Home schooling and the kids being home 24/ 7 is challenging for any parent. But for parents of children with ADHD and Autism this is a really challenging time.
Autism and ADHD is a big part of my life. Both myself and my brother are on the spectrum. My partner and best friend has both. As we were chatting over dinner we got to thinking about the parents and children out there that might be struggling at this time. And we want to help.
Before I became a life coach I worked with children and adults with ADHD and Autism, as both a teacher and pædagog, in classrooms, at after school clubs and at home. And due to this I have a big network of parents and co-workers. So we banged our heads together online and came up with some advice and ideas to help you through this time.
The advice is not specific to either diagnosis but from my experience things that tend to work for ADHD often work for Autism and vica versa. Keep scrolling because this is full of goodies for homeschooling, anxiety, sensoray stimulation and keeping you sane!
We hope it helps and please share this around to help others too.
Stick to your routine
Now you probably all know it but sticking to routine is the BEST possible way to help your child. We are all uncertain of how long lock down will last and your children will hate the change in their routine. Schedule the evenings loosely as well as the ‘school day’. Keep the routine the same for all of the family, diagnosis or not. It will give your child a feeling of this is normal.
If you don’t already have one, a pictogram schedule is the best way to help a child with ADHD or Autism to know what will happen and when. During lockdown I recommend making this the start of the day activity. Talk through the day’s plan with your child. Get them to put the pictures on the schedule. Also let them know which adult will be available at each time. They will not take it all in and you may have to return to the schedule throughout the day to remind them. You can also ask them to remind you during the day so they have to go to the schedule and tell you what is next.
Schedule your day in 30 min blocks. Time is a hard concept for young children and many with diagnosis find this difficult so use words such as morning, school time, playtime, after school etc. It is easier. One child I worked with understood time through the length of their favourite cartoon shows when I had to explain how long something would take.
Keep to the normal routines like getting dressed for school or making a packed lunch routine. It will help your children both now and for when life returns to normal. If you have got a good routine don’t break it during lock down because it will take time to retrain afterwards.
Make a ‘school space’
You won’t be able to recreate the entire school environment. But you can create a school space. If you have only the lounge then spilt it into two. Fun space/ school space. Even using tape down the middle of the room, covering up the TV whilst school is on. Removing the playstation and bringing it out for after school will help. Your child associates home with fun. This separation and division will help them to better understand that home and school are the same place for now.
And make it fun. They could create a school uniform. Make a school badge or poster could be designed. Give your school a name. When it’s fun children will want to join in.
Make a clear time out space
Time out as I am sure you all know is seriously important. Not because they have been naughty but because all of us with ADHD and Autism get overwhelmed and need time alone.
In a cramped house this is hard. The bedroom is obviously the best safe space. Or if you are lucky enough to have a second bathroom or separate utility room these are also good. Make a sign for the door during time out so that other people can see not to come in. And set a timer so the child knows when you are allowed to come back. If your child shares their bedroom with a sibling create a den around the bed. A kind of pillow fort to give them a space to hide when they need it. And make sure to set clear guidelines both children have to follow on how to use the time out system when they share a room.
Use the 20/ 20 rule and multisensory learning
Concentration is going to be harder now for all of us. When I taught 1- 6 class I would work with the children for 20 minutes and then we would have a 20 minute break with movement, time outside, drawing, colouring, a game or music. Sometimes my students could only do 10 minutes ‘proper’ work and 30 minutes colouring. So I made subject related colouring exercises like colouring in words or the alphabet or tracing words to help with spelling. There are loads of things that you print online. No printer then another good one is to fill a plastic box with earth or sand and draw/write in that. Playdough is good too and there are recipes online you can make at home. Multi sensory learning is great for kids with both diagnoses. To be honest it’s great for any children.
Home school doesn’t have to be all about traditional curriculum
Below I have found a few of the websites you can use if you need some inspiration or even a little break. However home school can be a great time to teach your kids how to cook, how to clean or garden. Part of the school day could be helping to prepare dinner. Trust me you are never too young to learn these things and not to be derogatory but many of the kids and adults I have worked with struggle with these normal day to day things, myself included. We learn best when we are young so use this as an opportunity to teach them to look after themselves when they are big.
If you are running out of ideas for learning we got you covered these are easy to use and fun:
Major children’s publishers, including Penguin and HarperCollins, are planning daily read-alouds and activities
Learn at home:
Documentaries for kids:
Virtual field trips: (this is a really fun rabbit hole to go down there is soo much out there)
Follow your child’s interests
All children are more motivated to learn if it is based on something they like but this can be especially true of ADHD and Autistic children. If you child doesn’t want to do normal subjects or point blank refuses why not get them to make a project about something they love, where they have to find out more (reading /videos), write and draw a poster, make an info pamphlet or a presentation about their special subject.
One of the biggest challenges as an Autistic or ADHD person is sensory over stimulation. When lockdown happened many of my friends on the spectrum were really happy about it, less enforced contact with people, noise and sensory stress and overload. On the one hand that does sound good. The challenge is that when the world starts again that stuff is going to be harder to deal with for all of us. Imagine how challenging it will be for your child. You need to keep some sensory stimulation going. A friend who is on a pension and often very isolated by choice due to their diagnosis knows this very well and offered these ideas based on things he does to lessen the shock when being around people.
- Hoovering without sound proof headphones
- Touching earth or playing with clay without gloves
- Having the television a little louder
- Having the washing machine and the Tv on at the same time.
- Turning on the lights even when he doesn’t want to.
