Because attention and focus issues are usually fun “side dishes” to children with Autism, it wasn’t too surprising when Arizona received a formal ADHD diagnosis a few years ago at the age of 6.
It can be a misnomer, though, this ADHD label. Many people assume my child will be bouncing off the walls 24 hours / day and unable to control her body at any given time. And, although Arizona is extremely energetic at times, her attention deficit affects her in so many hidden ways that aren’t always visible to others.
The biggest thing Arizona has been struggling with lately is the inability to stop herself from perseverating on various worries, ideas or concerns that are off topic and consistently disruptive to her current task (usually, school work). It is hard for her to tune in and stay there, because her mind is always racing.
So, how do I keep my curious, inquisitive and bright young daughter on task but still able to express herself authentically?
There are a few, easy things I have found that are working well for her Arizona these days :
Limited Screen Time : Before school / therapies / homework and an hour before bed, Arizona isn’t allowed to be on her iPad. She’s not hugely addicted to creen time, but can often get caught up and lost in her own world if she does decide to jump on. When she’s not connected to her screen, it is much easier for her to get “plugged in” and jump into what’s going on in the real world : school, homework, even social play dates with friends.
Exercise : Yes, Arizona is an energetic child. She always tells me when she has a lot of energy after school, so I’ll let her run around in the yard before she settles down for homework. I have found that this is extremely helpful in the morning as well. If we don’t have time to walk to school (usually because I’m running late), I let Arizona run around or play hopscotch for at least 5-10 minutes before we jump in the car. She is also interested in joining a swim team and is a little fish in the pool during the summer months. It really is proven : Exercise is ADHD Medication.
School Accommodations : During the school day, Arizona really needs to move her body. Depending on her schedule for the day, Arizona will take a few “movement breaks” before long lessons or tests. Even 5 minutes of running around and getting her heart rate up increases Arizona’s ability to regulate and focus in class tenfold. You can have these accommodations written up in your child’s IEP.
I would love to hear what helps you with your child who has focus / attention challenges. Please share!