Daily Schedule for ADHD Families: Remote Learning in The Time of Coronavirus
Use this expert advice and daily schedule from Dr. Sharon Saline to keep your child happily learning and achieving during prolonged school closures.
By Dr. Sharon Saline
ADHD Distance Learning: Setting Up for Success
The coronavirus outbreak is changing our lives by the moment, but one constant is true: You’re unsure how to manage several weeks of closed schools and social isolation with your children, who happen to have ADHD.
The big questions are: What can you do to set up a family plan that fosters more cooperation and less arguing during this unsettled time of COVID-19? How can you devise a plan that you can actually follow and your kids will buy into? We know that kids with ADHD benefit from structure, but what can you realistically pull off? Here is some helpful advice to get you started.
Break the day into chunks that include periods for learning, chores, activities, your own work-from-home responsibilities, and personal breaks from each other. Instead of using punishments or threats to force your kids to cooperate, focus on using earned privileges because incentives motivate kids with ADHD best.
Before you start learning at home, think about what you want for each day and what will help you stay as calm as possible. If you are dysregulated, then your kids will be too. Consider what they have to get done for school and chores, what assists them in working on those tasks and how many breaks they’ll need.
Pick specific times for waking up, getting started on studying and going to bed.
Decide how much ‘fun’ screen time they can have each day as a given and what they can earn through cooperation. It’s reasonable to allow your child more time than your usual limits on screens right now, especially if it means they can interact with their friends online.However, make sure to explain to your kids that this is an exception not the new normal.
Make a time to talk with your kids about their ideas for organizing their days. Brainstorm together how to co-create a structure that makes sense for everyone. When kids, especially those with ADHD, are included in the process of figuring things out, they are far more likely to cooperate.
You’ll need to make two lists: one with smaller ‘like-to-do’ items such as playing with the dog, hearing a story, practicing yoga or movement, or getting a snack and another list of bigger incentives such as extra screen time (surfing the net, gaming or social media); doing a favorite activity with you such as cooking or art projects; playing catch or making music; or even watching a TV show or movie. You’ll need to apply these incentives to the ‘have-to-do’ list that includes tasks like studying, doing chores, and helping out with siblings or household work.
Now lay out a sample weekly schedule based on the tips below. Each day should have designated blocks of time geared toward school and learning, household chores, and various fun activities. Once you’ve got a draft, post it around the house and plan to meet again in 4 days to check in and make necessary adjustments.
Whatever routines you create during this unusual time will need tweaking as you go, but that doesn’t mean the plan isn’t working. If your son or daughter isn’t cooperating, work with their desire to avoid conflict and see their struggles as part of their frustration about how life has changed. Expect inevitable meltdowns and make an arrangement for structured time apart to cool off before pivoting to another activity.
Remember that kids are struggling right now and may neither fully understand the severity of the situation nor be able to articulate how they feel. Share relevant facts without scaring them and be careful of what you are saying on the phone to friends and family that’s within earshot of your youngster.
Sharon Saline, Psy.D., a licensed clinical psychologist with more than 30 years’ experience, is a top expert on ADHD, anxiety, learning differences and mental health challenges and their impact on school and family dynamics.
Her unique perspective, a sibling of a child who wrestled with untreated ADHD, combined with decades of academic excellence and clinical experience, assists her in guiding families as they navigate from the confusing maze of diagnoses and conflict to successful interventions and connections. Dr. Saline funnels this expertise into her new book, What Your ADHD Child Wishes You Knew: Working Together to Empower Kids for Success in School and Life. Heralded as an invaluable resource, her book is the recipient of two highly-acclaimed awards: Best Book Awards winner by American Book Fest and the Gold Medal from Moms Choice Awards. Dr. Saline is a regular contributor to Psychology Today and a member of ADDitude Magazine’s ADHD Specialist Panel.
As an internationally sought-after lecturer and workshop facilitator, she combines psychology with her love of theatre to animatedly present on a variety of topics such as understanding ADHD, executive functioning, teen brains and different learners. A magna cum laude graduate of Brown University, she received her master’s degree in psychology from New College of California and her doctorate in psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant University. Dr. Saline’s is a regular contributor to ADDitude magazine and psychology today, a part-time lecturer at the Smith School for Social Work and lives with her family in Northampton, MA.
My Favorite Resources identifies some of the best resources and lessons available to teachers through Creative Commons licenses on Share My Lesson. Teachers from across the country collaborate together to identify the best resources and share them with their colleagues here.