- Sitting in the garden once a day (you could use a balcony)
- Doing balancing exercises
- Smelling flowers
It’s small things like this that will help your child keep being used to normal sensory life.
Here are some other ideas
Help your child understand the lock down
The lockdown is scary for us all but especially for kids.If you tell them not to worry they will. ADHD and Autistic children will need to understand why everything is so different. In an accessible way.
You can explain why it is important to stay home at the moment by using a diagram that shows how to stop the spread of the virus with social distancing like this one below that shows how people can spread the virus through contact. You can explain that we are not sick but we are staying home to stop others being sick.
- Edmodo has a great video to explain it to kids https://go.edmodo.com/distancelearning/
- Here is more great advice https://childmind.org/article/talking-to-kids-about-the-coronavirus/
- If you haven’t seen it yet the viral pepper water and soap video is a great way to teach your kids not only about the virus but about bacteria in general https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/uk-news/viral-soap-pepper-trick-shows-17937451
We are all scared right now, but kids’ imaginations run riot. Informing them about the virus and why lock down is happening will help. However not all ADHD and Autistic children have an easy time with verbal communication. YÁnd you know that just telling your child not to worry won’t make those anxious thoughts disappear, just as avoiding triggers of anxiety won’t help your child learn to cope. There are things you can do to help calm your child’s anxiety and at the same time teach them to deal with it for themselves.
- Give them a creative outlet for their fears, drawing or building lego for example.
- Make a blanket burrito – lay out a blanket or duvet on the floor. Tell your child to lay down straight besides one edge. And then roll them over with the blanket so it wraps around them. You can then play some calming music or their favourite tv show or read a story and let them feel safe.
- Stress balls, tangles, fidget spinners can and do make a difference
- A quick one minute meditation works well – Ask them to close their eyes. Put one hand on the tummy, one on the heart. Take three slow deep breaths in through the nose out through the mouth. (Ask your child to see if they can make their hands move by the breath.) Tell them to repeat after you. Everything is going to be ok. I am safe. I am loved. I got this. Then open their eyes and do something else.
- Stimming – Some people say you shouldn’t let autistic people stim. I disagree. Ithink if you can teach someone to stim gently it can work wonders. I like to rock if I am feeling worried, my brother runs or hums. Gentle or replacement stimming activities could be repeating the lines to a favourite song or book, moving to music, engaging in fine motor activities instead of clapping such as using lego or finger stimulators like tangles, drawing or colouring. You may find some more ideas here> https://www.cigna.com/static/www-cigna-com/docs/individuals-families/bhs-autism-2016-july-handout.pdf
- The best anxiety technique I have found is square breathing. It also works well if a child is having a meltdown too. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HAlTJscAuy8&t=191s
(for kids video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFdZXwE6fRE&t=48s)
Burning off steam
Well we all need to do this right now, our children even more. Of course we know that going into nature is good for us and the kids. And it is easy at first to think of games in the garden, playing with balls, obstacle courses etc but what about indoors? Now you need to get your imagination on. Pillow fights (with an adult) are actually one of the best activities for an ADHD child who is worked up, frustrated or has too much energy. Another good one is to find those old balloons at the back of the draw and play the game of how long you can keep it in the air. Hours of fun. A freeze dance game is great too. Another great thing that works in our house is that if I have too much energy and my legs twitch is to rub the offending limbs slowly moving in a downwards motion applying slight pressure. It really helps especially before bed time.
Here are some other great websites that can keep you going and take the pressure off you as the parent games coordinator.
And of course sometimes your child needs to feel calm when they have too much energy. Meditation music in the background often helps. Especially when studying. Singing bedtime songs (yes during the day) can help too. And the best is actually stopping everything everyone is doing and together taking 3 deep breaths. Count to ten both breathing in and out.
You probably know a lot of these but its worth including as a reminder, especially now you are parent and teacher:
- Don’t multitask whilst talking to them especially if you want an answer. Its is way too hard to concentrate (trust me I know)
- Make it clear what they are to do. So don’t just say it’s time to go outside. Give them a suggestion of what they could do.One or two suggestions at the most, its less overwhelming.
- If plans change, talk them through it. This plan has changed because ………… now we are going to do ………. And then ………….. (use the pictograms to help)
- Use clear visual signals so a sign on a door when they are not supposed to go in (if someone is in a skype meeting for example). Even a badge for which parent is available right now for them can help you and them to know who to talk to and who to leave alone to work.
- Keep looking at them when you talk. Even if they can’t make eye contact that’s ok but you need to show them you are there focused on them.
- Remember the power of the low clear voice. It helps always and especially during meltdowns.
- Keep instructions simple.
- Ask the children to repeat the instructions back to you to make sure they have understood.
Take Care of You
Take care of you. It is hard having kids with diagnosis. How my parents coped with the two of us I will never know. And you are used to having time out for you with school and kindergarten. And don’t like a rubbish parent for feeling frustrated and like you need a break. It’s normal and it’s ok. You are doing your best and that is all any of us can do. The great thing if you are two people at home you can use the schedule to allow you to be ‘on’ with the kids and ‘off’. We all need breaks from time to time. Don’t feel bad. Take them. Your kids will benefit from a parent who is somewhat rested. Have grown up self care time when they sleep. And give yourself and them a break. Don’t expect the world. You are doing your best and most importantly remember you can’t do better than your best.
If you have anything that this list doesn’t cover then please feel free to comment below and we will try to give you some ideas.
I hope this helps
<3 Emma-Jane and co.