ADHD Kids and Following Directions

Here kitty kitty.Above and beyond the most irritating thing for parents of ADHD kids to deal with is their kids’ inability to follow even the simplest instructions, despite constant repetition. It is so hard to remember that it isn’t their fault because they really can’t help it. It becomes a real problem when they’re in school, which is nothing but one long list of instructions and a nearly constant reminder that they just can’t get it together.

Imagine being in a room full of 50 cats (see cats at IKEA) and having to organize them into groups (herding cats), within circles defined by tape on the floor. Imagine you are only told once what the groups are and given only 15 minutes to accomplish the task, while being yelled at. That’s pretty much daily life for ADHD kids and it’s overwhelming.

Now, imagine that you are given corralled spaces, into which the cats can be placed without worry about their escape. There are signs on each corral depicting which type of cat should be placed into which area and you are given only one cat at a time.

Which would you prefer? Which do you think will yield better results?

ADHD parents are often told that they need to be an advocate for their kids.Part of this is arming their kids with tools and techniques for managing tasks. Learning how to use these tools takes daily practice but ADHD kids can learn and constant repetition of techniques will eventually make them habitual. Here are some of the techniques and tools we use , not only for the Pumpkin but for ourselves as well:

  • Write Lists – I can’t t remember things either so I have learned to be a voracious list maker. Fortunately she really loves making lists so this has worked out well. We shared this technique with her teacher who has been allowing the Pumpkin to make lists at school as well. Writing also helps with her need to keep her hands busy.
  • Sticky Notes – Not only can we jot down things quickly, we can also stick them in places where she needs to remember routine things. Works great in the bathroom for remembering to wash hands and brush teeth.
  • Dry Erase Boards – The more ways lists can be made, the better. Dry erase boards save trees.
  • Repetition – Repeating a list of instructions out loud can help kids remember. Put it to music and have some fun with it.
  • Luggage Tags – Make a list of all the things your child needs to pack in their backpack. Teach your child to double check the contents before leaving the house or school. This really helps with preventing AWOL gloves and hats in the winter.
  • Time – Few people preform well under pressure. Even fewer children do so give yourselves some extra time to allow the child to use different tools and techniques. Once they get the hang of using their tools and techniques, they’ll go faster.

Cat photo: federico stevanin /


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