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ADHD

The following are questions and answers from Dr. Tracy Gray on this topic.

What strategies are there to help kids with LD in gym class, sports, etc.?

Students with learning disabilities and ADHD can often struggle with motor control, movement, rhythm and directionality (i.e., telling right from left), which can make certain physical activities in gym class or team sports challenging. Motor challenges can also affect academic performance as they can hinder writing and other activities. Additionally, recent research has led some researchers to conclude that there is a link between poor sense of rhythm and dyslexia.

Given the links between learning disorders and motor coordination, it is an excellent idea to think about how to address these issues within gym class or as part of a team sport. It might be a good idea to check out information about adaptive PE (or speak to an adaptive PE teacher if your school or district has one) for some ideas on activities.

Another option is one that has been discussed by parents and caregivers on our forums — using video games as rhythm, sensory integration and directionality training. A number of individuals with ADHD and learning disabilities have some success using Interactive Metronome (IM, a computer-based training program used by therapists to help improve coordination, timing and attention.

Some parents and therapists have found that children who do well with IM also seem to do well with video games like Dance Dance Revolution and the interactive sports games on the Wii Fit. While the use of these types of games with kids with LD and ADHD is fairly new, anecdotally it seems to be helpful for some students. As many schools are starting to purchase the Wii Fit for use with their students, it might be an idea to try.

Video games are often inherently motivating for young people, and may encourage them to try different activities. Each of these games tells players how to move using a combination of visual and auditory cues in addition to watching movement on screen. These cues may help students who struggle with movement and directionality.

Note from LD OnLine: Visit Dr. Silver’s Accommodations and Modifications section to see a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist’s response to the same question.

Can an ADD child get addicted to video games?

With the surging popularity of video games and interactive technology, it is smart to worry about the effects that too much time spent in front of the computer or TV can have on your child. While there is some research on the negative effects of gaming and game addiction on kids, as your doctor pointed out, it is also important to look at the positive effects video games can have.

MediaWise has a number of excellent materials on children's media (including video games), looking at the potential benefits of gaming as well as the possible detrimental effects video games could have on your child. You might also check out the Children and Media page on PBS Parents for more information on these topics broken down by age range.

Unfortunately, when video games are discussed, it is often as an umbrella category, when in reality there are many, many different types of video games, some good and some not so good for kids and learning. Many researchers initially took the view that playing video games is a pastime with few (if any) educational or social benefits.

However, recent research has demonstrated some measurable learning changes when playing certain types of video games. Playing video games has been linked to problem-solving skills, improved dexterity, and collaboration among peers.

It all depends on the type of video game being played. It is indeed true that students who frequently play violent video games may view violence as more socially acceptable and may be more prone to getting into fights and arguments. However, research has also shown that children who play more social video games are less likely to get into fights and may be more helpful to their peers.

Other researchers think that the more complex video games could help players develop the ability to set goals, prioritize tasks, and memorize complex steps in a process; gains made in game have been shown to translate into real life gains in the same areas. For someone with ADHD, these may be valuable opportunities for improving those skills.

The important thing for you as a parent is to recognize that there are aspects of playing video games that may be helpful for your son (in addition to being fun!), but that it is important to monitor his game playing closely. Don't allow him to play violent video games, or games that portray others negatively (for example, many games show women in a demeaning way or as victims of violence).

Schedule a routine or break times that don't become argument times. And make sure that video games don't completely eclipse other activities, such as getting outside to play with other kids.

Note from LD OnLine: Visit Dr. Silver's Behavior and Social Skills section to see a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist's response to the same question.

How can a parent help their teenager with ADHD (and/or LD) who has trouble staying organized?

Staying organized can often be a challenge for students with ADHD or learning disabilities. There are a number of strategies for students with ADHD to help them be more successful academically that may be helpful to your son. You mentioned that you have purchased planners for your son, but that they have been unsuccessful. As you have no doubt noticed, the difficulty with using a planner is that your child must first remember to write assignments in the planner and second must keep track of where he's left the planner. This can just add to a burden.

One possible solution is to continue the idea of a planner or to-do list but use one of the newer online to-do list programs. There are several popular free online programs available, including Remember the Milk, Ta-da Lists, and Backpack. These programs may have several advantages over a traditional planner for your son. First, they take advantage of technology your son is most likely already using (text messaging, instant messaging, and email) as a way of keeping track of tasks. Using technology can be inherently motivating for some teenagers. Many of these programs allow users to add tasks through their email, so if your son has a cell phone capable of sending email he can add tasks as soon as he finds out about them.

Another advantage is that most to-do list programs allow users to share their lists with others. Your son could share his assignment lists with you, his teachers, and anyone else who might need to monitor his progress. This way you can check assignments regularly and communicate with his teachers to ensure he isn't forgetting anything.

