The Importance of Structure and Routine for Attention Deficit Kids

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The Importance of Structure and Routine for Attention Deficit Kids

Managing behaviors of attention deficit kids can be challenging. It is important to understand structure and routine and how they can help eliminate some potentially problematic or difficult behaviors. Structure and routine, if properly embedded can help reduce off-task and oppositional behaviors. Structure and routine can also help adults reduce their stress associated with managing difficult behaviors.

Symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder

Kids with attention deficit disorder have trouble focusing and paying attention and often exhibit impulsive behaviors. Their attention span may be only a few minutes, and they may have difficulty following directions. These symptoms may result in opposition and poor self-esteem, as the children are frequently being corrected and redirected. Structure and routine are a way to help attention deficit kids have more successes and improve their self-esteem.

The concept of structure and routine is fairly easy to understand and use. The challenge in implementing both is the sometimes cumbersome repetition for those executing these strategies as well as the challenge of keeping other family members and teachers or helpers “on the same page.”

The Role of Structure for Attention Deficit Kids

Structure is essentially an organized set of boundaries or expectations. Structure can help kids know what to expect and eliminate situations that allow kids to become unfocused. If there are limited expectations or guidelines, then there is more room for kids to act on an impulse. For example, a child with attention deficit disorder is not likely to come home from school and do their homework without any parameters or clear expectations.

A way to add structure to this example would be if that child was told that they needed to complete five math problems and then take a five minute break while the parent checked the answers. Then the child would do five more problems, coupled with another five minute break. After the second break, the child would be prompted to read two paragraphs from their book and then explain what they learned from these paragraphs. The child would then be given another five minute break and the process would continue until the homework is completed. This example demonstrates how a homework session can be structured and can be applied to any situation that an attention deficit kid may struggle with.

The Role of Routine for Attention Deficit Kids

Routine is engaging in or completing a task at the same time and place on an ongoing basis. For example, in the morning a child will wake up at 8:00 am, brush his or her teeth, take a shower, eat breakfast and then catch their bus at 9:00 am. Children with attention deficit disorder have difficulties following directions, so if directions are the same or repetitive each day, the child is more likely to remember them. This is a form of behavioral rehearsal that can create competency for the child, resulting in “practice makes perfect" (or permanent).

Note: This article was written based on the author’s eight years of clinical experience working with children, families, and educators in the treatment of attention deficit disorder.