The following are principles that I compiled for our homeschool groups for parents of ADHD children and homeschool moms with ADHD on Facebook.
I am posting it here in the hopes that it will be helpful for those who are homeschooling children with ADHD or working with ADHD people in other venues.
When you are homeschooling or working with an ADHD child, it is not like working with a neurotypical child because ADHD children have developmental delays –even if they are intellectually advanced or gifted. Because of this difference, you have to alter how you work with them and what is expected as explained in the list below.
There are certain principles that our groups stand for. If posts and comments in our groups do not reflect these standards, they may be deleted. This list is subject to change at the administrator’s discretion.
We endorse to the following ideas:
1. Parents are the best educators of their own children as they are most invested in and dedicated to their children’s future and success.
2. While parents should be able to homeschool their children without government involvement, parents should also be able to get help from the school system for their children’s special needs if help is needed and not be shamed for choosing what is right for their own children.
3. Homeschooling is defined for the purpose of this group as “any child who is at home and not in a brick-and-mortar school at least half of the school day.” For instance, a dual enrollment in homeschool and college or a part time charter school is still considered homeschooling in this group.
4. The only wrong way to homeschool is any way that causes emotional and psychological damage to your child.
5. Lifeschooling is the education a child gets by living life in a family and in the course of living in the world and being among adults and peers. It is part of school and a viable, important part of a child’s education that should not be underestimated or underappreciated. The whole world is a school, and children are learning even when we are not teaching them. We shouldn’t underestimate the importance of play. Play is the work of children: it’s how they learn best.
6. Socialization is a non-issue, a farce created to try to scare parents away from homeschooling. Homeschooling offers the best possible form of socialization —far superior to that of the public school— because children are exposed to people of diverse ages and backgrounds, they are being apprenticed by adults on an ongoing, one-on-one (or nearly one-on-one) basis, and they are not stuck in a classroom with children of their same age and similar background all day long for years on end. A 14 year old boy will not learn how to be an adult by being around other 14 year old boys.
7. ADHD is a real condition, and all ADHD people need accommodations. Each ADHD person will need accommodation that is uniquely suited to them whether medication, supplements, grace, a low stress environment, coping mechanisms, changed expectations, etc. We fully reject the idea that it is wrong for a parent to accommodate an ADHD child. We also reject the idea that medication and help is a “crutch” that an ADHD person does not need.
8. ADHD is not a learning disability, it cannot be corrected or “fixed,” and it is a medical condition which the child will live with for his or her entire life. ADHD is not a disease, but it is a different way that the brain develops, thus it is a developmental disorder and a neurological disorder.
9. External motivation in the form of rewards, prizes, praise, etc. are not bribes but are in fact “carrots-on-a-stick” that help the ADHD child with the focus and motivation problems which are caused by the delayed development of their frontal lobe as backed by scientific research.
10. Letting your child learn at their own pace is ideal because children develop and learn at different rates and pushing them to adapt to a stereotypical educational model is damaging.
11. Just because a child is in a public school room for 8 hours a day does not mean that they need 8 hours of homeschool time. The actual learning time that happens in a classroom is closer to 2 to 3 hours –even at the high school level, and homeschool students need approximately the same 2 to 3 hours of education time.
12. Following your child’s interests is the easiest way to teach an ADHD child because it allows them to use their ADHD superpower –hyperfocus– to their advantage and allows the parent to not fight against the way an ADHD brain is naturally wired.
13. The goal of homeschooling is to create lifelong learners who have a joy of learning and seek to continue to learn long after the homeschooling is over. This is important because no teacher —not even a public school teacher— can teach a child everything they need to know. So, a joy of learning will enable the child to fill in these gaps with self-directed learning as they get older.
14. ADHD children have frontal lobes that are developing up to 6 years behind their peers of the same age causing emotional and regulation delay. For this reason, it is unreasonable to expect our ADHD children to perform tasks, finish school work, and accomplish chores on-level with non-ADHD children of their same age. If your child is acting emotionally and developmentally younger than they are by 4 or 6 years, this is actually normal for an ADHD child.
15. ADHD children should not be blamed or punished for the parts of their conditions, disorders, or disabilities that they cannot control such as being impulsive, hyperactive, forgetful, distracted, emotional, restless, etc.
16. ADHD people and other neuroatypical people are far more likely to be traumatized by things that do not seem traumatizing for those who have neurotypical brains. Therefore, parents need to be gentle, understanding, and gracious in handling of their ADHD children especially –but not limited to– how they discipline.
17. ADHD children should be told that they have ADHD lest they grow up feeling broken and knowing they are different but not knowing why. The damage to the child of not knowing about ADHD can have a significant and lasting impact and is far less damaging than the stigma of labeling a legitimate medical condition.
18. Pushing school work after the child’s brain has become overwhelmed or shut off does more damage than good and causes trauma. We should never sacrifice the child’s emotional and psychological well being for our goals, plans, or schedules. We should never let our fear of failure push our children beyond what is best for them. It doesn’t matter what they are learning or how fast they are learning as long as they are learning.
