Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Five ADHD friendly tips for getting out of the house on time with everything you need.

Everyone in the ParentingGeeekly household has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder. We've never known any other way, and we're all in in together, so it's really not a big deal.  What it does mean is getting out the door and to school/work every morning is an....adventure.
I was inspired to write about some of the tricks we use after a particularly disorganized morning last week.  If you are a naturally organized person these tips are probably going to seem pretty basic and pedantic.  If, however, you struggle with ADD, ADHD or just are generally more disorganized you may find these helpful.  The most important part of any new plan or routine is following it!  There are many nights when I get tired and don't bother to lay stuff out the night before, and I *always* pay the price the next morning!

Original Photo by DangApricot. Used and modified under a Creative Commons license.

The first three days of school were great.  We were out the door early, everything we needed in hand.  Pick up was just as smooth.  Lunch bags and snack containers came home in backpacks and were washed right away once they made it home.  Then came Monday, school day four, the day we found our normal.  The one clean pair of jeans I had ready for Kitty were "too baggy".  She couldn't find her other "Star Shoe" (her current favorites, mint green Chuck Taylors), she didn't want to wear her black glasses, she wanted to wear her blue glasses....   We made it out the door in time, though she was noshing on a granola bar in the car as we hadn't had time for an actual breakfast.  We got about a half mile down the road when Nate declared "We need to go back, I forgot my book".  We live in the city. It took us fifteen minutes to turn around and get back to the house, but we did it!  We even made it to school on time! Victory!  My moment of of triumph was interrupted by Kit's shrill whine "Moooooooom, I forgot my baaackpaaaaack!  I don't want to buy cafeteeeeeeria luuunch!"  I dropped the kids off, made the 15 minute drive back to our house and brought Kit her backpack.  As I was driving back I vowed to implement systems (or reinstate systems we had used in the past)  to avoid this problem in the future.  Here is what I came up with:

Set out everything the night before:  It is one of he most tried and true pieces of organizational advice we hear, but that's because it works. If  you only pick one piece of advice to follow, follow this one. On school days one through three we set everything out the night before.  I picked out Kitty's outfit and she approved it or we made changes.  It's better to know "I hate that shirt, it itches" when you can still do something about it.  Had I taken a moment to do that the night before Awful Day Four (as it shall now be known) we could have thrown a load of her clothes into the washer, and pitched the too baggy jeans into the donation bag.  I suggest doing this at a reasonably early hour, so that you have time to make necessary adjustments (laundry, small repairs, locating missing socks, etc.). Don't think that just because your little one isn't so little that they don't need this step.  We were almost late this morning because Nate couldn't locate his belt.   We also get as much lunch and snack packed up and into the fridge as possible the night before. Sometimes it's 9:30 PM, and I have just finished cooking dinner, cleaning up after dinner and doing other chores.  I'm tired and the last thing I want to do is pack lunches.  It sucks.  But doing it in a rush 15 minutes before you need to leave sucks more.  If it can be done the night before, do it the night before.

The Count:  This is a good one for people and kids who usually bring the same things out the door with them, and is Super Dad's preferred method.  He always has four things with him: his wallet, his phone, his work badge, and his keys.  He knows he needs at minimum  those four things every day. As he leaves the house the morning he counts.  It's makes the "List" a little less to think about, works great for people who have ADHD or anyone who gets overwhelmed easily.  This is essentially what Nathan does too (Jacket, binder, phone, laptop) but we encounter an issue when something out of the ordinary like the book enters the picture.  That's when setting your stuff out the night before helps.

"Where am I going? What do I need? Do I have it?" A friend of mine (thanks, Shelly!) made this reccomendation after I posted the story of Awful Day Four on my Facebook page.  She got the idea from a professor who made her family answer those three questions every time they left the house. Shelly adopted it into her own routine and says it really works.  Conscientiously asking those questions takes you out of auto-pilot mode and makes you really think about what it is you need for the task at hand. Shelly wants to craft a sign to hang by her door.  I love this idea, and would add a chalkboard or whiteboard to help remind about those only-need-once items like Nate's book.  That leads me to:

Write it down where you can see it :  When Nate kept forgetting his laptop last year (a big part of his accommodated learning plan) his principal printed a label that said "laptop" to put above our doorknob.  This tiny little thing helped him immensely. I used to have a note, written on my mirror in eyeliner that said "Take your thyroid pill!".  After awhile your brain (especially an ADD brain) will tune out those messages, but hopefully by the time that happens you have trained yourself to make those part of your routine.

Post-Its!  I swear these are an ADD brain's best friend.  Nate has a pad stuck to the front of his assignment book, Sometimes assignments are given out too quickly or he's too overwhelmed to find the appropriate space in the planner.  He can take these notes and transcribe them into the proper spot when things are little quieter.  If he remembers during the day that he needs something for tomorrow he can jot it down and then stick it on the door when he gets home.  If I know I need one of those need-it-once items, I put a Post-it on the door to remind me.  I do the same on the bathroom mirror if I have a medication that I need to take temporarily, like antibiotics.  Yesterday I called the doctor's office and they were closed. A Post-it on my phone reminded me to call this morning.  I'll put a Post-it on the door right now to remind myself that I need to bring some insurance paperwork with me to that appointment.

This isn't perfect, there is bound to be an Awful Day Thirty Three in our future.  Even if we weren't dealing with Attention Deficit Disorder, we would forget things.  But by implementing these relatively simple routines (and following them, that's the important part, and the part we struggle with!).  We are way ahead of our "normal" game.

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