‘Time Blindness’ and What You Can Do About It

Why is it that you can ask your child a zillion times to come down for dinner, yet he can be on time to watch X Factor? Why does your child do his homework at the last minute, yet will spend hours on his X Box?

I asked my son why is he always running late for appointments. He literally will still be eating breakfast when he has to be at a client in 5 minutes. And his answer….If he is motivated he will make himself to be on time. When he went to see Britney Spears recently he made sure that he was there with hours to spare!

So I think this has to do with motivation but also the ability to visualise  into the future what the consequences will be.

My son knew what missing Britney would feel like. He knew that if he were late he would miss out. So he used a range of strategies to make sure he got there for the start of the concert.

But when I tell him to save money for future expenses, that doesn’t mean enough for him to do anything about it. The ‘I’ll do it later’ way of thinking is to do with how children and adults with ADHD find it difficult to move forward in time. When I ask him to put his laundry away, he is not ignoring me. He is getting lost in things that are more important to him now.

So time thinking or ‘time-blind’ as Dr Barkley describes it, is a disability that our children with ADHD have to add to the mix of an already difficult life.

Our children lose track of time. “I’ll finish this level of Minecraft, then I’ll go down for dinner”. 3 hours later they realise they’ve missed dinner and mum is furious.

Our children find it tricky to estimate how much time it will take to complete a task. “I can revise for my test Sunday night”. Of course there is too much content and there is just not enough time to go over everything before school tomorrow. The consequence is poor test result and a feeling a failure.

Our children find it hard to plan for future events Like my son, there is no perception of why things have to be done now for future events. It’s the now that matters.

Let us remind ourselves, our children are not doing any of this deliberately. The front of the brain where intention lies, is just wired differently. The neurons are not reaching the areas of the brain to fire properly. ADHD  brains are chemically different.

And the consequence of this behaviour of being time-blind…

More damage to our children’s self-worth. Angry, frustrated families. Shouting and arguments. A sense of failure, being useless and lazy.

It is vital therefore that children with ADHD are supported and helped to organise time.

So what can you do to help your child?

1. LISTS

Your child needs a visual support to remind him what to do. Do not rely on him keeping the instruction in his head.

So encourage him to write lists in a notepad, on coloured post-it notes, whiteboard or a daily planner. Write down exactly what needs to be done and at what time.

So if you all need to go to the shops, collect a sibling, get to swimming class all in 30 minutes, then write it down in a checklist using the end time. Your child can clearly see why he has to hurry and what is the order of things.

2. ALARMS

Use timers, sandtimers, clocks, watches, phones, apps. Anything audible and visual to help your child remember what to do, keep on task and know when he has to do it by. Change it up as he’ll get used to the alarm and ignore it.

Getting ready for school in the morning is classic. Although you may be able to run around and multi-task, your child will get lost in time and you’ll end up running late. The scenario will then be your child going to school feeling like again he’s done something wrong and made you cross. Give your child a plan of exactly what order things should be happening and at what time.

3. MOTIVATION

We know our children will readily be on time if we’re leaving to go to a Theme Park. So make uninspiring things palatable by having something motivating to look forward to after. Use lists and visuals and let him know that if he gets his homework finished by 6pm you’ll have time to play a game together. You are helping him visualise a favourable future experience.

4. DISTRACTIONS

My son will get distracted with his phone even if I tell him we are leaving in 5 minutes. 10 minutes later he’s still not ready and now looking for his keys. So if you know what your child will be distracted with, then that thing must be temporarily removed. My son has to learn for himself to put his phone in his pocket so he can focus on what he should be doing now.

With agreement with your child, turn off the X Box when it’s time for homework. Turn off the TV if dinner is ready. Unplug the computer if it’s time for bed. I am not suggesting that you march in and do this things in anger because you’ve shouted 1000 times. I am suggesting that you and your child have a calm discussion and come to an agreement. Have you ever gone out socially without your phone and felt a sense of relief that you do not have to be checking Facebook or Instagram and consequently enjoyed yourself more…. Similarly, our children need that distraction removed to be able to take off the pressure.

5. SMALL CHUNKS

Sometimes things can be too overwhelming for our children as they are faced with a massive task and cannot see the end. Your child will opt instead for the now and will put off the task to do later. This often ends in a huge problem as there will not be enough time.

So you can help your child by breaking down the task into small steps. Again use lists or visuals. Use colours and plan the way forward. What is the first thing to be done, what comes next, and so on.

I know a young adult who has financial problems as had borrowed money and been offered the immediate gratification of a credit card. People with ADHD cannot see the future problems of repayments and debt.  I advised the family to set up everything in a spreadsheet. List everything. Work out a repayment. Set up automated payments. This has helped as it has visualised exactly what the problems are and the amount of time it will take for the debt to be cleared. Seeing the problem solved in small chunks helped.

SO……

Time-blindness is another feature of ADHD that your child will find difficult to manage. But with understanding, help and support life can be okay. Actually more than okay. Living with a child with ADHD can be unpredictable and draining but it can also be funny, hilarious and immensely satisfying. My son makes me proud. I know he needs support for him to live the best possible life that he can. With simple things in place, life can be calmer, sweeter and happier.

Hope that helps,


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