19. There is a Rule of Attention which states “Double the child’s age, and that number is the total minutes you can expect a child to focus on something that they are interested in.” An ADHD child will be able to pay attention for even less time. For example, a non-ADHD 6-year-old child can focus for 12 minutes on a certain topic before they need a change or a break according to this rule. But, an ADHD child of the same age will be able focus for less time than their neurotypical peers unless they are ADHD hyperfocusing. Hyperfocus is a superpower that allows ADHD people to pay extra attention to topics they are interested in, but it is very hard to control –even for ADHD adults.
20. Along with ADHD comes beautiful gifts that can even outshine the ADHD if we are willing to look for those special talents. We often cannot see those gifts until we go looking for them. The gift is most often connected to what the ADHD child is passionate about, but what they are passionate about can change quickly, so it may be hard to tell what the gift is. Keep encouraging them to look and try new things until they find their special talent or something that they are passionate about. Support them even if that passion keeps changing.
21. No amount of pushing, medication, therapy, or shaming will make an ADHD person be normal because they have abnormal brains. Normalcy should not be expected, but rather they should be allowed to be their own person –even if who they are is abnormal to the world around them.
22. The “cure” to all neurodiversity and neuroatypical behavior including ADHD is acceptance. We teach children to accept people with different eye color, hair color, and skin color, and we should do the same with people who have brains that operate differently. Neuroatypical (abnormal) brains should not be forced into the mold of a neurotypical (normal) brain.
23. Along with ADHD can also come an array of other health disorders, mental health conditions, and learning disabilities which can cause just as much if not more problems than the ADHD itself causes. Often the ADHD symptoms become less significant once the comorbidities have been addressed.
24. The most common comorbidities are anxiety, Sensory Processing Disorder, and depression. Statistically ADHD people are also likely to have mood, anxiety, eating, impulse control, and even addiction disorders.
25. ADHD children are very likely to have additional learning disabilities such as auditory processing disorder, dyslexia, dysgraphia, or dyscalculia. These will significantly affect their ability to succeed in traditional methods of education. If possible, these learning disabilities should be diagnosed, and the child will absolutely need accommodation.
26. Celiac, gluten sensitivity, and food allergies are legitimate conditions that are common with and can exasperate the symptoms and treatment of ADHD. The best way to find out what food allergies or sensitivities your child has is with an elimination diet.
27. Traumatic Brain Injury, PANDAS, seizure disorders, Sensory Integration Dysfunction, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and many other conditions are often misdiagnosed as ADHD as they have similar symptoms (but for the purposes of our group, parents of children with those conditions are still welcome).
28. Many ADHD children who do not receive help, accommodation, unconditional love, and understanding spend their lives in self-loathing, self-destructive behavior or even end up choosing suicide. Therefore, ignoring or downplaying ADHD is not in the best interest of the child’s physical or mental health and is a disservice to the child.
29. ADHD children should not be made to feel like they are less, broken, or inferior for having ADHD. They are different not less.
30. Parents of ADHD children have a responsibility to learn about their child’s conditions in order to better help them. An informed parent can help their child better than an uninformed parent.
31. “You win more flies with honey than vinegar,” meaning the best way to convince someone to consider your point of view is to explain your position politely and clearly.
32. Bullying, name calling, hurtful sarcasm, passive aggressiveness and other means of unkind communication do not have any place in a respectful group like this. “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” is a good guide for this group.
33. We support each other in this group. Support means that we “help others bear the weight” not adding to their stress, and we “give assistance to” not making it harder for them to get helpful answers.
34. The best support happens in a drama-free, low-stress environment where members feel free to be honest and seek answers without judgment and criticism from others.
35. When the approach the parent is using to teach does not seem to be working, it falls to the parent to try a new way of teaching. The ADHD student should not be forced to adapt to learn the way the parent wishes they would. Parents should adapt to meet the needs and learning styles of their special needs children and not just expect them to try harder or to figure it out.
36. “Try harder” is one of the most damaging phrases you can tell ADHD child because they are already trying way harder than those around them realize. Saying “try harder” means you do not understand the struggle that they live with on a daily basis.
37. Parenting a child with ADHD is hard —very hard— and parents of those children need encouraged, not criticized.
38. The science of ADHD is in its infancy and ever-changing, but we encourage parents to be informed with facts and to not believe the myths and misinformation that permeates the internet. The number one myth we reject is that ADHD is fake. The number two myth we reject is that ADHD medication causes addiction. Science shows and brain scans confirm that the mind of an awake ADHD person has the same activity level as an asleep non-ADHD person. The stimulant medication helps wake up the ADHD brain so that the activity levels are closer to that of a non-ADHD person.
39. The deciding factor of what is allowed in the group belongs to the admins who have the prerogative to remove posts, comments, or people from the group as they see fit and without warning or explanation.
40. The most significant thing you can do for your ADHD child is give them unconditional love and acceptance. There is no damage to a child like the damage of not being loved without conditions.
This list applies to the following groups where I am an administrator:
But, I hope it will be helpful for others as well.