Developing Structure for Special Needs Kids

March 7, 2008 at 9:54 pm | Posted in Family, Health, Home, Life, Special Needs | 2 Comments
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special needs, children, moms, familiesKids with ADD usually have a harder time paying attention and maintaining organization.  They can often be hyperactive or impulsive.  These behaviors can lead to frustration and failure in school.  The best way to help is to provide the structure necessary to develop the patterns that help them learn.  We all need structure to make the most of our time, but ADD kids and adults need it even more.

Let’s talk about some ways to make this happen:

  • Set Up Routines.  At home, homework should be at the same time and in the same place as much as possible.  Keep their learning modalities in mind when doing this.  Do they need a quiet place to work or do they need some background noise like music in order to concentrate.  Do they need to be able to move around while working or to have something to fidget with?
    Meals, chores, outside activities and family time should also be scheduled with as much regularity as possible in order to maintain a sense of routine, organization and time management.  If there isn’t time for your child to do everything that is scheduled, eliminate the least important things. 
  • At school, enlist the teachers to suggest ways that structure can be maintained for your child during the school day and ask for their help.  It could be as simple as quietly asking your child at the end of the class if they wrote down the homework assignment.
  • Book bags and lockers can be organized to minimize disorganization and frustration with color coding.  Ask for an extra set of books for the home if your child forgets to bring them home.
  • Use Charts and Rewards.  Create charts for homework, chores, etc. and establish rewards for consistency.  For example, if your child has trouble remembering to bring home their homework assignments or to get the assignments handed in at school, keep a chart and do something special with your child when they have done it consistently for a week.  Remember that this is not about the reward.  It is about creating learning patterns in your child’s brain that will help them to succeed.
  • Set Rules and Stick to Them.  Create rules for homework, chores, room cleanliness, etc. and stick to them.  If you, as a parent don’t provide the structure of sticking to the rules, you can’t expect your child to do so.  Making rules and sticking to them is one of the best ways to help your ADD child create the brain patterns that will help them be successful.
  • Be Patient.  Change takes time and this is even more so when dealing with ADD kids.  So be patient if the charts don’t work right away or the homework assignments are still being forgotten.  It takes time and patience to establish new routines, but it will be worth the wait.
  • Praise Your Child.  Take every opportunity to praise your child for even the smallest positive change.  This is the best way to reinforce the behavior and encourage your child to continue.
  • Be Flexible.  I don’t mean be flexible about routines and structure.  I mean if something doesn’t seem to be working, be prepared to change.  If doing homework after school doesn’t work and your child works better after dinner, try it.  Always be willing to work with your child to create routines that provide the best result.
  • Be Consistent.  I have saved the most important for last.  Once you have established routines that work, be consistent!  You cannot create strong patterns for your child if you are not willing to maintain consistency for them.  Be consistent with support, praise, rewards, etc.

Does this sound like a lot of work?  It is, but what is at stake is your child’s future.  Isn’t that worth the effort?  If you need help, ask for it from teachers, tutors, coaches, or other parents who are dealing with the same issues. 

By:  Sharon Howell

If you have not signed up for the upcoming FREE Special Needs Event: Shut Up about your Perfect Kid event with Patty Konjoian and and Gina Gallagher, then do it now before all the spaces are taken! 



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  1. I found your site on google blog search and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. Just added your RSS feed to my feed reader. Look forward to reading more from you.

    – Sue.

  2. These are some great tips.
    I learned a lot from this book I just got called Parenting Children with Health Issues.
    I picked it up because my son has autism and I find it challenging every day. I felt like I needed some kind of help so I thought this book might be a great start. And it sure was. The best thing I like about this Dr, is if you check out the website, you will see an ask Dr.Cline section there that you can ask any questions you may have.

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