I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was 6. At the time, my parents received too many complaints about my behavior. “She is incredibly smart and her grades are top of her class,” my teachers would say. They would follow with problems with my conduct. I couldn’t sit still or stop talking. I tried helping others because I was restless all the time. Even doing sports every afternoon did nothing to lower my hyperactivity.
My mother was soon referred to a behavioral therapist because she said I was never to be medicated. Another issue was money. We didn’t have much so we couldn’t afford weekly sessions or frequent follow ups. The behavioral therapist decided she would instruct my mother how she would help me through a simple exercise. It’s completely free and it can be done at home.
I want to share this exercise with you because maybe your family is in a similar predicament. Maybe you can’t afford treatment like my parents or you want to be more involved in your child’s care. Whatever the reason I know you want the best for your child.
Disclaimer: Today, I’m a clinical psychologist and I’ve never seen this exercise in any book. I asked teachers throughout college and none of them recognized it but they said it should work. This exercise worked for me and it could also help your child. Discuss any changes in his current treatment course with your child’s primary caregiver. Intended for children ages 6 or up.
Instructions: Place your child in a room to do his homework. Give him math or spelling exercises if he didn’t get homework that day. You may want to ask the child’s teacher or homeschooling mothers for age-appropriate material. Explain you will be right outside and he is not to leave his seat unless he is done with work.
Children will advance through stages when they can complete their assignment in the allotted time. Initially, sessions should last 15 minutes. Increase 15 minutes whenever the child reaches the following stage.
Objective: Child will be able to focus on assignments despite of stimuli for up to 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Place the child in a room with as little stimuli as possible. Remove all objects that could become a distraction for your child. As an ADHD parent you probably recognize almost all objects that fit the bill. Don’t be frustrated if your child finds new things that distract him. I would focus on nails, floor tiles and even the fan. Give him homework that can be completed in 15 minutes.
Include a painting or image in the room. The objective is that the child focuses on his work despite the image. It’s normal for the child to stare at the painting in the first few days because it’s suddenly interesting. The assignment should take 20-30 minutes to be completed.
Place a phone close to the child. Instruct him he is not to pick up while he is doing his homework. You may want to say that you know he is trying to help Mommy but that this time is only for homework. Ask a friend to call the house at least once while he is doing homework. Assignment should take about 45 minutes to be completed.
Include a radio in the room with the child. Instruct the child that the radio needs to stay off while he is working. He can only turn it on after he is done with his work. This rule should be in place for at least 4 weeks. Advance to Stage 4b when the child can follow this instruction and finish his assignment within an hour.
Turn on the radio while he works. This stage was hard for me because I would spend more time changing the station than working. I failed my deadline for almost two months while the radio was on. Advance to the final stage when the child can finish the assignment within an hour.
The final stage can prove to be the hardest. Interrupt your child at least once while he is working. Interruptions can be as long or as short as you want. The child is allowed to answer but not to put his work away to dedicate his attention to the person. The final goal is for the child is to say “Let me finish my work and I’ll pay attention to you” or something similar. He is also required to finish his work in an hour and fifteen minutes.
This exercise will take months. I’d be hurting you if I hid it from you. There will be hurdles along the way, frustrated afternoons and even tears from your child. My mother said it was one of the toughest things she had to do for me, second only to letting me cry it out. Would she do it again? You better believe it. I’m proud to say I survived high school with no complaints and graduated college with honors. Am I still hyperactive and a little distractible? Sometimes but I’m able to sit down and write this post without a standing up every 10 minutes. I can say this exercise saved my life.
Share in the comments how you help your child with ADHD. Would you be willing to try something like this at home? Do you know a method that has worked for you or someone you know?
About the Author
I’m Laura Rivas. I’m passionate about health care and wellness. I’m a clinical psychologist and my website is www.dialdoctors.com