About ADD/ADHD Learning Disabilities Attention Deficit Disorder

Rick Pierce, The Hyperactive Teacher.  is a regular ed teacher with ADHD.  Treat your teachers to an entertaining and highly practical keynote or inservice

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        A messy room can be an overwhelming task to say the least for
any child, and the distractions are many.  Many children will resort to playing with the toys and other paraphernalia strewn across every horizontal surface.
      Reality invades their play only when a perturbed parent not so
gently reminds the child to get back to cleaning.
      This mother was no different.  Angrily she scolded her daughter
and trounced loudly away.  However, mom decided that her response would be different the next time she checked up on her girl.
      A half an hour passed and mom checked again.  Still no progress!
      At this point, mom grabbed a clipboard, paper and pen.  "How
would like to have mom help you clean your room?" she asked her daughter.
      Relieved, the girl said "cool".
      "What do we need to do first?" questioned her mother.
      The child replied, "I don't know." (ADD children and ADDults have a difficult time breaking large tasks into smaller units and then becomes overwhelmed.)
      "Just think of one thing we can do to clean the room.  What is the
messiest part of the room?"
      "Well," the child replied, "the clothes; we need to pick up the
      "That's good, we should pick up the clothes.  What are we going to do with the clothes when we pick them up?" mom asked.
      "We should put the dirty clothes in the laundry basket and put the
clean clothes away." It was obvious that the girl was now involved in the process.
      "That's good, but wouldn't that be hard to do as we pick them up?
How 'bout," mom suggested, "we take all the clothes around the room and put them on your bed. Then we can separate them by clean and dirty.  After we are done doing that, we can put all the dirty clothes in the laundry basket, and I'll do laundry.  We can then hang up the clothes that belong in the closet and fold the clothes that go into the
      The girl agreed that this would be a great idea.  Mom wrote down
the steps they agreed on, and they went right to work.
      Then mom said, "Now we are done with the clothes, what is the next messiest part of the room?"


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    (ADD children and ADDults by definition have a difficult time
remaining on task, mom's prompting helps the girl refocus) 
    Mom and the girl both agreed that the next thing that needed to be
done was to take the stuff that didn't belong in the room and put them where they belonged.
      Dishes and old food needed to go to the kitchen.  Dad's tools
needed to go to the garage, and the hair dryer to the bathroom.
      They sorted the stuff by where they should go and then returned
the items to their rightful place.  They continued this process until the entire room was clean.  At the end they had a clean room ..... and a list!
      A few weeks later, the room needed to be cleaned.  Mom again told the girl to go clean her room.  However, this time she handed her daughter a copy of the list.  "Here, follow this list.  Do every step in order and when you are finished and have done everything on the list, you can have some ice cream," promised mom.
    (Rewards for completion can be very useful.  Notice mom is using
the completion of the list as the criteria for the reward, not the clean room.)
      The child cleaned the room in very little time, a new household
record was set.
      Mom had several copies of the list and gave her princess a copy to
use each time she had to clean her room.  However, eventually she ran out of the list.  No problem, when mom could not give her a list, the girl created her own and put it on her cork message board.  Not only did the girl follow this list to clean her room, but she began following the list anytime the room began to get messy.
    (One of our goals with our children is to train them to create
their own lists and systems of coping.  By creating the list on her own the girl has taken ownership of the solution.)
    This is a good story to illustrate the power of the RIMS system.
(The RIMS System is covered extensively in my book.)  Not only does it provide a system to approach the problem through routine, increments, monitoring and structure, but it demonstrates how this system can begin as an external control and end up as an internal system the child can use.    continue "A Bedroom Story"
                  Clean room
Routine      Done on demand or on a regular day and time.
Increment  Make and follow a detailed list
Monitor      Check list for completion, reward or consequence based
                  upon completion of the list, not the task.  If thelist is
                  incomplete, change the list.
Structure    Keep list in a predictable place, have predictable places
                  to put  stuff like toys, books, art equipment, etc.

    We will need to make sure that when we monitor multi task
activities like cleaning the room that we monitor the most important step: following the list.Both consequences and rewards should be based on list completion, not specific items on the list.
      For example, let's say that the girl in the story decides to short
cut the list and put all clothes, both clean and dirty, into the laundry basket.  As mom checks over the room, she actually checks the list.  She discovers the short-cut and asks the girl to show her the clothes that she folded and put away.  When the girl can't do that, the mother withholds
the treat until the list is completed and possibly gives another consequence if this was not the first time she tried to short-cut the list.  The previous short-cut would not necessarily have to be the same short-cut in order to receive the consequence.
      This approach ensures that the ADD child will have a routine
strategy to approach any multi-task situation.  Eventually, she will learn that success is possible through good planning and consistent adherence to the plan, an important life long lesson.
      Should a room be allowed to get messy in the first place or should
we make a child clean everyday.  Actually, I believe that the best approach is somewhere in between.
      It may be asking a too much to have the room clean everyday.  For
many parents with ADD kids, they have a hard time getting their students to pick their clothes off the floor, let alone keep the whole room clean.
      On the other hand, the one ideal place to train an ADD child
skills like organization, routine, respecting one's self and one's property is their own bedroom.  If a parent allows the ADD person to keep their room the way they want to, they will again prove the fourth law of thermodynamics, all matter eventually moves from organization to
chaos.  It is much more difficult to clean a messy room than to maintain
a clean room.    continue "A Bedroom Story"
      I suggest that the daily goal should be "uncluttered" instead of
"clean".  This can be accomplished by establishing steps like pick up clothes and make bed as part of the morning routine.  However, this will only get done if these tasks are checked each morning by a simple glance into the room. -- Rick Pierce,
The Hyperactive Teacher
      (Adapted from How to Help an ADD Child Succeed in Life
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