Learning Disabilities and ADHD Articles
The Truth About ADHD: It’s More Than Not Being Able to Sit Still
Consider This - The name Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is misleading and often leaves parents and educators confused. How could a student who sits quietly in class and manages to hand in most of their assignments have ADHD?
Topics:All ADHD Advocacy Anxiety Assessment Assistive Technology Cognitive Flexibility Communication Counselling Depression Emotional Regulation Executive Functions Exercise French Immersion Girls Growth Mindset Home-School Relationship Learning Disabilities Mindfulness Numeracy & Math Online Learning Outdoors Parenting Perfectionism Positive Psychology Post-Secondary Reading & Literacy Resilience Screen Time Self-Advocacy Self-Care Self-Determination Self-Esteem Social Skills Technology Teenagers Working Memory
Do you notice your child struggling to follow through on future tasks? Are they proving to have a difficult time prioritizing or reaching their goals? They are likely struggling with identifying the necessary steps to achieve a certain outcome, which is the executive functioning skill we all know as planning. Planning is an essential yet often overlooked skill in our everyday lives. Planning is a future-oriented skill that helps us as individuals accomplish goals. It is extremely important in even the most minor tasks, such as brushing our teeth or putting our shoes on.
The term ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and it is a neurodevelopmental disorder that impacts a person’s thinking, feelings, and behaviour. ADHD is one of the most common mental health diagnoses in children and adolescents, affecting approximately 5% of young people around the world.
The term ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and it is a neurodevelopmental disorder that impacts a person’s thinking, feelings, and behaviour. ADHD is a “brain boss” problem, as it is essentially a disorder of self-regulation.
Common Questions about Psycho-Educational Assessments
Why are psycho-educational assessments useful? If your child is performing differently than expected for their grade level, you should bring your child in for an assessment. If your child is struggling in school, an assessment could help explain why.
“For people without disabilities, technology makes things easier. For people with disabilities, technology makes things possible …” – National Council on Disability Many students with Learning Disabilities and attention issues can benefit from using Assistive Technology to help them with academic tasks. It helps to level the playing field so that they can access grade-level learning even if one or more of their skills, like reading, might be behind.
Attention is a complex process with many different factors that can impact it. For some of us, paying attention comes easily. For others, it can be very hard. Individuals with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or a Learning Disability may have significant struggles with their executive functioning, attention in particular. This does not mean that they are not trying to pay attention or ignoring what someone is saying to them. Instead they process information in a different way making this process more difficult. A child with ADHD is approximately 30-40% delayed in their executive functioning. This may result in them requiring more support than a neurotypical child. Even if paying attention is difficult, there are things that we can do to help direct, control and maintain our focus.
With September drawing nearer, many will be wondering what they can do to prepare their families for the return to school in 2020.
Tips on Promoting Stronger Executive Functioning
Whether it is getting ready in the morning, finishing a project, or making plans to meet up with some friends, we need certain skills to turn our goals into a reality
The global pandemic has dramatically shifted the way that children and adolescents are being educated. Students now face a number of changes in the way they attend school, including virtual classes, in-person schooling with distancing measures, or a combination of both. Notably, online learning poses unique challenges for students with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). That’s because they especially benefit from school-based services and supports.
Adolescence is a time of development and exploration – a period of growth where teens can also be faced with tough decisions. Did you know that out of all illicit drugs, cannabis is the one most commonly used across Canada? It is also often one of the first drugs a teen is offered, and according to the World Health Organization, Canadian youth have one of the highest usage rates worldwide.
Does your child become stuck thinking about topics in only one way? Do they struggle to ‘switch’ their approach and use a different problem-solving strategy? Is it more challenging for them to do something differently than how they normally do it? Are they rigid in their thinking?
Students with attention and learning issues often experience deficits in processing speed or working memory, or a combination of both. Processing speed abilities are required to work with ease, efficiency, and automaticity; in short, it’s our “thinking speed”. Up to 50% of children with learning and attention issues exhibit processing speed deficits. Working memory, on the other hand, is the brain’s Post-It Note: the ability to identify visual and auditory information, hold it in mind temporarily, and re-sequence it for use in problem-solving. Up to 80% of children with learning and attention issues may exhibit working memory deficits.
When my son was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and a Learning Disability (LD) in 2014, I worried about how he would do academically and socially. I got so caught up in the labels associated with ADHD and LDs that I forgot about how smart, compassionate, kind, and driven my son already was. That moment made me realize that I lacked the knowledge to understand what ADHD was and what an LD was and that ADHD and LDs were two totally separate things that often presented together. To help you understand why ADHD is not a Learning Disability, I thought I would start by talking about what ADHD is, what an LD is, and how they are different from each other.
