Maybe your child with ADHD or autism is excited for a new school year. But it’s more likely that they’re dragging their feet, using their smartphones, tablets, computers, and game consoles as much as possible and avoiding all conversations about new clothes, new schedules, new teachers, new friends, and new responsibilities. Here’s how to help your kids get back into school mode without making it feel like too much work… for them or you.
Help them get organized. Your kids may not have an entire summer free of responsibilities, but school means serious buckling down. You can help them work on organization skills with an app like Pinterest. Think about it: you use it to find and pin recipes and ideas and inspiration all the time because it’s the perfect visual bookmarking/curation service (we’re there, too!). Show them how they can use it to collect bookmarks about their interests and hobbies. It will be easy once school starts to add boards for science class, math class, and social studies that can help them remember formulas and plan projects.
Help them get back into a routine. Following a schedule requires equal measures of organization and planning. These are skills that don’t always come easy for kids with ADHD and ASD. Some kids benefit from using a visual schedule. You can make this process easier by using an app like First Then Visual Schedule. Setting up the app together and choosing a step-by-step process to work on now — making a sandwich, for instance — will make it easier for your child to use it when school starts, for things like getting up in the morning or preparing for homework time. You might also find an app like ChoreMonster helpful for incentivizing younger kids to complete tasks and chores. You can easily include homework once school starts.
Help them ease their anxiety. It’s natural for children to feel nervous about the coming school year. Kids for whom anxiety is already a daily experience, however, are likely to get overwhelmed. You can help them revel in the rest of the summer while they work on important self-awareness skills by allowing them to play select video games. This recent blog post contains a whole list of games appropriate for older kids that can assist in developing self-awareness skills like perspective taking and reflection. Anxiety busting is also made fun by an app like SuperBetter, which gamifies things like building self-esteem and stepping out of one’s comfort zone.
Help them choose their time wisely. It’s a tough transition to go from long sunny days of freedom to waking up early, sitting in class all day, and then coming home with homework. But school doesn’t have the spell the end of playtime if kids know how to manage their time wisely. That’s where the Screen Time app can help. Developed by a father who wanted control while still teaching his kids responsibility, Screen Time allows parents to choose which apps their kids can use and when they can use them, and even set shut-off times for their devices. At the same time, kids can see their screen time reports and gain a good visual understanding of how they’ve been spending their allotted time. An added bonus of an app like Screen Time is that it helps take the heat off you as the enforcer by placing much of the onus on kids to manage their time wisely. Once school starts, show them how to use a timer app like Timewinder to keep track of homework time and make sure they’re taking breaks to stretch and snack.
Help them get the sleep they need. Sleep is one of the biggest year-round challenges for kids with ADHD and ASD, but it becomes a real problem during the school year. There are lots of strategies for dealing with chronic sleeplessness but one of the most effective strategies, putting away devices an hour or so before bedtime, is a challenge in and of itself. You might choose to use the Screen Time app to have devices shut down at a certain time every week night. Let your kids know about this policy and it will be easier for them to accept, especially because you won’t need to physically take the device away. First Then Visual Schedule can help with bedtimes too, by allowing you to set up a bedtime routine that involves dimming lights and putting away the video games.
Remember, your kids learn and generalize skills most effectively when you talk to them about their digital play — even when it’s a game like Pokémon GO. Read more about why we think parents should play video games with their kids. Do you have strategies for helping your kids get back into school mode? Share them with us in the comments, or come talk to us on Facebook!
Featured image: Flickr user Bubbabyte.