Let’s face it, asking a young person to sit still for extended periods of time is tough for students, educators and parents! Focus and behavior difficulties are sure to arise. The issue is when these difficulties interfere with learning and/or distract others. Some individuals are just fidgety, while others may need clinical assistance. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), a child with ADHD might:
- daydream a lot
- forget or lose things a lot
- squirm or fidget
- talk too much
- make careless mistakes or take unnecessary risks
- have a hard time resisting temptation
- have trouble taking turns, and/or have difficulty getting along with others
I offer 13 tips and tricks that have assisted persons with these symptoms. They come from student recommendations and research but are not meant to be a substitute for professional assistance. However, many have reported some or all of the following have been very helpful.
- Have something to keep your hands busy like a small, smooth, flat stone or a stress ball. There are many devices for this now (This is just one site. I am not being paid to endorse this site). The key is to have something that burns up idle energy, not something that becomes a distraction in and of itself.
- Use a small piece of paper to track where you are reading, line by line, down the page. This will allow you to return to where you left off if you become distracted. This trick also keeps your eyes located on what you are reading instead of glancing all over the page.
- I have had students recommend this, but I think it would hurt. Use a rubber band on your wrist and then snapping it periodically helps to stay alert and focused. This makes since as it can be startling and trigger biological responses that make you perk up. But again, don’t make it really painful please.
- Change your diet. Less sugars! This is important for many people who feel hyped up or cannot stay awake right after meals. According to a diet/nutrition nurse, the sugars and carbs burn off quickly and then your energy level can go way down. So, hyped up followed by drifting off. Proteins and vegetables are best.
- How is your sleep? Some adolescents (and adults) sleep for much less time than bodies need. Sleep is important. According to the CDC, young persons from age 13 to 18 should get 8–10 hours per night. They do not consider being in bed with a phone or tablet as sleeping… because it is not. Go to sleep will ya? You will feel better the next day!
- If you do use electronics at night, put them on the night setting, This will reduce the blue light and assist with letting your mind and eyes better relax. Still not as good as turning them off and going to sleep, but better than nothing. Try it and see!
- Some people drift off when things are boring… like sometimes reading a textbook. If you are allowed, set a phone alarm to vibrate every 10 to 15 minutes, without disturbing others or breaking work or classroom rules. This will limit the time lost and redirect your attention back to your task or studies. This way, only a small amount of time is lost to distraction instead of thirty to forty minutes, or more.
- Where you sit is a factor. Sitting in the middle of your friends is not a good idea. Try to sit away from them, maybe even move to the front of the class so the ‘action’ is behind you. What you cannot see will probably not steal your attention.
- Ask the teacher for help in keeping on task. It keep you out of trouble because you initiated the support of the teacher. Another options is to be in the back allowing you to read small sections at a time with 5 minute ‘stand up and stretch’ sessions that are not distracting to others. Again, let the teacher/presenter know why you are standing and stretching.
- Sometimes there is just ‘something’ else on our minds (i.e., relationship issues, a death in the family, parents not getting along, etc.). Let a trusted adult (yes, this may include one of your parents) or a friend know what’s up. It really does help to talk things out. Keeping whatever is going on all bottled up inside is not helpful.
- TRUTH! Reading takes effort to stay on task and get the information in your head. (Spoiler Alert: You may have to read the information several times for it to stick in your brain… no really!).
- Perhaps you have never been taught how to study. A conversation with your parent or instructor can help you understand and realign your expectations about learning.
- And finally, most people have to many thoughts going on in their head. In some cases it helps to have something else to focus on like music or ambient noise. If there are no safety concerns, workplaces and classrooms may allow for this.
If you have tried these tips and tricks and are still not being able to focus, please seek out some assistance. Be sure to let your parent, school counselor or doctor know what of these 13 items did, or did not, help. Most of all, don’t just suffer. Let someone know what’s going on with you. You deserve to be able to focus. Honestly, it takes a strong person to ask for help. Be a strong advocate for yourself, speak up today!