Guidance and Gizmos
High-tech gadgets and low-tech resources to help parents and children with ADHD or learning disabilities at school.
From books and CDs to timers and lightweight keyboards, there are a variety of resources to help parents and children with ADHD or learning disabilities succeed during this school year, and beyond. Here’s our short list.
- Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy, by Pamela Darr Wright and Peter W.D. Wright (Harbor House Law)
Widely regarded as the definitive manual for all parents of children with ADHD or learning disabilities, Wrightslaw removes the guesswork from the special-education system. Read it before your next IEP meeting to secure the best services for your child.
For Parents and Teachers:
- How to Reach and Teach Children with ADD/ADHD, by Sandra F. Rief (Jossey-Bass)
Every teacher and parent should have this resource at hand! After a strong overview of the disorder, Rief offers the practical classroom strategies — complete with dozens of charts and templates — that our kids in grades K-12 need to find academic success.
- Taking A.D.D. to School, by Ellen Weiner, and Taking Dyslexia to School, by Lauren E. Moynihan (both Jayjo Books)
For ages 5-9:
Each of these books gives a clear idea of the challenges children with ADHD or LD face in the classroom. Kids will identify with the narrators, and adults will appreciate the “Ten Tips for Teachers” section at the back of each book.
- Putting On the Brakes, by Patricia O. Quinn, M.D., and Judith M. Stern (Magination Press)
For ages 8-13:
Quinn and Stern do an excellent job of explaining ADHD to children without talking down, and the book’s upbeat tone makes it clear why it has become a classic in the ADHD world.
- Learning Outside the Lines, by Jonathan Mooney and David Cole (Fireside)
For ages 14 and up:
Cole and Mooney were both “late bloomers” who didn’t let early educational setbacks define them. In their “straight from the trenches” handbook, they remind high school and college students with ADHD or LD that education can be liberating, rather than constrictive, and give them the tools to take control of their academic careers.
Assistive technology (AT) can help students with ADHD or LD circumvent weaknesses and, because people with ADHD often have an intuitive grasp of technology, increase their self-reliance in the classroom. AT can be written into a child’s IEP, and schools may be able to provide access to basic equipment. Otherwise, except where noted, all of the following are available at office-supply or electronics stores.
Dictating notes into a handheld tape recorder is an ADHD-friendly alternative to the often frustrating process of taking notes in class. And because many students find that words flow more easily from the mouth than the pen, they use a tape recorder to brainstorm their own ideas for a project or an essay.
Because many PDAs (personal digital assistants) now have calculator, calendar, alarm, and even voice recording capabilities, it’s possible to keep track of class schedules and project deadlines, set medication reminders, take notes, store contact information, and get help with math homework all with one device. Once students start using PDAs on a daily basis, they often wonder how they ever did without.
Books on audiotape or CD
Some individuals with ADHD have an easier time absorbing the spoken, rather than the written word. Others find that listening to the book while reading along helps them stay focused. BORROW FROM learningally.org (Learning Ally), or BUY FROM audible.com.
Students no longer have to worry about slow or messy handwriting, whether in class or on the go. With built-in spell-checks, even spelling is no longer a hurdle. These lightweight keyboards have enough memory to save several pages of writing, and you can plug them into a computer to save to your hard drive and to print.
For children with ADHD or LD who have trouble organizing thoughts in a sequential, written form, mind-mapping (aka graphic organizing, visual thinking) software or devices provide the freedom to express ideas in a visual format, record them as they come, and link them together later to create an outline. BUY FROM inspiration.com (Kidspiration for grades K-5, or Inspiration for grades 6-12.).
Alarms that beep or vibrate periodically can provide the gentle reminder a student needs to stay on track while studying, or cue him that it’s time to leave for class.