ADHD is classified as a disability. I choose to look at it as a different ability. But, it is still a disability. We have all sorts of tools and helps for disabilities in our society. We have canes and wheelchairs for those physically handicapped. We have special computer programs for the visual and hearing impaired. We have full stores of products geared toward those with autism and helping them to connect to their families and communities. But where are the tools for ADHD?Why aren’t there tools to help ADHD kids succeed in school and the world at large? There are so many things that could help them.
I am on a mission to have Luke, my 6 year old son with ADHD, all set for school when he enters second grade this fall. We know the accommodations he needs to succeed in school — we know that he is a visual learner and needs visual reminders and organizational assistance in addition to being allowed to move in his space instead of being required to sit still in a chair.
His first grade teacher used visual symbols as reminders of appropriate behavior throughout her classroom and even wore a set on her lanyard outside of the classroom with her students. She was so great about giving these sort of discreet reminders instead of calling someone out for what they were doing wrong.
Everyone involved in Luke’s education realized how key these visuals were to keep him on track. As well, in thinking about how to help him come home each day with his jacket and water bottle in his backpack, something we really struggled with last school year, I thought about creating a reminder sheet with pictures to post in his cubby for reference as he is packing up his backpack each afternoon.
I began to search the internet for picture cards. I was astonished to find so many products like this. However, they are all geared toward autistic children. There are hundreds of picture exchange cards (PECs) products out there. But since these products are primarily for non-verbal or low-verbal autistic children, the pictures break down each task in great detail. For example, it takes 5-10 picture cards for getting dressed — there’s one for taking off PJ shirt, taking off PJ bottoms, taking off underwear, putting on clean underwear, putting on pants, zipping pants, etc… What I was looking for was, take off PJs, put in dirty clothes hamper, put on clothes, brush teeth, take pills, eat breakfast, put on shoes, put on backpack, off to school.
It’s not that Luke doesn’t know the routine. It’s that his hyperactivity, impulsivity, and distractibility take him off task many times during the morning routine. I thought a picture diagram to follow would keep him on task better than getting frustrated and raising my voice could. It would serve as a reminder for tasks that most children ignore too, like putting the dirty clothes in the hamper. So I wanted to create a picture story for the following tasks:
- Getting ready for school (as I described above)
- Bed time routine (we struggle with staying on task with this too)
- Packing backpack reminder for school cubby
- Reminder to lift the toilet seat to post in the bathroom (this is a step he feels confident he can skip unfortunately)
- Homework time (turn off t.v., gather pencil and homework folder, sit at table or desk…)
I found that I could purchase a computer program like Mayer-Johnson’s Boardmaker to create all the custom picture cards and picture schedules I could imagine. However, this program is geared toward schools and autistic households and is expensive. It is not worth the expense to create just these few things.
So I find myself planning to make it since I can’t find it. But I am still at a loss for why we don’t have these sorts of tools for ADHD families. Every piece of literature you read about ADHD children tells you to be sure to give lots of visual cues and visual and/or written instructions whenever possible. Why hasn’t anyone created these sort of tools for ADHD kids at home and in the classroom?
What I would like to create is an ADHD Back-to-School Kit. It would include a student planner for organization and parent-teacher communication, and picture cards for tasks related to school. It would also include storyboards, of sorts, with the title (like Getting Ready for School) and then velcro spaces to accept the different picture cards. This would be customizable for individual preferences and needs.
I am also going to start making the picture cards. Maybe I will make them available for purchase too. I will have a good chunk of time in them and so many children and families could benefit from them.
If you have resources along these lines or know of visual reminder or other ADHD products I did not find, please post links in the comments section. If you are using systems like this, please share your experiences with us.