(EF) are mental processes that help to connect past experience with present action to guide goal-directed behaviour. These functions underlie activities such as planning, organizing, strategizing, paying attention to and remembering details, and managing time and space. We all have strengths and weaknesses in our executive functions. However, when students struggle in these areas, it can result in behaviours that are often labelled as “attention seeking”, “defiant”, “showing off”, “unmotivated” or “lazy”, “emotional overreactions”, and “inflexible”, just to name a few.
Fact or Fiction?
As parents, you want to do what is best for your child. If your child has learning and attention challenges, you likely want to jump into action as soon as possible to get supports set up. However, it can be very overwhelming with the number of choices out there.
The Benefits of the Great Outdoors this (and every) Summer
As the school year comes to an end, public health restrictions ease, and the temperatures rise, the opportunity for getting outdoors is knocking! Is your family going to answer?
Looking out for the warning (and encouraging) signs
You have come to a point in your family’s journey where you feel that getting some outside support would benefit everyone. Perhaps you heard from a trusted friend, or your child’s teacher, or family doctor that working with a psychologist is worth considering. Okay, but where do you go from there? A quick search online lists hundreds of options which leads you to think… “Are all psychologists the same?”
When is it a Good Fit?
There are many reasons why people enrol in a French Immersion program. They might want to speak a second language to open doors for future jobs, improve their learning, learn about another culture, or even speak to foreign family members. But what if a child has a Learning Disability? Is it possible to complete this program or does it add extra stress onto the student?
I have to confess: I don’t like to exercise. While I have always liked going for walks and hikes, the gym has never been my favourite spot. But once I’ve done a fitness activity, I feel all the better.
We all have times when we feel like we’ll never get better at something, or that we’re destined to fail. Kids and teens with learning and attention issues often face more challenges and setbacks than other kids and teens. That may lead them to have a specific mindset about their difficulties. Mindset affects our everyday lives by helping us interpret our experiences and future possibilities.
As parents, we often look at summer as a time for our children (and hopefully ourselves) to have some well-deserved rest and relaxation. This is certainly important, especially because the school year provides so many extra challenges for families grappling with Learning Disabilities and ADHD.
As students head back to school this fall, they will be expected to learn numerous new bits and pieces of information every day. In fact, children, when in school, need to remember more varied information than adults do in their daily lives. This is because adults are typically in careers that allow them to build on existing knowledge. The memory demands at school are profound with new information coming at students at almost every hour of every school day, often without the time provided to allow the students to consolidate what they have learned before new information is given to them.
For many parents, it remains a question of whether they should tell their child about their diagnosis. The short answer, according to many professionals, is ‘yes.’ The bigger questions become why, when, and how.
and How Is It Related to ADHD?
ADHD can be described as a developmental disorder of inhibitory control. Children with ADHD struggle with low inhibitory control which we know because impulsivity, hyperactivity, and inattention or distractibility are the defining characteristics of ADHD. We must try to support children with ADHD to improve inhibitory control, as low inhibition may result in more risky behaviours as children get older. Parents can support their children by using behavioural strategies and, stimulant medication when prescribed by a doctor, pediatrician or psychiatrist.
When your child is diagnosed with a special learning need like a Learning Disability, school personnel are required to create an Individual Program Plan (IPP) to support their learning needs and maximize their ability. Creating an IPP with your child and your child’s teaching team is a challenging and ongoing process. But, there are things that you can do to make this process go more smoothly and effectively to advocate for your child.
The answer is - Yes! This is true for all forms of anxiety … and certainly for test anxiety. A little anxiety can be helpful for optimizing our performance, however, past a certain point, it can seriously interfere with our performance. High levels of anxiety are reflected in troubling thoughts and feelings which can manifest in a variety of ways, such as – avoidance, unusual behaviours, physical complaints, and even acting out.
Managing Self-Esteem, Relationships & Behaviours
Research suggests that the more you recognize your child for the strengths and positives that make them who they are, the more they are able to grow stronger in their strengths and to be more resilient. Working from a strength-based model also supports the management of negative behaviours. Therefore, look for opportunities to nurture your child’s strengths, preferably daily. If necessary, make yourself a list of these strengths that you can review every day so that you do not get “bogged down” by the challenges. Also, celebrate even the smallest of improvements. Most importantly, be sure to show your child that you still love him -- even when he forgets his homework.
