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Amy Reilly is an educator by trade and in her spare time, drives to every possible sports location in the greater Bay Area with her three children and husband. She loves books (follow her students’ book recommendations on Instagram at Read2Revolution), great food, sharing Color Street with friends, and sneaking in digital fitness classes at when time allows. You can connect with her at theamyreilly.com.
How do you manage shelter in place AND ADHD?
In the wonderful children’s picture book Olivia by Ian Falconer, Olivia (a precocious young pig) is described waking up each morning, moving the cat, brushing her teeth, combing her ears and then moving the cat. It struck me as my 10 year-old, who we lovingly refer to as Cat, was moving our cat Popcorn for the hundredth time in a day that Falconer perfectly captured life with an ADHD child.
Do I understand why my child is moving the cat? No.
Does the cat want to be moved? Probably not.
Does the cat-moving make me want to climb the walls because I feel for said cat being constantly relocated? Absolutely.
But, yet, I have to let the cat-moving go. Why? Because surviving shelter-in-place AND ADHD with most of our sanity intact means picking our battles. If you are a fellow parent managing shelter in place and ADHD – you know, that cat is just not the battle to pick…today.
I have been an educator for almost two decades, and so when my daughter was diagnosed with ADHD, it was not a surprise nor was I uninformed about educating children with ADHD. In fact, I led a professional development about executive functions in adolescents. But, being home with my ADHD child 24-7 during our current shelter-in-place, I am learning way more about her experience with ADHD (paired with other learning differences).
Here are some reminders that I’m giving myself. (Writing them down helps me remember!)
It’s a Team Effort
I am incredibly fortunate that my daughter has a flexible classroom teacher, an amazing resource teacher and a thoughtful school psychologist who continue to provide services 1-to-1 during this time. But, I am still managing a lot of my daughter’s day to day learning. I have two teenagers doing school, a teaching load of 80 high school students and my spouse works full time, and so we have to take on various aspects.
I do rely on my teenagers to go for walks or play a card game with their sister when I get overwhelmed. My husband and I divide up supervision of her work when our schedules allow. And we give her more screen time that we normally do when we need to work. Are my teens thrilled with this situation? Not really, but we have made that the baseline expectation and then we are diligent about protecting their privacy
But, my team is even bigger than that. Cat video calls her grandparents frequently throughout the day. I’ve introduced Cat to my students when she appears in my classes, and they are incredibly forgiving when she interrupts. I talk with my friends and my colleagues about the challenges at home with ADHD, and as a result some forward resources like this inspirational talk from the Hallowell Todaro ADHD Center sponsored by Children’s Health Council that I would’ve otherwise missed.
While I don’t want to share her learning differences with everyone I meet, I do find that there is so much avoidance in talking about diagnosed learning issues that people miss opportunities to find support and help. Build bridges wherever possible, in ways that make sense.
When Cat happened to be sitting by when I was doing 1-to-1 academic video conferences, she gave moral support to students who mentioned that the distance learning was hard for them. The smile that came over their faces to hear that support from a kid’s voice was invaluable. People can bring love and light into your child’s life in many ways.
Adhere to Structures that Work
You don’t have to look very long to find that there are a bazillion strategies out there to try with ADHD. The one that most have in common is structure. This was one of the first lessons I learned when I started teaching – while letting a child with ADHD have free reign will result in amazing creative energy, they need structure to channel it into something meaningful and rewarding for them.
But, structure does not have to be rigid, minute-to- minute calendaring. For us, this means sticking to bedtime and breakfast as much as possible, checking the schedule provided by her teacher each day and prioritizing the hardest work first, if possible.
While timers work well for some individuals with ADHD, we have a hard time adhering to a timer system in our house, in part because we are terrible at enforcing it. So, we use that system sparingly. Might it work for her? Maybe, but since it’s not something we are ready to apply consistently, we stick with what works.
There’s Always Tomorrow
Until last month, I did not realize what a fifth grader does in a day! I will tell you, my fifth grader does not finish it all, and that is where we are right now. It’s not where other parents, who are lamenting that their child does not have enough to do, are. It’s not where my child would be were she going to school each day.
But, welcome to reality. I am reminding myself to set reasonable goals for what we are able to do in our current reality. While this is ALWAYS the case with ADHD (and almost every other neuro-atypical child) – everything takes an unpredictable amount of time and can go haywire in a million different ways – especially now, we have the opportunity to make acceptance the new normal.
So, I am sending a virtual hug to all the other parents grappling with ADHD in this challenging time. Take a deep breath, lean on one another and let them move the cat.