a time.

      His issue probably isn’t total inability to break things down into parts- He can probably tell you that his arms and legs and head are parts of him, but not all of him- but rather just how abstract mathematics is.

      I’d advocate maybe trying to find some way to make the examples more concrete, depending on what kind of maths he’s doing at his age. As a basic example, the ‘number line’ method for subtraction- take the lower number, write it on the left side of a line, take the higher number, write it at the right. Then count up from the lower to the higher to solve the question. You could teach him a different method for each type of math problem. While I, personally, do not like this method, because it makes everything very disjointed, it COULD, THEORETICALLY help him distinguish between the different components of larger math problems, and make it easier to break them down.

      Another method you could use to split things up would be to have him write different symbols in different colours- as in, all plus signs in black, subtractions in red, etc. It could reinforce for him that these are DISTINCT parts that he needs to solve DIFFERENTLY. Similar to this method, you could also try to teach him to LITERALLY break the problem up into pieces. So, to use an awful example, 2*20-((3*4)+7), teach him to literally write down the different parts of the questions on different parts of the page, so he gets 2*20-( ) (( )+7) (3*4), and can just solve one chunk at a time. Dependent on his specific difficulties, this may be too much of a stretch, but I used to use the same method at school. It drove me mental when I got older and had to start doing my calculations ‘neatly’. I just didn’t think in neat straight lines, I thought all over the place πŸ˜›

      Finally, you are right in that medication, additional teaching at school, and so on will probably help the young lad, but at the end of the day, more teaching can’t hurt, as long as you teach him the right stuff πŸ˜›

      Hope this helps πŸ™‚

      • #104687

        Thanks so much! He’s doing long division right now, so lots of steps, and a lot of thinking for each step, I’ll see if any of this works for him! πŸ™‚

    • #104685
      Penny Williams

      I first want to commend you — you’re doing amazing things for your brother, and you’re only 17, and you struggle with ADHD yourself. You are awesome!

      Now, you are right about the executive functioning deficits hampering his abilities in math. My son is gifted in math and did most of it in his head, until he hit long, multi-step problems. Now he struggles with math tremendously. He loses his place in the steps, or misses a little mistake that snowballs into a big mistake, and he’s overwhelmed before he even begins to solve a problem, because he knows it’s going to be wicked hard for him.

      What helps is creating a master example with the steps broken down, in different colors, and lots of notes on it, not just an example (which is what his teachers usually send home – he’s a sophomore). There’s a reason Khan Academy uses different colors in their videos, it visually breaks up the steps at first glance.

      If he’s doing something where you can make kind of a master template and make copies so he can use it over and over, that would be ideal. Going back and forth between two things is often an issue for those with executive functioning and/or working memory struggles.

      ADDconnect Moderator, Author on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen boy with ADHD, LDs, and autism

      • #104688

        THanks, That’s a really good idea! I think having a notes page with all the steps he needs might work instead of having someone prompt him for each step. I’ll try and see how it works!

    • #104709

      Acronyms and songs usually help me remember sequential things. They tend to get stuck in my head and I end up singing them over and over. πŸ™‚ Here’s a really simple one that one class came up with. https://youtu.be/y3F0SItM-os

      Youtube videos might help, too. Then, he could follow along with the person doing a problem on the screen and pause/go back when he needs to see it again. That’s what I usually do when I need to figure something out. πŸ™‚

      Here’s a couple of other resources:

      This teacher teaches division like multiplication. Sometimes, just looking at it from a different perspective can make it click: http://www.ashleigh-educationjourney.com/why-i-love-teaching-long-division/

      You are an AMAZING big sister!!! <3

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