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Section 14
Improving Task Performance Among ADHD Children

Question 14 | Test | Table of Contents | ADHD CEU Courses
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In the last section, we discussed five key strategies for dealing with ADHD children in the classroom. Those five key strategies were 1. Thinking ADHD, 2. Crisp Behavior Management, 3. Prevention, 4. Dealing with Parents, and 5. Experimental Thinking.

In this section, we will discuss teaching time management for ADHD teens. I have found that there are four steps to teaching an ADHD teen how to manage his or her time. These four steps are Plan, Prioritize, Schedule, and Follow the Plan. Sound interesting? Let’s look at Greg’s case and see how the four steps helped him.

Greg, age 15 diagnosed with ADHD, was described by his teachers as "a bright kid, but was not succeeding in school. Greg maintains his grades just high enough to stay active on the football team."

Greg stated, "I know I’m smart enough to do well in my classes, but it’s hard to motivate myself. I lose track of things. I just don’t know when anything’s due. Mom got angry about it last week, ‘cause I didn’t turn in the order form for the football team picture. She reminded me the night before, but I just forgot. She had a fit! Now she’s nagging me about some of my school projects. She thinks I’ll forget those, too. She’s started making lists to remind me, and it’s driving me nuts. "

As you know, many people with ADHD are right brain thinkers, which means that they remember things better visually. Knowing that Greg’s ADHD made him a better candidate for a visual organization system, I asked Greg if he had ever tried something he could look at for managing his time and listing what he had to do.

Greg answered, "No, it always just seemed like too much work. Plus, I’ve seen people with those boring lists – it just won’t work for me. I mean, a list! What could be more boring than that? I try and tell Mom that every time she hands me a new list, but she doesn’t listen. I just throw them out."

Four Steps in Creating a Visual Time Management System
I told Greg that in four steps, he could create a visual system of his own that might work for him. I stated, "Just because other people use what you call boring lists, doesn’t mean you would have to. Yours could be exciting to look at, if that’s what you want." I asked Greg if he would be interested in hearing the steps to better managing his time. He nodded, and stated, "I guess, if it means Mom might yell at me less over stupid things like the football team picture order form."

♦ Step #1 - Plan
I explained to Greg that the first step in creating a visual system for time management is to Plan. I stated, "Develop a master list of things to do. You might want your mom’s help creating this. Include everything you need or want to do. That includes football practices, homework assignments, turning in permission slips at school, and even social gatherings with friends." Greg looked annoyed and I explained, "Don’t worry. It won’t stay just a boring list, but you’ve got to start somewhere."

♦ Step #2 - Prioritize
To do the second step, I explained to Greg that he would need to Prioritize his list. I stated, "Try to rank things in order of importance." Greg asked, "How do I decide what’s most important?" I explained that a common technique I suggest to my clients is to divide tasks into four groups.

I stated, "Make a chart for four categories.
--1. In one, place the Urgent and Important tasks. This could include things like homework and football practices.
--2. In the next box, put tasks that are Important but Not Urgent. If you have a project due in two weeks, getting material to start the project may be important, but it doesn’t need to be done right away.
--3. The third box can be for tasks that are Urgent but Not Important. For example, if your friend wants help installing his car stereo and calls you about it, you could say it is urgent, because it is happening soon, but not important, because you don’t have to do it."
--4. Greg asked, "So what goes in the fourth box?" I answered, "The fourth box could be made up of tasks that are Not Important and Not Urgent. These could be things like playing video games or talking on the phone."

♦ Step #3 - Schedule
After Planning and Prioritizing, I explained to Greg that the third step is to Schedule. I stated, "Take the to do list you created and transfer it to a master calendar that you keep in your room." Greg stated, "That sounds easy enough." I then explained that he would need to practice time estimation and looking ahead as he scheduled things.

I stated, "Try to estimate how much time activities like homework will take you. Leave the amount of time you expect to spend doing homework, and keep track of the amount of time you actually do spend doing homework." Greg asked, "What about big projects? I have to create a diorama to go with a paper for a book report that’s due in a month. I have no idea how much time that will take." I explained that long-term projects like that would be easier to break into segments. I stated, "Give yourself mini-deadlines, like one for finishing the book, one for writing the paper, and one for making the diorama."

