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Tag Archives: Tips and Strategies

ADD Alternatives

When it comes to ADD, alternative approaches are no longer considered outside the treatment toolbox. On the contrary – experts are now saying that medication, if used, should never be the only treatment. “Diet, nutrition, exercise and sleep all play important roles in how the brain works,” says Dr. Edward Hallowell, author of Driven to Distraction.

The following options are appropriate for those who use medications and those who don’t; they can be effective for people new to ADD and for seasoned veterans who are familiar with the ways of the attention challenged. You can get professional consults for things like behaviour therapy, but you can also start using many of the ideas on your own. Remember that not every strategy or combination works for every family – it’s very much a trial and error process, so best to go slowly. Choose one or two to start, then make more changes as it makes sense for you.


Behaviour therapy is very structured and based upon rewards and consequences. A therapy plan requires extremely clear and concise achieveables, and can be a challenge to carry out at home – expect some kinks in the process. Parents can have trouble when they set too many rules, apply the plan inconsistently, communicate unclear expectations, dwell on negative and give up to soon.

Whether you do behaviour therapy or not, a predictable routine is a great place to start and something you can implement on your own. See how much it helps to establish a regular schedule for meals and activities, followed by a nightly bath and a regular bedtime to ensure plenty of rest.


With a lack balanced nutrition, anyone can look like they have ADD – when we don’t eat right, we can become distracted, restless and impulsive. So it makes sense that people with ADD absolutely need proper nutrition, not only to avoid the perils of bouncing blood sugar, but to fuel the brain with everything it needs to function well.

The best advice says avoid junk food – and anything that comes in a box, bag, wrapper, package or tube. Include protein with every meal, along with veggies, fruits and complex carbs. Boost servings of blueberries, almonds, cashews, walnuts, broccoli, salmon, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, spinach, watercress, avocado, cumin, turmeric and meats – these foods are like premium gas for the brain. Another option to investigate: food sensitivities and allergies. Remove any dietary irritants found.


B vitamins, especially B-6 seems to increase dopamine, which improves alertness. Zinc, iron and magnesium help to synthesize dopamine, and fish oils help with mental focus and cognitive function. Check into ginkgo and ginseng as well – they act like stimulants without the side effects. And, as always, the picky eaters at your house may benefit from a good multivitamin.


Exercise is good for everybody, but it’s especially good for those with ADD. Like medication with side effects, exercise boosts the brain’s levels of dopamine, norepinephrine and seratonin – all chemicals that affect focus and attention. It helps to develop resilience and persistence, and physical activities involving complex movement cause helpful connections to form between neurons in the brain. Combine activity with time outside – walking the dog, bike riding, walking to school, sports. Studies show that as little as 20 minutes daily can help reduce ADHD symptoms.

Making the Leap

The transition from high school to college or university can be a big one!
Here’s how to help your student shine.

Hot on the heels of every finish (like your kid’s high school graduation) comes a new and exciting (and sometimes terrifying) transition – like that same kid starting college or university. Get ready, because here they come – all those new freedoms and responsibilities that make post-secondary education the learning experience it truly is.

It’s such a big change: up to now, 80% of your student’s academic life has been controlled by teachers and authority figures. In college and university, 80% is controlled by the students themselves. Just think – no one will remind your son or daughter when assignments are due or tests are coming. No one will particularly care if they miss class. Timetables look much lighter than they actually are. Cramming won’t work anymore – there’s just too much to learn. It will take a new set of skills to succeed, and focus, time management and active study skills are absolutely essential.

At the same time, much to their endless delight, you won’t be as able to monitor your kid’s progress if they are living away. But even if they are close to home, you need to remember that they are entering a learning environment that makes students themselves responsible for their lives and their learning. But even though natural consequences (like zeros for late work) are built in the system, there are still things you can do to encourage the kind of growth and responsibility your fledgling college or university student will need for this new phase of life.

