With memory and focus problems our son was finding school overwhelming with all its many distractions and sensations. Working mother Jette shares how a clever scheduling app has not only helped her keep her son organised but also helped build his confidence and made him calmer too.
Our son is eleven years old and was diagnosed with ADHD a couple of years ago...
We found that we usually needed to tell him things - give him instructions - multiple times and of course, not only can that be frustrating, but it's also very time-consuming especially when you are in a rush in the morning and trying to get out of the door for school and work.
I would have to lay out his clothes and say, 'put on the t-shirt', 'now the trousers' and at the breakfast table it would be 'please eat because we're leaving soon'. I always had to remember everything for him. It's not just about focusing on what you're saying though. He also experiences memory difficulties and we used to have pictograms - charts - on the walls for him so that he could remember what to do, and when and in what order. These weren't really working anyway because our son didn't really notice them.
He also finds school extremely overwhelming with all its many distractions, sensations and information. The school even told us he was regularly spotted just wandering the corridors - and on bad days he would repeatedly walk home, leaving his shoes or jacket at school, regardless of the weather.
We began looking for a solution to these problems, something that could help give him some structure or timely reminders. I came across something called Tiimo in a support group on Facebook. It's an app - a planning tool really - that helps you provide structure for your child throughout their day. After seeing a few ads for it I decided to test it out - and it's been a big success.
The main thing it has helped with is scheduling. You add to a calendar all the things they have to do - and reminders. Both my husband and I can pop our son's activities into his calendar from our phone or tablet - his lessons, or after-school activities, in fact, anything that he is doing.
You can tailor it to suit your child's learning style. As our son is more of a visual than a verbal learner we like to add icons or pictures next to each activity in his calendar. So if he has football after school we can add a football shirt next to the activity to help remind him to take his kit. You can add colours or emoji too which I think makes it more fun - and certainly more noticeable and memorable.
One of the main things it has helped with is his focus. As with many children with cognitive deficit disorders, our son can easily lose focus and become disoriented, forgetting what it is he was in the middle of doing. The app also lets you add countdowns to an activity, so it will remind them of how long is left of a lesson, or until home time or until they have to be ready to do the next thing.
Whatever is scheduled is then synced with his smartwatch. You can run it on a phone or a tablet, but we realised that using a smartwatch is better because he should always - hopefully - have it on his wrist and not in a bag, or a locker, and it's harder to lose. At the appropriate time then he gets notifications which give him a subtle reminder of what's up next or what he should be doing. This is particularly handy at school as it doesn't draw attention to him and he no longer has to rely on verbal or written reminders for every little thing.
It's certainly made a difference - not least because it's cut down on a lot of the repetition and frustration for us as parents. I think our son is now so much happier too. He used to feel that his mind was very chaotic, whereas now the app reminds him of everything he should do. It seems clear that he needs everything visually structured in order for him to thrive.
Overall it is certainly helping; he seems more at ease, probably because I'm not continuously chasing him around. He's more confident and more independent, which is really lovely to see. I can honestly say it has also reduced the levels of conflict and stress in our family because he now needs less support and structure from us.
As a busy working parent, the app frees up time and energy for me in the morning as well as in the evening too, so in a way, it is also helping me stay organised too!
Jette; mother and full-time working professional