“He can't sit still long enough to do his work.”
“His constant fidgeting is a distraction for the entire class."
"He can't focus and is falling behind."
My son Cole is one of more than 6 million kids in this country diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. A very loving, highly trained, and experienced teacher saw all the markers when Cole was very young. As parents, we went on high alert and looked for ways to help him.
We hoped he'd just grow out of it. He hasn't. There are no unicorns or fairies and my child with ADHD will grow up to be an adult with ADHD.
So what's a mom to do?
Don't fight the fidgets. Why? Moving helps these kids with alertness. Instead, direct the need for extra movement in subtle ways.
1. Therapy putty. Think silly putty only fancier. While originally created to help rehab patients re-build strength in their hands, therapy putty has off label benefits for kids. It helps all kids develop fine motor skills and for ADD/ADHD kids, it's an excellent outlet for moving hands. My personal favorite is EMOTIONS PUTTY (TM). It has two versions. The Calm version changes colors from purple to blue as it's manipulated, twisted and pulled.
2. Chewing gum. A simple strategy suggested by my son's teacher. (Note: My boys attend a school that specializes in kids with learning differences. This strategy may require some gentle persuasion from mom and dad in a public school setting.) If the teacher or school is unwilling to allow this small accommodation in class, keep it on hand for homework time.
3. Coloring breaks. Mrs. Kara discovered that giving Cole coloring breaks after he worked on challenging subjects helped him rest his mind and regain his focus. It works to this day. If anecdotal evidence isn't enough, there is plenty of quality research that proves that art helps calm the mind and body. Experts are now even suggesting coloring for adults is as good as meditation.
4. Classical Music. Music therapy has been scientifically proven to help concentration, focus, and improve impulse control. It merely needs to play softly in the background to be beneficial. Not all classical music is created equal. Try these specific eight songs.
5. Lean-and-Learn Wedge. Smooth on one side and nubby on the other, this wedge helps kids take the proper position in their chair. Awesome for kids who have focus challenges because the subtle stimulation signals the child to be on alert.
6. Koosh Balls. These small little guys are quiet, cheap, and can be easily managed in small hands. The idea is that they are tactile and sensory which is totally enchanting to fidgeting fingers.
7. Bouncy Bands. Think rubber bands on steroids. The bouncy bands wrap around the legs of the desk. The kids then rest their feet on top of the band and bounce their legs discreetly and quietly beneath their desk. Helps kids wiggle while they work!
8. Weighted Lap Pads. The theory behind the lap pad is that it helps kids with heightened sensory issues. It sits on the lap and has a calming effect. It's discreet and provides genuine comfort to kids. I ordered a custom pad in my son's favorite colors here.
9. Puffer Balls. I found these sweet little guys at a website for adults looking for ways to de-stress at work. They're as cheap as they are cute! Great for little hands and fidgeting fingers. There are a variety of options like penguins, teddy bears, pigs, and more.
10. Standing. The majority of kids are first diagnosed with ADD/ADHD at 7-years-old. Standing while working may not be practical as the child grows too tall to comfortably work at their desk in this position but it is an easy fix early on.
Early classroom struggles can totally alter the trajectory of your child's school experience. Being constantly disciplined and scolded for something he can genuinely not help can zap the love of learning, kill a kid’s confidence, and result in painful social implications like being viewed by classmates as a bad kid.
It doesn't have to be that way.
As a parent of a kid diagnosed with ADHD, the struggle to help my son achieve academic success has been real. Medical intervention is only one part of his care plan. Hand-and-hand with medication is teaching my son behavioral strategies.
The fidgets are an ADD/ADHD kid's friend.