One place to start is to put numbers on time management. Instead of beating the “study, don’t party” drum (which is so very uncool, and invites nothing but a glazed-over expression) ask your offspring to estimate how many hours they will spend on television, computer, music, games, sports, socializing, then how many hours for homework, job, extracurriculars, volunteering. Ranking their day from most hours to least hours give a clear picture of priorities. From there, you can encourage adjustment as required.

Beyond that dose of reality, you can also pass along the following tips to help your student balance responsibilities:


  • Eat properly. Protein – eggs, cheese, meat – helps boost focus and memory.
  • Set a healthy sleep routine and stick to it.
  • Join clubs and sports and campus life.
  • Exercise is essential for energy, focus and memory.
  • Stick to routine – work Monday to Friday during the day and play in the evenings and on weekends.
  • Think beyond the moment – set goals for the semester and the year.


  • Register with the centre for disabilities – they approve the BSWD bursary, extra time for exams and note takers
  • Before the first day, map your classes so you know where to go when.
  • Post key dates (tests, papers, assignments, exams) on your brand new “semester at a glance” wall calendar (which you just hung above your desk).
  • Count on at least two hours of work for each hour of lecture time per week. Most classes include two hours of lecture and one hour of tutorial or lab work. That means
    six hours beyond class time – and that’s for just one class.
  • Sit close to the front in lectures.
  • Build rapport with professors – visit during office hours.When you need help or an extension, they will
    know you are trying hard to succeed.
  • Don’t expect to simply recite information. Be ready to apply what you have learned to new situations or
    to solve new problems.
  • Tests and exams will often be multiple choice and short answer questions – these are trickier than
    high school exams.
  • Check for previous tests and exams – often available at the library.Essential learning rarely varies
    from year to year.
    • But perhaps the best thing you can do is express your trust and confidence that your son or daughter is perfectly capable of meeting the challenges ahead and you have abundant faith in their ability to make good decisions on their own. Coming from a proud parent, what could be more reassuring… and motivating?

Harness the Power of Video Games

Harness the Power of Video Games

How many times have you told your child to go and play a video game? I suspect never — the issue is more than likely the opposite — you can’t get them to stop to playing video games. If these games are so engaging and motivating perhaps it makes sense to explore the reasons why this is so and extract what lessons we can from them. Think about how your child gets involved in these games… they can play for hours postponing food, drink, bathroom breaks, accomplishing difficult tasks despite failures and setbacks in their single-minded quest. Imagine if this same focus and perseverance was applied to other tasks such as school work and music lessons. I believe there are lessons we can learn from video game playing to understand how to engage drive and motivation.

Daniel Pink in his book, “Drive” outlines that for tasks to be motivating and drive us forward they need to have three key factors:


  • some degree of choice and self-control
  • feel that the goal is attractive


  • task must be challenging without becoming overwhelming
  • provide immediate feedback
  • it must tap into that desire to get better and better at something that really matters
  • only engagement can produce mastery
  • there is nothing so sweet as the feeling of accomplishment that comes from doing a challenging, worthwhile task


  • the task serves a bigger purpose and can tap into an inner emotion

Bottom Line:

  1. does it attract me
  2. is the energy I will have to put forth realistic
  3. will I be successful

When I talk with gamers about the appeal of gaming, they tell me what keeps them going level after level is something like this…” everything I do in the game lets me know immediately if something I did works or not. I either fail or succeed.” There is immediate feedback and immediate cognitive rewards. The appeal of video games is clear to see. Every game includes the ingredients for motivation…. Attractive, Realistic amount of energy and chances of Success are good. In video games, as the players work through the levels and the gameplay, they begin to understand the essence of the game and what works and what doesn’t. Every misstep teaches them what not to do again. They are always clear on their endgame, on what constitutes achievement and they are allowed to develop their own strategies to reach it. Mastery is clearly established in the feedback loop which is immediate and definite. Transferring the motivational theories found in video games to an academic setting is a challenge but nevertheless possible.

