Do you or your child have difficulty concentrating?
ADHD distractibility is in a different category altogether. Children and teens with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, (ADHD) have pervasive challenges with focus and concentration. While certain activities and interests can provoke intense hyper-focus, this is the exception rather than the rule.
Living with ADHD symptoms can be a challenge, particularly in school or work settings that require long periods of focus and productivity demands. And the reality is, most of our mainstream classrooms and workplace environments are not equipped to consider the needs of those with ADHD; these public institutions and companies are geared toward the average person’s functioning and focusing abilities. The good news is, those with ADHD offer unique gifts to the world that make people with this condition highly valuable in a school or work setting. If you check the ranks of some of the most successful business ventures in the world, you will likely find a plethora of people who have harnessed their ADHD into rocket fuel for success. The gifts of ADHD are hard-earned, but once the reigns are in your hands, it can be life changing.
One of the most important factors of managing ADHD is acceptance. Perhaps you always knew your mind operated differently than your peers, and you struggled to fit yourself into the format that everyone else seemed to operate out of. Let go of the expectation that you will function “just like everyone else.” Fighting your natural tendencies only causes internal distress that can illicit shame and low self worth.
Understand your needs and advocate for them
Take an inventory of your needs. What conditions help you to function at your best?
It may help to brainstorm with your therapist, a teacher or close friend who knows you well. Consider the following areas:
- Is there a certain time of day that I have better ability to concentrate?
Consider taking on your most challenging subjects or tasks during that time to optimize your focus.
- How long can I attend to a task or subject before I need to get up and move around?
Our bodies are not meant to be seated all day long and for extended periods of time. Whether ADHD or not, this is an awkward construct that we have developed in our school and work culture, and is particularly difficult for those with ADHD. Plan for breaks. Determine approximately how long you are able to work on a task with optimal focus. Set a silent alert timer (vibrate mode) on a watch or phone and get up from your workspace when it alerts. Take a brief break and engage in a simple physical task (stretching, short walk, drink of water). This planned disconnect from a task makes a deal with your mind and allows for short bursts of focus with a promised break in between, which is more natural for those with attention challenges.
- Does a fidget object help?
It has been shown that many people (with and without ADHD) learn and focus best when they have tactile stimulation at hand. Chose something rather boring that you can operate without needing to look at, as this could pose the risk of further distraction. Some school settings are open to the recent fad of fidget cubes and such, but if this isn’t welcomed in your setting, consider silly putty or a small, quiet item that you can fidget with as you focus on your work. Taking notes and doodling while you listen to lectures is also a useful way to engage the mind and adds the benefit of using another sensory component to your repertoire.
- What am I passionate about? Can I incorporate this into my studies or tasks at some point during the day?
One of the most tragic aspects of managing ADHD can be the disconnect from the love of learning and the false association between failed school efforts and intelligence. People with ADHD are often brilliant and require accommodation for the ways in which the brain functions. It is highly detrimental when those with ADHD begin to lose passion for learning, and this can easily happen when needs aren’t considered and managed in the school setting. Find ways to create an outlet for your passions and interests. Is there an independent study course you could develop with your advisor at school? Can you set aside time each day to do what you enjoy and gain skill? Those with ADHD are the best people for thinking outside of the box; they are the ones you want on your brainstorming team on a big project. Focus that energy and creativity on your passions and find ways to invest time in those passions every day.
- Who are my team members?
Students with ADHD need to work closely with their team members at school and home. Members of your team should attend IEP meetings at a minimum of once per quarter (more often if needed). Special education professionals, principal, teachers, parents and advocates should attend IEP meetings, along with the student and other important supports. ADHD is a diagnosis that schools are expected to accommodate. Your special education provider and school leaders are required to assist in your access to the best education possible. Most school settings are more than happy to work with you for a successful educational experience. If your school isn’t cooperating to make this a priority, advocate with the superintendent and higher authorities to ensure that it happens.
Living with ADHD can be frustrating, humorous, discouraging and intense all at once. Be sure to treat yourself with compassion and understanding. Advocate for yourself and hold expectations for reasonable accommodations by school and workplace environments. Embrace the unique aspects of your mind and celebrate the gifts that ADHD can offer.
For more on ADHD Treatment for Children click here.