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The ADHD Back-to-School Challenge: Trying Not to Lose (So Many) Things

With attention deficit-related difficulty with memory and organization, my daughter, Natalie, needs GPS to keep track of her things.

My daughter Natalie’s elementary school is participating in “Shoes That Fit,” a program in which economically disadvantaged families can register to receive free shoes and clothing for their kids. Our family is fortunate. We manage to keep Natalie and her big brother, Aaron, shod and clothed, even at the crazy rate they’re both growing (with help from neighbor Madeline’s hand-me-downs and Duckworth Wearing, a nearby used-clothing store). But Natalie could use a “Shoes That Fit” program — not for economic reasons, but because of her attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and because of the symptoms she’s experiencing as a result of it: forgetfulness and disorganization at home and at school.

I’m not sure why keeping track of assignments and belongings is more difficult for Natalie than it was last year in third grade. Is there more to keep track of in fourth grade? Or are fourth graders expected to be more responsible and independent? For whatever reason, Nat’s ADHD disorganization is more visible this year. So far she’s left her lunch box, reading log, study materials, and several jackets at school. And we’ve had to collect glasses, a pair of pants, a Tae Kwon Do uniform, and a textbook after Natalie forgot to bring them home from her after-school program.

One morning, when it was time to put on her shoes and leave for school, Natalie’s brand-new Skechers were nowhere to be found. After a frantic search yielded nothing, I grabbed some shoes she wore (out!) over the summer. They were dirty and one sported a hole. And they were a size too small. An apt metaphor, they were not shoes that fit.

The next morning, we repeated the same exercise. Then the one-size-too-small-with-a-hole shoes also went missing. After a frantic search, I pulled out Nat’s next-oldest shoes. Her toes started to hurt before we left the house. Again, definitely not shoes that fit.

For the next several days Natalie wore the two-sizes-too-small shoes, with her claiming to have looked for the missing pairs at school and the after-school program. At this point, I also checked in with Nat’s friend Harry’s mom. No shoes at their house or in her car. Finally, when I sent Natalie with our respite provider, Hannah, for another look — a supervised look — both pairs of shoes reappeared at the after-school center. Now Natalie’s back to having shoes that fit!

I think Natalie needs a modified version of “Shoes That Fit” — in this case, the service would involve fitting the shoes of children with ADHD with GPS tracking devices, which would maybe help our kids overcome a whole different kind of disadvantage.

And then, if it works for shoes…