Ask the Experts

Reminders to Stay On Task

“My nine-year-old son’s primary problem is daydreaming. That doesn’t seem to affect learning much, but it does affect grades due to failure to finish work/tests or not hearing directions. What can he do to jerk himself back to attention after a few moments of reverie? A teacher could tap him on the shoulder. But are there ways or tricks for him to ‘tap’ himself when it is important to do so?”

There are several ways to improve you son’s ability to learn techniques on his own. Start with a reminder tape. Make a tape that is basically quiet but every few minutes makes a beep or bell sound.

Take a small 3-by-5 card and place it front of your child when he is doing his homework. The child is told to start on his homework when he hears a beep. The beep reminds him to ask himself “Am I paying attention?” Am I daydreaming?” If he feels he is not, he makes a slash or mark on a paper which is on his work area.

At the end of the homework time, he counts up the slashes or marks and a menu of rewards is available for him. Example: less than 20 marks equals microwave popcorn treat.

Another way to take a small post-it pad and give it to your child for when he is at school. Tell him to make a mark on it every time he finds himself daydreaming. Count up the marks every night. This draws attention to the day dreaming. Then say: when you find yourself daydreaming, verbally tell yourself to “look at the teacher.”

Incorporate a verbal message of correction to follow the daydreaming acknowledgment. Reading books about children with ADHD and what they have done to over come it is also very helpful. Books such as “Eagle Eyes” and “Putting on the Brakes” can be therapeutic and help model attention.