Saturday, January 10, 2009

Waking Up Children (with ADHD)

I thought I would put up a quick post with some suggestions of how to adapt a morning routine to wake up children, particularly those with ADHD.

This most important thing is to have a routine, review it daily, and stick with it. Probably the best way to remind the child of the routine is to make a chart of what needs to be done in the morning giving each task a box that can be checked off or confirmed with a sticker. For children with whom reading is problematic, the tasks can be labelled with pictures instead of words.

You may want to add personalised items to the daily routine chart. Maybe give the child their own plant to water in the morning. But this will depend on each individual child’s independence. Start simple. Break activities down into smaller pieces if necessary. For example instead of having a box on the chart for ‘brush teeth’ have a few boxes for ‘wet toothbrush under tap,’ ‘put toothpaste on toothbrush,’ ‘brush teeth,’ ‘rinse mouth,’ ‘rinse toothbrush,’ and so on. However, once the child has learned the task without having to refer to each step, remove the extra steps from the chart to avoid future confusion and becoming overwhelmed. A possibility is to have a small chart in different specific locations. So the brushing teeth chart would be in the bathroom, the getting-dressed chart would be on the closet doors, while the master chart with the generalised activities is kept somewhere else. That way the child isn’t overwhelmed with a myriad of activities on one big chart.

Try to wake up your child yourself if you can. Open the curtains, use gentle touch, and speak to them softly. You may need to leave the room for a few minutes while they are waking; this would be a good time to put on some music. If an alarm is necessary, choose sounds that will not startle the child. As soon as the child is awake enough, have them take their morning medications (stimulants are often used in the treatment of ADHD).

Prepare as much the night before as you can - lay out clothes, make lunch. Remember children with ADHD don’t sleep as well, so be patient during the morning. Check in on their progress in getting ready and gently urge them back on track when they get distracted. Some children will be more independent and once they are up can dress and brush their teeth on their own. Others will need to be encouraged every few minutes.

Ensure they eat a healthy breakfast. You may also want to have an emergency snack prepared for the days when things don’t move as smoothly so if your child needs to leave the house before they’ve eaten, they will have something healthy to eat in the car or on the bus.

Remove distractions such as tv, computer, and video games. Review any homework that was completed the day before. Use this time to socialise and enjoy the company of your child.

Ensure exercise is a part of the morning routine. Put aside fifteen minutes for the child to jump or run around. This is time you can use to get ready yourself.

Be in a good mood yourself. Children adapt to their environment. If they see you enjoying your mornings, they will be more likely to themselves. If you find you are becoming stressed, take a few moments for yourself to catch your breath and relax. Even if you can’t get away to be by yourself, try to concentrate on your breathe while supporting your child. And always keep in mind your child isn’t being difficult on purpose; they need your support. Enjoy this extra time you get to spend with them and know that you are making a positive difference in their day, even when it doesn’t seem like it.

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