It’s Never Too Early to Foster Independence in ADHD Kids

I will never forget that day.

Parents were dropping off their children to start the first semester of their first school year at Boston University. You could feel the mix of anticipation and fear etched onto the face of kids and parents alike. While the kids settled into their dorms, parents scoured many campus facilities. As an Academic Support Specialist, I managed the tutoring centre available to undergraduate students.

A father and mother went to visit the centre for tutoring. Then, in a flash, the conversation took the conversation to a new level.

Concerns About Fostering Independence

The mother began to inform me she was concerned since her son had ADHD and was unsure how he would handle the demands of being an independent student in college. Although she wasn’t looking for an answer from me, she thought aloud, “Without my husband or me here, can he?

  1. Make use of the available resources, such as tutoring? (She stated that any help the student received during high school was because due to the “prodding.”)
  2. Do you think he can advocate for himself before the professors?
  3. Request accommodations if he requires accommodations? (He is registered in the Office of Disability Services, however, since he started in his decision not to request accommodations, they didn’t request accommodations.)
  4. Do you remember to wash his clothes? (She has always done it in his absence.)

She was worried about his performance at college. As we discussed my conversation with her, it appeared like she had valid reasons to be concerned.

Preparing Early To Foster Independence:

Every child with ADHD differs significantly in their requirements and capabilities. In light of this, think about how you can support your child to grow and increase independence by asking:

  1. How can I help my child to advocate for themselves?
  2. How can I motivate my children to reach the assistance they require?
  3. What task(s) can my child be expected to take on?
  4. Where can I stand back to allow my child to be able to step up?

Next, you should focus on holding and empowering the child responsible. Instead of jumping in and doing everything to them, focus on the tasks your child can perform independently. Applaud processes and systems are well-executed instead of looking only at the results as an indicator of achievement. The most important thing is to keep the long-term objective of fostering independence rather than the immediate goals of “getting stuff done.”

An Example:

It’s not an easy task and requires a lot of patience. There are times when you be tempted to jump into the fray to “save your child!” However, patience pays off, as you’ll see in this video (offered by my daughter with her permission).

After the first-term results were released this year, my daughter and I talked about how we could get assistance in some of her classes. We came up with a plan which included.

  1. what type of assistance she could seek
  2. and who she must contact to discover what resources are available
  3. and the steps she will need to follow

Two weeks passed before a plan began to develop. I could have accomplished this in one day by calling their guidance counsellor. Believe me. I was attracted!

Instead, whenever she came across a “roadblock,” we strategized when she told us.

  1. “I forgot” … We reviewed (again) ways to utilize her new planner and how to review her list of things to do during the day.
  2. “I couldn’t find my guidance counsellor” … we discussed other methods to contact her instead of abandoning the search. She sent me an email to make an appointment.

After meeting with her counsellor, my daughter told me, “I’m glad that I initiated that.”

Me, too!

Where Can You Foster Independence?

Can you think of the instances in your child’s life where you could be a bit more relaxed and let your child take the initiative? Can they be?

  1. Do they do their laundry on their own?
  2. Do you ever cook a meal for a special occasion?
  3. Keep their calendars, and you keep their appointments on your calendar?
  4. Maintain their to-do list that you can go through as they learn to utilize it?
  5. Work with you to find a solution to the issue of your “current roadblock”?

You might be frightened of the child being asked to take on more. In all fairness, it’s a lot of time and energy to keep up with schoolwork and extracurriculars.

It’s tempting to think, “Why to add more hassle to the mix. And besides, if I don’t do it, Then what?”

In the long term, this kind of thinking could result in us doing much more for children with ADHD than is helpful for them.

Beyond The Here and Now:

It’s a challenge to help children with ADHD successfully navigate teens and into high school, let alone those that go beyond. I’ve been there. The bottom line is that the road to independence for children with ADHD is more complex than that of neurotypical children. It’s true.

Although you won’t be able to predict everything your child will require in college, the sooner you start preparing, the simpler you’ll be.

Next Steps:

It’s never too late to start. In every stage of development, there is a chance for your child to grow some or accept just one task at one time. It may seem like baby beginnings but eventually can lead to the ultimate goal of helping your child develop independence. The best time to start making steps is when you’re in the eighth grade when students are getting ready for the next high school stage. It’s a good thing to begin doing incrementally as along.

By The Way:

My daughter began washing her laundry about one year ago, in eighth grade. Today, I discovered her laundry inside my laundry hamper. She explained (with the cutest smile) that her hamper was full.

It’s a long, prolonged process.

The last time I was with her, I helped her with her homework. She’s still learning, which takes time to acquire new techniques. This time, her clothes will be returned to her hamper.

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