Human motivation is a complex subject, but what may be derailing many of our students could be quite simple: the lack of clear short-term goals with purposeful objectives and the absence of immediate feedback and reinforcement. All human behavior is motivated. Even the child who appears to be unmotivated is actually motivated. A student’s refusal to do homework may actually be motivated by fear of failure, fear of embarrassment or perfectionism. Homework should have components of choice — when, where and with whom. The feedback loop has to be closely tied to the work’s completion so adjustment and corrections can be made in order for lessons to be learned.

If attractiveness, effort, and ability to accomplish the goal are present, the student will likely be motivated.

Here are a few suggestions:

Autonomy +Attractiveness

  • Give choice about where and when homework will be done
  • Encourage doing homework with a friend (study buddy)
  • Encourage variety about where homework can be done — kitchen, dining room table, public library
  • Allow them to use music with ear buds to block out distracting noise
  • Music should not have lyrics
  • Provide challenges with a timer

Mastery + Effort

  • Assist in breaking larger assignments and study efforts into smaller segments
  • This term is closing in very quickly — study notes should be made now (little by little)to avoid unrealistic effort and being overwhelmed in June
  • Always allow for free time and rest — studies have proven that long stretches of studying only decrease the retention and effectiveness — retention is improved when studying is done in 30 minute intervals with short exercise breaks in the middle — use the free computer app BREAK PAL
  • Check to be sure the tasks are clearly understood
  • Give feedback as soon as possible

Purpose + Goal

  • Find areas of natural passion and talent
  • Discuss times when they have had the perseverance to overcome obstacles and use those ingredients
  • Break goals into smaller, more achievable units so feedback and recognition is more immediate

Harness the Power of Video Games
To support your student in using the attractive features of video games to complete their homework between now and the end of the school year, problem solve ways they can make their homework appealing — have a study buddy, work in a new location, time the work, begin with some exercise, do the work for a defined period of time and then relax. Clarify that they understand what to do, what is expected and that they have the materials to do the work. Discuss with them times in their past, perhaps in sports, when they have worked hard and achieved that sweet feeling of success.

Try playing with word equations such as:

Completing homework + _________________= good report card.

What missing ingredient can they add?

Myths About Distractibility and Solutions That WORK


Myth: Tapping pencils, doodling, and rocking back and forth in the chair equals distraction.

Truth: We now know that children attend better when they move around or are given something to hold or touch. Provide sensory input to help the child to focus. Stress balls, chewing gum, and weighted lap pads provide an outlet for the ‘fidgeter’. In addition, a recent study found the twistable Tangle Toy Jr. ( helped students to sustain effort and complete assignments accurately. Movement is also essential. Allow work to be done while standing up or pacing the room.

Myth: Students should quietly study in their room.

Truth: Distractible students do best when an adult checks in periodically. Choose a place away from the household action but close enough for you to monitor, such as the dining room. Assist your child with getting started on the task at hand. Have him set a timer for a short period of time with the goal of working consistently. By checking in when the timer rings, you’ll be allowing him independence and creating accountability at the same time. A portable ‘study zone’ with all materials (paper, pens, highlighters) in one place, is also helpful for students who always seem to be searching for supplies.

Myth: If a student wanted to pay attention, he could.

Truth: Kids that struggle to focus are consistently inconsistent. One day they can concentrate perfectly, and the next day is a battle. Their distractibility can be neurobiological in nature and they must be taught effective coping mechanisms.

Rather than nagging, use positive reinforcement and effective rewards. Try a ‘mystery motivator’ – after your child is on task for an allotted period of time, he can choose a reward card from an envelope (15 minutes extra on Wii, 10 minute later bedtime, etc.). The suspense of working towards an unknown prize is quite powerful for many.

Additionally, research shows that placing a mirror in your child’s work space will help him monitor his own attention. Your child is likely to refocus if he looks up and sees that he’s off task. As an added benefit, keeping a mirror in the workspace was found to improve the accuracy of assignments.

