In today’s Times, we talk with Blake Taylor, UC Berkeley freshman and author of “ADHD & Me: What I Learned from Lighting Fires at the Dinner Table,” a youthful memoir about his childhood with attention deficit disorder. ADHD is not a curse, says Blake, 18, it’s a gift, if you can learn to compensate for its disadvantages and take advantage of its blessings. Kids with ADHD tend to be curious and creative, to think outside the box, and become hyperfocused on things that interest them.
Among the resources that gave Blake and his family hope was “The Gift of ADHD” by Walnut Creek ADHD expert Lara Honos-Webb. Now, Honos-Webb has a new book out: “The Gift of ADHD Activity Book: 101 Ways to Turn Your Child’s Problems into Strengths.” And we’re excerpting a few of those right here.
“I have become convinced,” Honos-Webb writes in her introduction, “that most of the bad behavior of ADHD children can be solved by the same strategy … identifying the problem (and) adopting a problem-solving attitude, not a blaming one.” Instead of emphasizing consequences, work on “procedural learning,” she says, because learning a skill requires practice and everything – following directions, being organized, staying focused – is a skill.
“If you were trying to teach your child to ride a bike, you wouldn’t put him in time-out each time he fell,” she says. “You would show him what he needed to do differently, while providing emotional support and motivation to keep going. This approach can be applied to teaching your child appropriate behaviors, emotional intelligence and social skills.”
Instead, says Honos-Webb, give information, build skills, problem solve, use repetition, motivate and persist. Think of yourself as a coach.
Activity 1: The Hearty WHOOPS!
One of the most important things a coach can do is to motivate his child to keep going even when the child goofs up. You can practice this by having your child make silly mistakes and practicing an exaggerated “whoops!” response… Don’t waste your time trying to teach your child to be perfect. Don’t try to teach your child not to fail. Teach your child the healthy rebound – resilience… You don’t want to teach your child to be failure phobic. Play at failing and making a quick recovery. This way your child won’t be tempted to hold only small dreams to avoid failure. He also won’t be stopped when he does encounter failure.
Other activities include “The Magic Can,” a game that boosts organizational skills and helps tame the messes that are so characteristic of ADHD kids, the “Roving Reporter” to hone direction-following skills, and “Sacred Spacey Place,” which helps designate places where it’s important to focus and other places where a kid can just dream.