“Why don’t you just put her on medication?” I hear this from a friend of mine all the time. She has a son who is about the same age as my daughter, and they both have ADD/ADHD. We have chosen to use behavioral strategies for her, and not medication. It works, it just works slow. But, I think that the life long lessons are invaluable. I have seen a huge improvement in her behavior just by doing a few simple things.
One thing that helps her remember to do things is writing everything down. She is a major note writer! Sometimes they are a bit passive aggressive, like the note she wrote in chalk on my patio telling me how much she hates the rule in the house that the water hose can only run on the grass and not the patio. But many of them are useful. Like lists of things she wants for her birthday, lists reminding her of things she needs to bring to school, and so on. The physical act of writing down a note helps cement the task in your mind, so it is easier to remember.
Another strategy we use for my daughter are her to-do list charts. This is similar to a sticker chart or token board. We have 2 white boards, one for tasks in the morning and one for after school. On the left side is a list of items she needs to do, and at the top I have the days of the week. For every task she checks it off herself as she gets it done. Every day I put a check at the bottom – if she completes tasks without me reminding her. At the end of the week, she earns something special, like reading time with mom, a craft project with mom, or a movie night. One thing to remember for kids with attention issues is to break the tasks down to very small tasks. Putting “Get ready for school” is too broad for a child with ADD/ADHD. You need to put, eat breakfast, pack your backpack, brush your teeth, put on your clothes, put your dirty clothes in the laundry room, put your shoes on, etc. Baby Steps. If the tasks are too long or complicated, then they will be unable to complete the task.
Routines are also a great way to keep kids with ADD/ADHD on task because if they are doing the same things, in the same sequence every day, then they can fly through on auto-pilot. It becomes second nature to take off her clothes and put them in the dirty clothes if she does it in the same order, at the same time, everyday. Also, allowing a child with ADD/ADHD an appropriate way to fidget can be helpful at times, such as small toys with pieces that are easily manipulated, so the child can channel fidgety energy in an appropriate way, instead of bad habits like biting nails.