I am trying to get to the bottom of this. Why Is My Child With ADHD So Explosive About Schoolwork?
Over the course of the last few years, I have seen my share of meltdowns.
iPads have been broken, replaced, and then broken again. We patched up a giant hole in the wall when we moved last week. I have had to pull over to the side of the road, more times than I can count, because I was not sure I could drive safely with the chaos in the back seat.
All of this, and I am still surprised and sometimes even taken aback, when my children lose the ability to cope.
In getting ready for this upcoming school year, I have been doing some research and a lot of thinking about how best to help my child with ADHD learn.
Because ADHD was one of the last diagnoses we received in our home, it is the one I am just beginning to understand how it affects our home and our learning. I have always known and accommodated my son’s need for movement. I recognized and worked with his gaps in focus and attention.
ADHD and Impulsivity
What is clear to me now is that impulsivity is also driving many, if not most, of the resistance and school related explosiveness he experiences on an almost daily basis.
Getting to the bottom of this has been a priority for me as we prepare for the new school year. Here is what I have learned so far.
Why Is My Child With ADHD So Explosive About School?
Explosive behavior in children is always a combination of factors – sleep habits, diet, medications, and environmental changes are all valid and frequent reasons for my son’s explosive behavior.
However, when I think specifically about our educational environment and how his ADHD brain is functioning within it, I can see that there are three main triggers that I want to consider as we get closer to our first day of school.
Rigid Thinking and ADHD
This one effects all aspects of our day, as changes in routine and transitions are consistent times of stress for my son. When it comes to learning, rigid thinking comes into play when we are working on an activity or project and it just doesn’t go the way he thought it would.
For example, when we created our own Harry Potter wands, he snapped in half and threw across the yard two wands before he was finally able to calm down enough to complete the activity. The impulsive reaction was something he almost immediately regretted, and it clearly made the learning activity that much longer and more difficult.
This also happens frequently when we practice reading. He believes he should be able to better read at his age. When his reality does not line up with that belief, pages are torn, tears are shed and meltdowns ensue.
I am learning to take a deep breath when these impulsive reactions derail our schooling. If I stay calm, usually he calms down in a few minutes and we get back to work. If he is not able to calm down, I know it’s time to move on to a new topic or even stop for the day.
Sensory Input and ADHD
It’s too hot. My legs hurt. I can’t sit in this chair.
These are all indicators that my son’s body is feeling overwhelmed,. I hear them often. They are also all indicators that I have dismissed in the past to both of our detriment. When my son’s sensory system is not in sync, he needs to move. He needs to allow his body the input it requires in order to calm down. If he doesn’t get it, it almost always leads to explosive behavior.
Fortunately, this one has been an easy accommodation to make in our learning. He needs to move so we incorporate movement into our lessons as much as possible.
Anxiety and ADHD
If my son is feeling significantly anxious, he is not able to focus and learn. None of us can.
Yet, in the past, I have tried to distract him and get him to just focus on the task or assignment for the day. (I don’t think it worked even once.) This approach led to many a meltdown with very little learning.
I have come to accept that my child simply needs help to work through his anxiety. If he is having a particularly anxious day, I change the learning and pull out our Big Life Journal, do a hands-on activity, or get out into nature. Both of us are better for it.
Understanding Why My Child With ADHD Is So Explosive
I can’t help my child when he is feeling impulsive and explosive, if I don’t understand why. This is especially true when it comes to our homeschool.
The truth is, the more I learn about my child, the better I am at helping him learn.
For more information on how I help my son in his educational struggles, please join me this week at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers. I share my best tips and tricks for helping our children in the subjects that don’t come easily.
Shawna Wingert is a former training and development professional turned education specialist, and has homeschooled her two children for the last ten years.Shawna has written four books about homeschooling unique learners and has been featured in homeschooling discussions on Today.com, The Mighty, Simple Homeschool, My Little Poppies and Raising Lifelong Leaners.
You can find her online here at DifferentByDesignLearning.com.