Some basic ADHD strategies

With a recent diagnosis, now the majority of people in our house have ADHD, which drives the remaining person crazy. But. I need to write down the ADHD information for reference. Maybe this will be useful for others.

Dr. Ari Tuckman (More Attention, Less Deficit) suggests these six strategies as the ones that underlie the hundreds of strategies he’s run across. Sometimes you have to give the specific strategy because the underlying one here seems too diffuse to you, but with practice you can apply these. There are basically two strategies for each flavour of ADHD:


1. Reduce distractions. So if you have the TV going, shut it off while you’re having a conversation. If you have a cool neato program running when you’re supposed to be doing something else, shut it off. You can always tape the show and watch it later, or play the game later. Your friends will probably be on FaceBook later, too.

2. Make what you’re supposed to be doing more attractive. Sometimes that’s as simple as new pens or Post-Its for the novelty. Novelty isn’t a bad word; just make sure that the novelty makes you want to do the thing you’re supposed to be doing, and isn’t itself a distraction. (This would apply to those ADHD sufferers who have to have something else going on, like the fellow who had to have a movie playing on his laptop while he wrote his thesis.) Know yourself!


3. Find a way to fidget legitimately. This involves maybe having a fidget toy, or scheduling some time after school or work for some punishing exercise to try and get it out of your system for a while.

4. Avoid situations where you can’t fidget at all. If you have a choice (and sometimes you don’t), don’t go to the opera if you have to sit still for three hours. Don’t hang around with the friend who sits on the couch doing nothing if that’s all they do. (Everybody has bad days, so that might be what they do once in a while, but if you find they’re sitting still and you can’t more than half the time, well, maybe you should restrict your time with them and find people who want to do things.

School is tough, but usually they’re helpful about fidget toys if you just ask.


5. Try not put yourself in situations where you know you’re impulsive. If you know you spend too much money at a store, try not to go there; if you know you spend too much time at a web site, try not to go there. When I went to the World Fantasy Con, for instance, I left my credit and debit cards in the car in the glove compartment, and took a certain amount of cash. I was trying to limit how much I could spend.

6. Limit the damage of an impulsive action. For instance, if you spend too much money at a store, don’t take your credit or debit card, and decide how much you can spend–and then take that much cash. If you spend too much time at a website, don’t use it as your reward for doing 45 minutes of good work, because you know yourself and you’ll spend more than ten minutes there. So instead, visit the website as your end-of-the-day, it’s-all-finished reward. You might still spend too much time there, but at least the other stuff got done.

So for instance, my son frequently loses track of time at the bike park: so maybe he sets it up so a parent will come at the predetermined time, so he can’t miss the deadline. Or he sets his iPod to buzz him at 5:00 so he comes home. (He keeps losing his watch; he loses the iPod less often.)

My daughter spends a lot of time on Tumblr. Maybe she puts a time lock on her computer so that she can only open certain programs at certain times, or that they are up for only a little while before the program complains. (Actually, there are add-ons like that for Chrome and FireFox; there might be something for other browsers, too.) Sure, she can beat them (it’s her computer) but that takes time, and that gives her the chance to figure, "Should I be doing this?" Maybe she rewards herself for piano practice by playing some song that’s she’s really good at, so she gets that reward of "Yeah, I am good at this," because when you’re learning a new piece, you spend a lot of time making mistakes.

Making something into a habit is about reducing distractions. You don’t have to think about it, it just happens: I go into the bathroom in the morning and take my medicine just before I brush my teeth. If I don’t brush my teeth in the morning (which sometimes happens on a weekend) I usually forget to take my medicine until later, because the two usually go together for me. Often I don’t remember doing something that’s a habit (but that’s a different issue).


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