Helping Kids with their Executive Functioning
Many children with good thinking (cognitive) abilities and academic skills struggle to get tasks started and meet deadlines. Regardless of how bright they are, they have difficulty doing schoolwork and staying on top of tasks – especially outside of the normal classroom routine. One possible explanation is that the mental processes that enable us to plan ahead, start and finish tasks, and manage our time (i.e., executive functions) need work. Children need to be taught executive functioning skills. Caregivers can help children by looking for ways to teach executive functioning skills at home – whether it’s through a school assignment or a household chore. We can really help our kids by giving them some practice with removing distractions, initiating tasks, and planning when the stakes are low, and they can afford to make mistakes. What’s great about practicing those skills at home is that they are transferable to all areas of life.
What Educators Need to Know
A key feature of those with Learning Disabilities, no matter the definition used, is the unusually high level of effort and support required for the individual to achieve. Help the student to discover their learning strengths and needs, what supports their learning, and how to communicate these needs appropriately.
What Parents Need to Know
Learning Disabilities are life-long disorders that can affect all areas of an individual’s life. With the appropriate supports in place, though, these individuals are very capable. They can learn, and they have the potential to lead happy and successful lives.
Does your child engage in last-minute cramming sessions to prepare for unit tests? Has your child ever pulled an all-nighter to finish a project? Most children and adolescents have experienced the unpleasant consequences of procrastination. All parents have heard their child say, "I'll do it later," only to find that the task was never completed. To a certain extent, this is normal. Many people have a natural tendency to put off tasks until tomorrow, until the weekend, or until a time when they "feel like doing it." Unfortunately, procrastination patterns in childhood can grow into unhealthy habits in adulthood. Eventually, these habits can lead to stress, anxiety, and depression. Additionally, procrastination can contribute to lower grades, dependence on others to complete work, and tardiness.
Helping Your Adolescent Transition to Adulthood
We all have to grow up someday, but did you feel ready to take on the world when you turned 18? If you answered “no”, you are far from alone. The transition from adolescence to adulthood is challenging for most, and it is a particularly vulnerable time for individuals with Learning Disabilities (LD) and/or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Is it anxiety? Challenges with attention? Learning difficulties? Or, all three? How do I know what is causing what?
There is nothing wrong with having high standards and wanting to be the best you can be. The problem comes when the desire to be “perfect” all the time creates so much anxiety that we begin to be held back or start to feel bad about ourselves.
Imagine this scenario: Your child is studying for a math test and is feeling anxious about it. They try to focus on their study notes, but their thoughts keep drifting… “I failed the last test… I don’t understand this material… Everyone gets it but me… I can’t do this…”
It is hard to believe that August is already upon us. At this point in the summer, we are often torn between enjoying the last bit of summer and contemplating how to get our children prepared to return to school. Many of us who have children in our lives often worry about our children’s academic skills slipping over the summer - the so-called "summer slip". We try to come up with ways to support them over the eight weeks they are away from school (four weeks if your children are in year-round school programs). The question of preventing "summer slip" is even more pronounced this year than in any other as we continue living under the impact of a global pandemic.
This is a test Article.
We understand that boys are more likely to show obvious symptoms of ADHD, yet conversely, they can sit quietly and hyperfocus while gaming. While this may make for a nice break from the noise and activity for you, gaming doesn’t actually provide rest for your child’s brain or support recuperation of the cognitive resources used up during the school day. Incorporating a gaming schedule may be helpful. However, research shows that getting your children involved in individual activities that they are motivated to participate in is the best way to provide them with a fun way to practice focusing on one task at a time. And who knows, they could be a black belt or a world-renowned artist in no time!
“If positive psychology teaches us anything, it is that all of us are a mixture of strengths and weaknesses. No one has it all, and no one lacks it all.” Christopher Peterson
Preparing vs Protecting Children from Mistakes, Anxiety and Failure
Myth: Protecting my child from making mistakes and experiencing failure gives them the best chance of success in life. Helping my child avoid stressful situations that trigger anxiety, helps them to be comfortable and happy throughout their life.
The school bell has rung for the last time this year, the kids are excitedly talking about the long summer days ahead, and you are looking at the next two months with relief that you no longer have to shuttle them to their many activities and monitor schoolwork. But, what about that little voice at the back of your mind that is worried the kids might lose ground on what they have accomplished this year?
Self-care is a topic that is discussed often, though not often really defined. Taking care of yourself has always been incredibly important, but it is especially so right now during such an uncertain time. July 24 is International Self-Care Day, and on this day, I hope you and your family take the time to determine what is needed to ensure you are taking care of yourselves.
