Writing It Down Would Work Better

Today’s blog is a message of hope for all of you with distractible, inattentive, and forgetful children. It may also, in a way, be making a case for attempted brain washing used totally in the sense of “for the greater good.” I’ll let you decide. Yesterday my daughter Beckie and I were talking about things that needed to be done. Beckie has ongoing issues with managing her schedule and her possessions. She usually gets places on time, but often leaves out food that needs refrigerated and leaves other unfinished tasks that are sacrificed in order for her to get where she needs to be at the right time. She always thinks that she’ll have enough time, or can get “one more thing” done before she has to go. Like many distractible individuals, she loses track of time and rushes out the door at the last minute leaving a trail of partially completed chores in her wake. Yesterday, I was reminding her of something she needed to do, and she was reminding me that she never remembers it at the right time when she could actually do it. I had just been working with her on history, having her visualize events so that she could recall them later. So I said, “Put it in your brain,” meaning that she should visualize herself doing the job. Beckie’s immediate response was, “Writing it down would work better.” Whoa! Isn’t that exactly what I’d been telling her for years? Just for kicks, I asked her to repeat what she’d said. She repeated her statement about writing it down, which thrilled me and gave me hope. I’ve probably told her that thousands of times over the years, but this is honestly the first time I’ve heard it come back from her own lips. Maybe, just maybe, all the things we say to our kids sink in. It’s possible that with enough repetition, our oft-repeated bits of wisdom gradually ease their way into our children’s long-term memory where it serves them when we are not physically there to prompt and remind. Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, I must say that this will probably not become a habit for some time. I’ve found that my non-AD/HD child can learn a new rule or skill in about a third of the time it takes my AD/HD children. The AD/HD kids need a lot more repetition and practice, along with more direct supervision and support along the way. But we can’t let that minimize the successes we do see, even if they are longer in coming. As I’ve mentioned, I have been nagging (I mean “coaching”) Beckie to write things down on the calendar when she has something planned. When she mentions an event to me, I prompt her to write it on the calendar so she won’t forget and we can all see what is planned on any given day. I also have a dry-erase board by the phone, and about 40% of the time she remembers to write down when someone has called for me. This may not seem impressive, but we are up from 0% of the time so it is an improvement. She also writes things down on the calendar, but again we are not up to 100%. Not yet. But we are making progress, and sometimes the natural consequences of not writing things down increases the incentive to remember to do so in the future. For example, last weekend Beckie had remembered to write down her evening babysitting job. Then in the afternoon she got a phone call from a friend about a birthday party they were going to that night. Oops! Since it was not on the calendar and all the planning had been done between Beckie and her friends, I knew nothing about it. What followed was much scrambling around to get a gift, card, arrange transportation with her Dad and to let her friend know they would have to leave the party early to get back for Beckie’s babysitting job. In Beckie’s unreliable memory, the party was the following weekend. This made the case for writing things down on the calendar better than any of my theoretical examples could. So when I heard those sweet words, “Writing it down would work better”, I felt like perhaps I can help my child develop strategies that will serve her throughout her life. For her sake, I hope so.

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