Dear Adult, let’s accommodate each other’s needs!
Ten things that adults can do differently for children with or without ADHD
Dear Adult, I am sorry that you have to struggle to deal with me. To help you accommodate me, I have made a list of ten things you can do differently. Try them; you might feel at ease.
1. Allow me to rely on external help:
Any information essential to remember right here and now needs to be outside of my brain in the visual field. I can not stop and hold things in mind and have got to externalise the information. My friends might be able to carry the same in their minds. But ironally, I need to see that information by bringing it outside of my brain space only to take it back to my brain.
I know that this world would be a better place for adults if every child could have reservoirs of internal motivation to rely upon. Yet, for me, it always comes down to an emotional footing for doing things.
I need you to normalise the use of external and physical forms of information. Using sticky note signs, timers, symbols, charts, cubes, and reminders doesn’t make me a dependent on anything.
I understand when you don’t want to make me depend on external things to performance tasks that are no-brainer for you. But I don’t entirely understand when you resist the idea of me using a mobile app as a study tool, or a friend sending a text msg as a reminder. It is not a bad thing that I need a timer and am calendar dependent if it helps organise my life.
The constant struggle of motivation: I like this subject, but I hate that teacher, I feel anxious about tests, and I feel excited when I am quizzed.
2. Write the future needs and expectations:
I often feel like keeping a journal glued to my body to make up for my working memory deficit. I need to immediately write anything I agree to do or anything others ask me to do in that journal. It helps me make the time into three chunks; the events coming toward me; the responses I prepare; the consequences, and the outcomes of what I am doing now. If this extends more than just a few minutes to a half hour, I will need a day planner or another way to track time.
It does not indicate that I’m mentally weak.
At times, I feel, I can’t go anywhere without a notebook and a pen. Just as I have seen you charge your power bank religiously before leaving for a day trip.
3. Help me manage my brain space
If I’ve agreed to do something over time, such as a science project, you will need to break that into steps for me. Unfortunately, I can’t point to the future and plan the summer reading. I love it when you say, “I’m going to have to have something in it for you if you persist.
Please help me see the future coming at me. I get scared when you remind me repeatedly that l have that reading assignment due this summer. At the same time, I must be reminded of what I have done about that, in an objective way.
I love when you say, "We are going to take the assignment, and you will read three pages today". Or "You will read four pages today, and I will give you 15 tokens."
4. Understand I feel time rather than experience it:
Let there be a timer for anything that involves time. But, unfortunately, my internal clock wasn't made with Swiss precision, nor does it keep time in seconds and minutes.
This explains the stormy relationships with clocks and deadlines. I see time not as a sequence but as a train of events connected to the people, activities, and emotions involved.
There is Eastern Time, Central Time, and Pacific Time — then there is ADHD Time.
5. Break it down for me:
The minute you stretch these things apart with a deadline, my brain puts a month (30 days x 30) between now and the deadline. So the solution is to reset my brain by building steps and little bridges across time.
I want you to understand that when you tell me that I have got to read a novel before it’s due in 30 days, I freeze big time.
6. Believe me when I say I will not become greedy:
I want you to stop worrying about giving rewards or putting incentives for me to work on my assignments or carry on my daily life task. It will not in any way foster a sense of doing things for external or materialistic gains only. This will, in fact, spare other people; I don’t need to rely on those things so much.
Unfortunately, the pool of self-help resources, toolkits, time management approaches and self-regulating techniques is mostly based on people who don’t work the way my brain does. So, when I forget stuff despite the effort, please don’t get angry. I’m trying!
7. Don't ask me to do arithmetic in my head:
I miss that time when for each math problem, I was given a bunch of marbles, a number line and an abacus, a counting frame, for a calculator.
Wouldn't it be fun if I did math with my hands the way it originally was done?
You taught me to assist Granny when she used a walking aid, then how is my reliance on external items different?
When Granny forgot to take her medicine, I saw you sort her pills in a pill box, then how is breaking down tasks for me different?
9. Don’t scare me off religion:
I feel very frightened when you tell me how God will test me for things that I do/did knowingly or unknowingly.
I appreciate that you only intend to encourage me for being a good person, but it scares me that I will be accountable for "horrible deeds" with no intention. The funny thing is that half of the time, I don’t even remember things that I have done unknowingly.
Since I don’t want to get into trouble for things that I didn’t even know I did or happened, I get crippled with the fear of being judged on sins I didn’t even know I committed.
If God made me this way and gave me an inattentive and clumsy brain, then God would understand my struggles. How come I am told otherwise?
At times, it reminds me of getting into trouble in school because of the kid’s next seat. Worst part, my class teacher would never believe it when I told her it was not my mistake.
10. Don’t get angry when I get angry:
Help me restore that as a spark for getting busy on a challenging task. With a bit of mental jiu-jitsu, I can turn my anger into something positive Remember that day when you taught that magic trick to convert my angry energy by asking a few questions:
- What's causing my rage — what's underneath this?
- What do I care about that's making me angry?
- What could I do to use that energy to move forward with this thing that's making me angry?
Answering these questions helped me understand what inspires me to fuel motivation and problem-solving. So next time I am mad, I will try to observe that fuel and ask these same questions.
When you offer a solution to me, please don’t say, “Stop whining and complaining!”
Good Job & Keep Trying
I remember this one time I had to write a story essay, and you gave me a couple of cards. You asked me to sit down and write a thought per card and didn’t care about right and wrong. You also told me that I didn’t want to note down any random idea my brain came up with. That helped me stay on the topic. It allowed my mind to run wild but focus on one thought I had to write per card. The best part was that you took my cards and reorganised them; voila, I could create the story and plot!
Thank you for trying to make mental information physical and manage the contents of my mind creatively to exempt multiple possibilities.
So please continue doing what you did that day; instead of focusing on what I can’t do, please look toward what I can.