You can help your child develop good reading skills and encourage a love of reading. Fluent reading involves combining easily recognized words with words that, although not recognized at a glance, are blended together combining individual sounds into a whole and then using the context to make the process of recognition and assembly go faster.
Supporting Your Child’s Mood Changes and Behaviours
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to limit our ability to live as we would like, we need to be on alert for signs of depression, particularly in our children with ADHD and/or Learning Disabilities (LD). Feeling down in this time of cancelled activities and social distancing is unavoidable. Many of us are struggling to stay positive. But depression is more than just feeling sad or having bad days. A child who seems to be stuck in a negative “low” mood, such as feeling hopeless and not able to enjoy anything, may have depression and may need more help. However, with everyone struggling in these uncertain times, how does a parent of a child with LD/ADHD tell the difference between a child who is just feeling irritable/frustrated and a child who is slipping into depression? What signs or symptoms should parents watch for? And, how can they best support their child through their emotional struggles?
This article will discuss why children are drawn to screen time, how screens impact sleep, and the influence screens have on a child’s social, emotional, and behavioural development. It will end with strategies for creating boundaries around screens.
How to Help Children with LD & ADHD Observe and Evaluate Themselves
Have you ever struggled to figure out a way to improve your productivity? Do you know which of your behaviours might be unhelpful to you? If so, you have used self-monitoring to increase your self-awareness. Self-awareness might be the tool your child needs to increase their self-awareness and improve their academic performance!
It is easy to spot frustrated children. They often show their feelings in behaviour we can see (e.g., tantrums and meltdowns). When this behaviour happens occasionally, we can usually manage. But, what happens when challenging behaviour becomes more frequent, more intense, and longer lasting than the average outburst? We may feel frustrated, dismayed, helpless, and even hopeless at times. How can we make sense of what is going on with children? And, what can we do to help?
When the start of school is on the horizon, families begin to adjust their routines to welcome in the start of a new year. This transition can cause a lot of stress for many parents and families, but by engaging in a few things ahead of time, this transition can go much smoother.
The development of self-advocacy skills is of utmost importance to the successful transition of students with disabilities from school into adult life.
It’s that time of year again! Students and families transitioning from summer activities and sleeping in to gearing up for the new school year. For some, this is an exciting time. For others, this can bring uncertainty and worry. Covid-19 is still present in our day-to-day life, which brings many questions about the upcoming year. Is it safe to send my child to school in person? Will my child be able to see their friends again like before? Will there be switches or inconsistencies throughout the school year? Will they be behind in their academics? Will they feel overwhelmed or will they be able to catch up?
How to Support Your Child with Cognitive Flexibility
Cognitive flexibility skills allow us to adapt to change and find new solutions to the problems we encounter in our everyday lives. Many children with neurodevelopmental disorders and Learning Disabilities struggle with cognitive flexibility because their brains are still developing. You can help your child develop their cognitive flexibility by helping them regulate their emotions, modelling flexible thinking, and providing them with opportunities to practice their cognitive flexibility skills.
The Covid-19 pandemic has blanketed the world in uncertainty, unrest, stress, and anxiety. We are all struggling - adults and children alike. Take a moment and reflect on how your child is managing in light of the pandemic. Are they experiencing symptoms related to fear, panic, dread, anger, or sadness? Do their thoughts revolve around ‘what if’s’ and worrying about the unknowns? Are they acting out their distress, or holding it all in? Are they finding it difficult to enjoy life? Remember that stress and anxiety are natural responses that are meant to help us, but can become problematic. Whether your child struggled with anxiety pre-pandemic or is facing new struggles as a result of it, this article may be helpful to you.
With the current pandemic, many children and teens are having more screen time than ever before. There a number of reasons why screen time is appealing and ways that the apps and programs are designed to make them hard to put down. This can be an issue with all children but especially so for children with executive functioning challenges and attention issues. What can parents do to create some structure and limits around screen time usage?
“Tell me and I will forget, show me and I will remember, involve me and I will understand.” (Chinese Proverb). It is that time of year when teachers prepare to meet parents for the first time. Many of these meetings revolve around goal setting for Individualized Program Plan (IPPs) however, this concept relates to all students. Parent, student and teacher unite to set goals the child will aim to achieve that school year. After goals are set and IPP documents are established, it is at this point that the students’ engagement in the process wavers.
As we start a new school year, it’s a good time to reflect on what went well previously and what can be done better going forward. Student-parent-teacher communication can significantly impact student success, and there are a wide range of experiences with this dynamic.
