Developing an awareness of the times that ADHD impacts your life can be an important first step in developing strategies to cope with it.
Cynthia Hammer, MSW, writes in a Fall 2010 issue of ADDitude Magazine that writing about her ADHD has benefits for her on multiple levels. She doesn’t write every thought she has about her ADHD, but rather, records only those instances when her ADHD rears its head and impacts her life. In this way, she has a “record” of occurrences that she can use to reflect upon, dissect, and most importantly, adjust her behaviors in the hopes that she will avoid repeating the same mistakes in the future.
While it’s highly unlikely that a teenager with ADHD will be similarly motivated, especially if writing is a challenge for him/her, we think beginning to develop this habit early could result in benefits later for many of the students with whom we work. Start by asking your ADHD student to record only one instance per week where it’s clear that his/her ADHD caused a problem. Tell him/her not to worry about spelling or structure; suggest using a word processor or graphic organizer program so that the occurrence can simply be recorded. Allow this practice enough time to become a habit, perhaps even including a reward for compliance.
Once recording has become a habit, next ask your student to begin including a short forensic analysis of how things went “sideways” as a result of ADHD. Again, some students may need time to consistently do this. Finally, when your student is ready, allow him or her to determine a plan to avoid the mistake or modify the behavior in the future, reminding him/her that simply “trying harder” isn’t really a plan; have him/her get specific. Remember that changing behavior is typically not a “snap your fingers” type of proposition. There will likely be some false starts and backsliding, so patience and “successive approximations” to the desired behavior are the right lenses through which to view this.
Let us know if you’ve tried this and how it went. We welcome your input.