Unlocking ADHD writer Constance Thum looks at why and how regular schedules impact ADHD children and teens.
Why Set Routines?
Routines are an integral part of our lives and range from simple activities like brushing our teeth or taking a shower to important tasks such as cleaning up after ourselves and switching off electrical appliances before leaving the house. For children and teens with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), setting routines may help them become more organised and productive, among other reasons.
For ADHD children and adolescents who are hyperactive and impulsive, setting routines are key to managing their behaviour and ensuring predictability with order and structure. Having a set routine allows ADHD children and teens to focus on a single, repeated activity, thus minimising distractions and irregularity for maximum efficiency.
Another reason for setting routines is to establish expectations and clear rules to follow (more information). For the hyperactive child and teen struggling to sustain prolonged attention, routines, especially visual schedules, are constant reminders of what they are expected to do and when.
For example, having fixed meal times will ensure that ADHD children and teens do not skip meals and are a reminder for their adult caregivers to prepare their food. ADHD children and teens have difficulty thriving in ambiguous situations since constant guessing may create anxiety. Routines are thus important in creating stability and set responsibilities for ADHD kids, as well as for their caregivers.
Parents and caregivers may also benefit from setting routines for ADHD children and teens thanks to reduced stress. Family relationships and identity may also be strengthened since each member plays a role based on the agreed routine.
How to Set Routines
To set an effective routine, adults should remember to establish clear and systematic rules and expectations in order to avoid overwhelming ADHD children and teens with an overload of information and responsibilities.
For parents setting routines, you may consider the following tips (more information):
- Specific instructions
- Determine your child or teen’s capabilities before setting routines
- Discuss with your child or teen about routine specifics and expectations for mutual clarity and agreement
- Visual aids to prompt your child or teen (eg. a routine list sheet taped to a visible, accessible, and commonly frequented space, like the living room or the bedroom)
- Being realistic about expectations
- Allocating time for leisure activities and personal time
A sample routine for an ADHD child or teen may also be found here.
Teachers should likewise set routines with clearly established rules for ADHD children and teens that are enforced with a degree of firmness, while taking into account individual strengths or limitations (more information). Parents, educators, and healthcare professionals should triangulate feedback to modify their communication and care strategies when interacting with ADHD youths.
Overall, parents and educators should keep in mind that ADHD children and teens require time to adjust to routines, and that these routines should be tailored to their age and maturity, needs and preferences, as well as the needs of those around them. Once these routines are established, the benefits may be extensive and long-lasting!