Finally, online to-do list programs have a number of ways of notifying users when deadlines approach. Your son could opt to receive text message reminders on his cell phone, email updates or even instant messages. These programs take away the necessity of checking in a paper planner for assignments, as your son may be more likely to notice a text message reminding him of a project due the next day than remember to look in his planner.

An online program may not solve all of your son's difficulties with organization and keeping track of tasks, but getting electronic reminders may help him manage his assignments more efficiently. Check out some of the different programs and try a few out to see what works best. Try discussing these programs with your son's teachers and see if they would be willing to assist him in this process.

Note from LD OnLine: Visit Dr. Silver's ADHD section to see a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist's response to the same question.

What software can help me with financial planning?

This is a difficult problem that many people struggle with, whether they have a disability or not. Particularly as we get older and perhaps begin investing money, saving for retirement, paying back student loans, buying a car, thinking about buying a home or other major purchases, our finances get more and more complicated. Fortunately, because it is such a common problem, there are many tools out there to help us make sense of it all.

A first step might be to educate yourself about financial planning, retirement, investing, whichever topic you feel you might need additional information on. Many adult community education centers will offer inexpensive courses on everything from financing a home to balancing your checkbook. While you may know much of this information already, it might not hurt to have a refresher on a few topics. And you may learn some new strategies for keeping things organized.

You can also find much of this information online on one of the many financial help websites out there. The Motley Fool is particularly well-known and they tend to write things in a way the average person (i.e. one with no background in finance) can understand. They also provide a number of calculators, worksheets and planning tools that may be helpful.

Another source for calculators and planning tools is Bankrate.com. These calculators may not help you with the organization part of financial planning, but they may help you with running numbers and figuring out what you need to do to achieve certain financial goals.

This would also be a great time to evaluate what you want from personal financial software. There are a variety of options out there, from the fairly simple to the incredibly complex. Do you need something to help you create a monthly budget? Would you prefer software that can track all of your assets and spending? Do you need a tool that can connect to your online banking information?

When it comes to software to assist you with financial planning and organization, it is really a matter of choice and needs. Some people are fine with creating an excel spreadsheet to track their spending and create budgets, others prefer to use a software program that does most of the work for them.

Because people with learning disabilities often struggle with organization, you may want to keep an eye out for tools that track spending for you by category. This way you can see exactly what you are spending and where. Many programs can update your records automatically with information from your bank statement. This means you don't have to be organized enough to remember to enter things on your own. Simply download your bank statement and load it directly into the software program.

Some of these types of programs include Quicken and Microsoft Money. These programs are well-known and fairly easy to use, so they may be a good place to start. Most software titles such as these will offer you a free 30-day trial, so you can shop around a little.

If you are looking for a tool that allows you to analyze and forecast your financial future, in addition to creating monthly budgets, you might look at a tool like Financial Fate. Financial Fate features tools to help you look at the months and years ahead as well as evaluate the impact of your financial decisions.

Finally, there are also a number of free (or mostly free) online budgeting and financial planning tools, such as: Clear Checkbook, Pear Budget, Buddi, Cashbox, and Gnu Cash. Some of these programs are designed to interface with your mobile phone, meaning you can access or change your budget or financial information whenever you need to. Others are designed with very simple interfaces and limited features to give you only what you need. Because you can try these all out for free, you might want to play around with a few and see if anything clicks.

Of course, each of these programs requires some degree of effort from the user. If you have a hard time staying organized, or remembering to balance your checkbook, it may be difficult to remember to upload the information into your planning software. If your struggles are more in the realm of staying on top of things and keeping organized, you might also supplement your use of personal financial software with an online tool like Remember the Milk.

Remember the Milk allows you to create reminders, to-do lists and manage tasks from anywhere and have them sent to you via text message, email, and instant messenger. You could set up a variety of reminders related to financial planning (i.e. once a month upload bank statement, every two weeks check balance, etc.) and ensure that no matter where you are, you keep your financial life organized.

Is there an audio-system that helps the student to focus on the teacher's voice?

You are probably referring to an auditory trainer (also called an FM System) which is a type of Assistive Listening Device. Auditory trainers allow students to focus on what the teacher is saying, eliminating distractions from background noise. These tools can be used with students with Central Auditory Processing Disorder, students with hearing impairments, or other students (such as those with ADD/ADHD or learning disabilities) who may have trouble filtering out classroom noise. There is a brief description of auditory trainers in the article Auditory Processing Disorder in Children.

Boystown National Research Hospital has a good description of FM Systems that may be helpful in understanding how auditory trainers can be used in the classroom. There can be drawbacks to using an auditory trainer as it may keep a student from hearing questions or comments made by other students in the classroom. However, these tools can be helpful in a lecture format, or if the teacher is sure to repeat questions asked by other students.

There are many places online to find companies that sell Assistive Listening Devices; The Hearing Review has a good list, as does ABLEDATA. However, you may want to discuss your child's needs with the assistive technology specialist for your district, or work with a specialist at your local children's hospital to ensure that you select the right product.

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