Strategies for Organizing the Home and Family
Mornings, especially Monday mornings, can be quite chaotic for families. Lunches need to be made, shoes need to be found and homework needs to be completed and sent back to school. For parents of children with ADHD and other disorders impacted by executive functioning difficulties, these mornings can be even more hectic. These children need constant reminders, struggle to find those missing items on their own and forget that their social studies project is due that day. These issues occur due to the inherent difficulties of executive functioning weaknesses related to planning, managing time, adaptability, decision making, predicting consequences and generalizing from previous experiences. Thankfully, there are numerous strategies available to parents to create a calmer, more organized home environment. Of utmost importance is that parents become their children’s “external executive functions” so that the children can learn the skills to engage in such functions independently. This includes putting into place strategies and routines that work with their specific areas of difficulty.
Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a brain-based disorder that impacts up to 12% of school-aged children. There are 3 types of ADHD: inattentive, hyperactive-impulsive and combined. Boys are diagnosed more often than girls because they get noticed for their behaviour problems. Girls tend to keep things to themselves, struggle in silence and get overlooked. We need to better understand girls with ADHD so we can support them with our care. They need our compassion and encouragement to develop a positive sense of self and maximize their full potential.
There comes a time, as a parent when you realize your child no longer needs your protection 24/7. We call this moving from ‘parenting to protect’ to ‘parenting to prepare.’ This movement starts as the child begins to recognize their own wants, needs, and voice in the world. However, this change is not always easy. As a parent, and especially as a parent to a child with an LD and/or ADHD, you have spent years advocating for the needs of your child. You have ensured that they are adequately cared for, educated, understood, and seen. Moving from ‘parenting to protect’ to ‘parenting to prepare’ doesn’t mean ceasing to advocate for your child; instead, it means advocating with your child.
Emotion Regulation and the Teenage Brain
For any parent with a teenager, it comes as no surprise that the emotional lives of adolescents can be very different from adults. Teenagers tend to react to stressors (e.g., peer conflict, exams) more strongly, experience negative emotions more often, and experience more frequent and intense mood swings than adults.
“Nerves and butterflies are fine – they’re a physical sign that you’re mentally ready and eager. You have to get the butterflies to fly in formation, that’s the trick.” ~Steve Bull
The Truth About ADHD: It’s More Than Not Being Able to Sit Still
Consider This - The name Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is misleading and often leaves parents and educators confused. How could a student who sits quietly in class and manages to hand in most of their assignments have ADHD?
Executive functions are the self-regulation skills we use every day to plan, manage time, and organize. Organization is an essential executive functioning skill that impacts development and learning. Yet, many children have trouble creating and maintaining routines to keep track of information and materials. Kids who have unique learning and/or attention challenges may struggle with this due to the slower development of their “brain boss” or executive functioning center. Classic examples of organization - a clean workspace, bedroom, or backpack - show the importance of how the physical environment is arranged. But, organization is much more than keeping a tidy space! Internal skills like organizing thoughts and ideas, or telling a story in a logical way, impact learning and the way we carry out day-to-day tasks. Organizational skills also interact and work with other executive functions like planning, time management, and self-monitoring. These skills are introduced in childhood and continue to develop into adulthood to support our ability to set and accomplish goals.
Seeing a toddler throw a tantrum or experience a meltdown is often considered a normal part of development. But, if your school-aged child is throwing a tantrum, they are likely exeriencing difficulties regulating their emotions. Emotion regulation is the ability to appropriately manage and express your emotions so that you can remain calm and adapt to the demands of a given situation. Handling frustrations and maintaining focus helps children succeed at school and in social settings. Emotion regulation also allows them to adjust to changing expectations.
Why It's Important and How to Support It
Many of us have, on occasion, struggled to remember a phone number, multi-step directions or a grocery list. This now forgotten information was once held in our working memory. It can, however, be retrieved with intervention such as deliberately looking up the information or asking someone to repeat it verbally. Working memory is unique to other types of memory as it allows us to hold information in mind just long enough to manipulate it and act on it. Working memory helps us remember the question while we consider and provide an answer. Our working memory abilities naturally increase over the course of the school years and then decrease through adulthood. Children with Learning Disabilities or ADHD frequently have working memory deficits, which can look like disorganization, forgetfulness, distraction, and difficulty following multi-step tasks. Working memory plays an important role in learning and these children frequently struggle in the classroom and at home. While it is difficult, if not impossible, to purposely alter working memory ability, information can be transferred from working memory to long-term memory where it is more stable and where there is much more capacity. There are also several ways that parents and teachers can help support children’s working memory so that they may experience more success in these environments.