What to Do If You or Your Child Is a Perfectionist

Make a Schedule and Time Limit for Homework Completion

Learning strategies

Many perfectionists are also procrastinators. Why? They fear failure and put off starting until they are “in the right frame of mind”. Help your child by setting a beginning time as well as an ending time in sufficient advance of deadlines so that they are able to chunk their work into small pieces. This reduces the fear of failure and gives ample time for those perfect ideas to percolate. Teaching routines is important but help them to understand that their habits should not be so rigid that they can’t be changed.

Allow for Down Time – Do Not Over Schedule

Having no down time can overwhelm children. Feeling overwhelmed can spiral perfectionism out of control. Many kids with perfectionist tendencies can cope on their own while others only need a few events to trigger great anxiety. Having too much on their plate can instigate these feelings.

Respond to Worst Case Thinking

Perfectionists are color blind: they see the outcomes in black and white. Their attitude is all or nothing. Help them to consider alternative outcomes such as: “What would happen if the teacher didn’t agree with the points in your essay?” Discuss the possible outcomes from varying perspectives. They will see that imminent disaster will not occur.

De-emphasize all A’s

Instead of only focusing on the mark, comment on the amount of effort that went into achieving the grade. Help kids to understand that they can feel satisfied when they feel they’ve done their best, not necessarily the best! We all know good marks are necessary for the competitive admission policies to university and college but study habits, perseverance and work ethic are more important life skills than the number of A’s.

Mistakes are Learning Opportunities

If work is perfect all the time, kids are not challenged. Explain that there is usually more than one way to do most things. Give specific praise.

Model Healthy Excellence as well as Coping Skills when Dealing with Disappointment

Take pride in the quality of your work but don’t hide your mistakes or be constantly self-critical. Model the lessons you learn from mistakes. Humour always helps. Congratulate yourself when you’ve done a good job by letting your children know that your own accomplishments give you satisfaction.

Classroom Modification Teaching Strategies

  When you see this behaviour Try this solution
Classroom setup Easily distracted by classroom activity or by activity through the door or windows Seat student front and centre away from distractions
Is unaware of personal space, reaches across desks to talk to or touch other students Increase distance between desks
Acts out in class to gain negative attention Seat student near good role model
Assignments Is unable to complete work within given time Allow extra time to complete assigned work
Does well at the beginning of an assignment but quality of work decreases toward the end Break long assignments into smaller parts; shorten assignments or work periods
Has difficulty following instructions Pair written instructions with oral instructions
Distractibility Is unable to complete work within given time Allow extra time to complete assigned work
Complains that lessons are boring Seek to involve student in lesson presentations
Is easily distracted Cue student to stay on task with a private signal
Turns in work with careless errors Schedule 5 minute period to check over work before turning in homework or tests; Teach students how to proof read and edit
Behaviours Fails to see point of lesson or activity Increase immediacy of rewards and consequences
Blurts out answers or interrupts others Acknowledge correct answers only when hand is raised and student is called upon
Needs reinforcement Send daily/weekly progress reports home
Needs long-term help with improving behaviour Set up behaviour contract
Organization & Planning Can’t keep track of papers Color code each subject then buy binders, books etc that match each subject. Buy accordion folder labeled for each subject for loose pages if child is in rotary subjects and can’t carry binders.
Has trouble remembering homework assignments Provide student with assignment book; supervise writing down of assignments’
Loses books Extra set of texts at home
Restlessness Needs to move around Allow student to run errands or stand ay time while working
Has difficulty focusing for long periods of time Provide short breaks between assignments; Thinking object in pocket to fiddle when needed; Quiet timer (hour glass)
Moods/socialization Is unclear as to appropriate social behaviours Set up social behavior goals with student and implement reward program
Does not work well with others Encourage cooperate learning tasks
Is not respected by peers Assign special responsibilities in presence of peer group
Has low self confidence Compliment positive behavior and work; give student opportunity to act in leadership role
Appears lonely or with drawn Encourage social interactions with classmates; plan teacher-directed group activities
Is easily frustrated Acknowledge appropriate behaviour and good work frequently
Is easily angered Encourage student to walk away from angering situations; spend time talking to student

