There are many strategies you can use to honor your child’s gift of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and shape her behavior to achieve greater success in school. One is to never punish your child by taking away her time in nature. Because this time is what she needs to help her concentrate, you would put her in a bind if you were to take away her time in nature as a punishment for not following directions or not doing homework.
Another strategy is to avoid offering time spent in nature as a reward, because it is not effective. It is more helpful to give your child time in nature before she begins her schoolwork than to tell her that if she completes her homework she can then play outdoors. She may very well need her time in nature to facilitate doing her homework. The main idea here is that you want to work with your child’s natural gifts rather than against them. By realizing that your child feels a special connection to nature and knowing that this connection is healing for her, you can use playtime in nature as a preparation activity to help her focus, concentrate, and follow through on directions. You may want to create a schedule for your child that involves nature time before homework or household chores.
Develop and advocate for project-based learning exercises for her, both inside and outside the classroom. This means that in science classes, for example, you try to engage her senses with field trips and exploration of the world.
This type of learning exercise asks children to actually do things rather than just read about them. Children with a diagnosis of ADHD have a hard time processing abstractions or rational, linear representations of the world. However, they can be very effective at solving real-world problems and learning through engagement with the world. As a parent, you can engage your child’s interest by introducing her to a project or experience that helps to illuminate a topic she’s studying in class.
More Answers from Lara Honos-Webb, PhD