I love to tell this story about an ADHD child who went from F’s to A’s in science using hockey cards.
There was this kid with ADHD symptoms that I worked with clinically who was a brilliant kid (as anyone with an ADHD child can relate to). He was getting really bad grades in science class. I mean, he was getting F after F, whereas he was able to get As in other classes. This is a phenomenon we find often with the ADHD child.
He said it was because he really didn’t like the teacher…the teacher was really boring. That’s what the ADHD child will often say. However, I wouldn’t doubt it, because he had done well in that subject in previous years.
I said, “Do you or don’t you want to get better grades so you don’t have to have your parents bothering you all the time?” He said, “Yes.”
I said, “If you could do it and not really have to think about it, how about that?”
I said, “Heres what you do. What are you interested in? What do you think about all the time? What are you able to focus on?” He said, “Nothing.”
His parents came in, and I said, “Mom and Dad, what is this kid able to focus on like nothing else?” They said, “He can’t focus on a thing. He has an auditory-processing disorder, ADHD symptoms, and everything else. His brain doesn’t have the ability to focus. He can’t focus on anything for more than 30 seconds.” A common response from parents of an ADHD child.
I finally said, “What is the one thing that you always yell at him about doing, about getting distracted by, when he should be doing something else?”
They said, “Hockey, the sport. He loves hockey.” I said, “Wait a second. This kid loves hockey?” I asked him, “What do you think about when you’re in science class?” He said, “Hockey.”
“You’re thinking about hockey when you’re in science class. Do you ever have dreams about hockey?”
“Almost every night.”
“Interesting. What do you watch on TV?”
“Is there anything you like to collect?”
“What sports do you play?”
Are you starting to notice a pattern?
I said, Aha! This kids so focused on hockey that his brain is completely occupied by it. Hes not able to think about anything else and stay interested, because hes so excited about hockey. Thats not an inability to focus. Thats an over-ability to focus…again, a common but overlooked ability that the ADHD child has, in fact anyone with ADHD symptoms usually has.
How can we take that interest, love, passion, excitement or fun that is associated with hockey, and plug it into boring science homework?
There are a few things that we can do.
Number one is that we can make science class more fun.
I said “You live in a small town. Can we have a talk with the teacher?” His parents said, “The teacher might be boring, but is very understanding, and would love it if he had some techniques to deal with his ADHD symptoms.”
I said, “Look. Number one, tell the teacher that this boy is allowed to always have hockey trading cards with him in class and to be playing with them.”
Then I turned to the ADHD child and said, “The next thing you want to do, for your bookmarks for all your textbooks at school, is start using duplicate hockey trading cards. The extras that are just sitting around, start using those as your bookmarks in school.
“The other thing I would like you to do is go ahead and get a hockey poster, and use those hockey posters of your favorite sports figures as your book covers, instead of paper bags. Use those as your book covers. While you’re in class or while you’re studying these books at home, stand up your hockey cards all around so if you’re going to be thinking about hockey anyway, have it be a direct connect to the work you’re doing.”
Then I said, “When you’re doing homework, crank up your favorite music, and wear your hockey jersey. Actually get fully dressed if its not too warm. Get fully dressed in your hockey uniform that you play games in while you’re doing homework.”
Guess what happened? A couple of weeks later, this ADHD child was getting an A in the class because we associated every aspect of science with hockey.
He was smart enough, because he’s an ADHD child and all people with ADHD symptoms are much smarter than average. He just needed to be shown a way to solve the problem. He immediately understood.
In fact, this ADHD child was even smarter, because he figured out how to apply the same principle to his other classes, and hes still doing great to this day.
The first premise for being successful with the ADHD child or anyone with ADHD Symptoms is you’ve got to let them do things that work for them. Very often, the things that work for them are things that the ADHD child has been taught or told not to do.
Who tells you to go take hockey cards and put them in your books, make them into book covers, and get dressed in hockey clothes so you can do better in school?
No, they just say, “Work harder.” Thats just not okay. It does nothing to help the ADHD child improve.
The second premise is to go with what the ADHD child’s brain is already focused on anyway, and just simply integrate that into their life.
If you have an ADHD child, or even have ADHD symptoms yourself, think about how you could make this work for you. And if you’d like to find out more about how to help an ADHD child or someone with ADHD symptoms use their ADHD symptoms to accomplish anything they want in life, see below!