Why Study Habits Are Important

Why Study Habits Are Important

Our son started to struggle at school in grade 2. The local public school felt that his struggles at reading and writing were the result of pressuring high achieving parents and perhaps if we relaxed, his learning would come along just fine. However, the academic timeline puts children into grades. Achievement and self-esteem do matter. Therefore we took matters into our own hands and had a private psychological assessment done. The conclusion was he had several learning disabilities as well as attention deficit. According to the assessment, not the teacher, at the end of grade 2 he was already 2 grades behind, and the school had no plan to help him catch up in the missing skills; all they could provide was a 40 minute group remedial class a few times a week.

We decided to send him to private school where he would have a small class, no behavioral distractions and a structured curriculum. Reasonable daily homework was part of the daily expectations from grade 3 to grade 8. The teacher marked it, and it was always accounted for. Assignments were corrected, and corrections mattered, so incorrect ways of doing things were never allowed to continue.

What was the value of this structure you may wonder? The resounding answer is discipline, the ability to set priorities and complete tasks; the old-fashioned notion that work comes before play and that true success is earned at the end of a job done well.

These steady work habits slipped somewhat when he reentered public high school at grade 9 due to the inconsistency of the public school homework pattern. There was either no homework or too much. My observation is that over worked teachers frequently, do not return the assignments in a timely manner, so the students miss out on the essential feedback necessary to learning. As a result, these students are unable to manage their time, set priorities or even realize the value of education in their life.

Our son is now in first year of University, and in conversation last night he told how his residence was emptying out already, with kids who could not cope with the work load of university. They were not prepared for the work load and independence. They had not been taught how to set priorities, manage time and work independently. A recent news report suggested that only 25% of those who enroll in university or college complete their courses. Whether or not that statistic is totally true I don’t know, but, I do know the drop out rate is very high! That is scary! Good study habits lay the groundwork for successful work habits as an adult.

Procrastination – What, Why & How


Procrastination Assessment

Sure, we all put off a few unpleasant tasks, but psychologists say that some of us poison our success with chronic procrastination. Is your child a chronic procrastinator? Try this simple quiz to find out…

They procrastinate excessively if you agree with five or more of the following statements:

  1. They often put off starting a task they find difficult.
  2. They often give up on a task as soon as they start to find it difficult.
  3. They often wonder why they should be bothered doing a task.
  4. They often have difficulty getting started on a task.
  5. They often try to do so many tasks at once that they don’t finish any.
  6. They often put off a task in which they have little or no interest.
  7. They often try to come up with reasons to do something else.
  8. They often ignore a task when they are not certain about how to start it.
  9. They often start a task but stop before completing it.
  10. They often think that if they ignore a task, it will go away.
  11. They often cannot decide which to begin first.
  12. They often find their minds wandering off to other things.

Why Do Students Procrastinate?

There are many reasons why students procrastinate. Here are the most common reasons:

  1. Perfectionism: A student’s standard of performance may be so high for a task that it does not seem possible to meet that standard.
  2. Fear of Failure: A student may lack confidence and fear that he/she will be unable to accomplish a task successfully.
  3. Confusion: A student may be unsure about how to start a task or how it should be completed.
  4. Task Difficulty: A student may lack the skills and abilities needed to accomplish a task.
  5. Poor Motivation: A student may have little or no interest in completing a task because he/she finds the task boring or lacking in relevance.
  6. Difficulty Concentrating: A student may have too many things around that distract him/her from doing a task.
  7. Task Unpleasantness: A student may dislike doing what a task requires.
  8. Lack of Priorities: A student may have little or no sense about which tasks are most important to do.

How Can I Help My Child Overcome Procrastination?

Here are some things you can do to control excessive procrastination.