I then explained that looking ahead in his planner to check for other events that may conflict with the schedule could be helpful. I stated, "If you decide that you want to do the diorama the weekend before it’s due, for example, but you have a football game that Friday night, you may have to rethink your schedule." Greg looked unhappy and stated, "This still looks a lot like the boring lists everyone else uses." I explained that the scheduling step was a good place to personalize his list and make it interesting.

I stated, "You can color code things, like using blue pen for sports events, and using a red pen for school activities. You could even get stickers to help you remember what the events are. Just make sure it’s something that is visually appealing to you, so that you’ll want to look at it."

♦ Step #4 - Following the Plan
Greg stated, "I guess that makes sense. But you said there was a fourth step? It sounds like after I schedule things, I could be done." I chuckled and stated, "The fourth step is to simply Follow that Plan. Keep your calendar in sight. Use post-its or a planner if you’ll need more reminders throughout the day." Greg asked, "What if I end up not having time to finish everything on my list? I mean, I do procrastinate a lot. With that diorama project, even if I finish the book on time, I’ll probably put off the paper to the same time I’m doing the diorama, just because writing papers is so boring and takes me so long."

I explained to Greg that he had a couple of options regarding having enough time to complete things. I stated, "Procrastination, like waiting until a couple of days to start writing the paper, is not always bad. You can call it ‘idea incubation.’ You might come up with more creative ideas this way. Just don’t procrastinate too much. If a task like writing gets boring once you’ve started, try turning on music. If it’s not too distracting, it could spice the work up."

Greg stated, "I guess I could try that." I added, "Finally, allow some things on your list to die naturally. Projects like the diorama are important and should be done, but remember that some things on your master list were in the ‘Not Important and Not Urgent’ box that you made in the second step of prioritizing. Activities in that box may be left undone if you need more time."

Do you have a client who, like Greg, has problems with time management? Would your ADHD teen benefit from learning the four steps of time management? Would he benefit from knowing some of the methods of visually spicing up his calendar and to do lists?

In this section, we have discussed Teaching Time Management for ADHD teens. We discussed the four steps to teaching an ADHD teen how to manage his or her time. These four steps are Plan, Prioritize, Schedule, and Follow the Plan.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Courrégé, S. C., Skeel, R. L., Feder, A. H., & Boress, K. S. (2019). The ADHD Symptom Infrequency Scale (ASIS): A novel measure designed to detect adult ADHD simulators. Psychological Assessment, 31(7), 851–860.

Kane, L., Bahl, N., & Ouimet, A. J. (2018). Just tell me it’s going to be OK! Fear of negative evaluation may be more important than fear of positive evaluation in predicting excessive reassurance seeking. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science / Revue canadienne des sciences du comportement, 50(4), 217–225.

Karalunas, S. L., Gustafsson, H. C., Fair, D., Musser, E. D., & Nigg, J. T. (2019). Do we need an irritable subtype of ADHD? Replication and extension of a promising temperament profile approach to ADHD subtyping. Psychological Assessment, 31(2), 236–247.

Merrill, B. M., Morrow, A. S., Altszuler, A. R., Macphee, F. L., Gnagy, E. M., Greiner, A. R., Coles, E. K., Raiker, J. S., Coxe, S., & Pelham, W. E. (2017). Improving homework performance among children with ADHD: A randomized clinical trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 85(2), 111–122.

Patros, C. H. G., Tarle, S. J., Alderson, R. M., Lea, S. E., & Arrington, E. F. (2019). Planning deficits in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): A meta-analytic review of tower task performance. Neuropsychology, 33(3), 425–444.

Robinson, A., Simpson, C., & Hott, B. L. (2017). The effects of child-centered play therapy on the behavioral performance of three first grade students with ADHD. International Journal of Play Therapy, 26(2), 73–83.

What are the four steps to teaching an ADHD teen to manage his or her time? To select and enter your answer go to Test

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