  1. Motivation and Positive Self-Talk. “There is no time like the present,” or “Nobody’s perfect.” “The sooner I get at it the sooner I’m free” etc.
  2. Make a schedule of the tasks you have to do and stick to it.
  3. Prioritize the tasks you have to do.
  4. Set clear goals and be specific with time. Set a timer.
  5. Work on tasks at the times they are most alert and positive.
  6. Break large tasks into small manageable parts.
  7. Work on difficult and/or unpleasant tasks first.
  8. Work on a task you find easier after you complete a difficult task.
  9. Work on tasks as part of a study group.
  10. Get help from teachers and other students when you find a task difficult.
  11. Find a good place to work on tasks.
  12. Eliminate distractions that interfere with working on tasks.
  13. Set reasonable expectations that you can meet for a task. Don’t be a perfectionist!!!
  14. Take breaks when working on a task so that you do not wear down.
  15. Rewards when the task is done.

Using Your Best Style to Learn

Learning stars

What Is Important About Learning Styles?

Simply put, using your learning style is your best method of learning. It is important to know and understand your personal learning style in order to develop effective study methods. Matching your style to specific study techniques will help to make sense of the information and help it be stored in memory more effectively. There are three main learning preferences:

  1. Auditory (hearing)
  2. Visual (seeing)
  3. Kinesthetic (doing)

The ideas that follow are by no means absolute, but the intent is to help you assist your child when they are doing homework or studying.

Strategies for Auditory Learners

  • Read instructions out loud or sub-vocalize if in class
  • Make up a rhyme or a song with information in it
  • Say the words in syllables
  • Read the text into a tape recorder and listen to it as review
  • Join a study group where you can discuss main ideas
  • Make up mnemonics
  • Sit towards the front of the classroom so you can hear well
  • Stay away from doors, windows etc to cut out distracting noise
  • Listen to soft music with no lyrics

Strategies for Visual Learners

  • Take notes
  • Use colour coded highlighting
  • Use graph paper to help make charts and diagrams to illustrate key concepts
  • Use mind maps and visual chains
  • Use a computer to help with organization
  • Think in pictures
  • Use photographs and clip to illustrate
  • Underline key words
  • Use Cornell note taking method
  • Use flash cards to help rehearse (questions on 1 side; answers on the other)
  • Remember important terms by looking for a part of the word your know & make connections

Strategies for Kinesthetic/Tactile Learners

  • Participate in class discussions
  • Ask questions and look for the answers when studying
  • Highlight, underline and take notes
  • Do something physical before studying
  • Take regular, brief breaks
  • Move a body part or walk around if it helps you concentrate
  • Use your hands when studying and explaining concepts to yourself
  • Write list repeatedly
  • Sit near the front of the classroom and always take notes
  • Purchase a ball seat
  • Make models
  • Tape your study notes and listen to them while exercising
  • Read on a stationary bike

Back to School

Back to schoo

It’s the beginning of the school year, and time to get our children ready for reading, writing and arithmetic. But now, more than ever, larger skills are the key to academic success.

Organization, time management and study skills are important for children of all ages, and a lack of these skills is a real problem. In fact, “chronic disorganization is a real disability, just as much as a problem with reading, math or spelling might be.” (Mel Levine, Professor of Pediatrics at the University of North Carolina)

Whether your child is impacted significantly or just has trouble remembering homework from time to time, here are some helpful tips:

  • Research shows more is accomplished if homework is begun right after school and when the hardest assignment is done first. Having a set ‘homework zone’ with necessary materials out and ready alleviates the “I need to find a pencil!” problem.
  • Before homework starts, give a short break and help prioritize assignments. (What will be done first, second, third, etc.?) Check to see if there are any long-term assignments.
  • Always utilize a daily, weekly and monthly calendar.
  • For children who underestimate the amount of time it takes to complete an assignment, use a timer.
  • For those who overestimate the time remaining to complete a task, set a designated start and end time. Reward completion with a privilege.
  • Students of all ages need to have a binder system that works for them and their teachers, and “binder maintenance” should occur at least weekly. Label and file away old materials in a reserve accordion notebook that can be easily accessed in the future (i.e., for a final exam).

Remember that time spent organizing today will be time saved tomorrow! Helping your child gear up for the school year by setting up effective systems early, will help everyone in the long run.