Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Back-to-School Essentials for the ADHD Student

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Back-to-School is right around the corner for us and some schools have already began this past week. For my family we are starting preparations now but that doesn't just include school shopping for us. My youngest son is ADHD, anxiety and has developmental delays including sensory issues. Any parent that has a child with special needs understand that an exciting time like going Back-to-School can cause some serious struggles for you, your child and your family. This is my opinion on how to tackle some of the issues that come along with these special needs. I do not look at these needs as a disability because this is how God created Goalie. However, I do want him to be able to recognize when these needs are keeping him from learning and being productive while learning how to refocus himself. He will have these needs his entire life and being able to live a full happy life is the biggest thing I want for him. Here is a little background:

Goalie has attended preschool for two years. He began attending a disability preschool class when he was diagnosed at 3 with speech and motor skill disabilities that were listed as "developmental delays" because he was hard to understand and was not close to being potty trained. Since then we have had him evaluated several times and he now has had an active IEP for 2 years and has been attending speech, behavioral and occupational therapies. Goalie was diagnosed with ADHD and anxiety (mostly separation anxiety) over the past year. We also learned that Goalie has astigmatism in both his eyes (one is more severe than the other) and needs glasses. As you can see, we have a number of different things that can affect Goalie's ability to learn, socialize and be independent. Here are the things my family and I do to help Goalie during a Back-to-School transitions.

Weighted blankets are amazing! They help with a large assortment of things that disrupt sleep from stress, anxiety and insomnia to more complex things like ADHD, ASD, OCD, PTSD and SPD. This is actually considered a type of therapy and is affordable. This is called Deep-Touch Therapy and is utilized to calm the body by having the brain release serotonin. It's similar to when you were a baby and you were swaddled tightly. The "embrace" released serotonin which calms the body. Hugging someone does the same thing. Deep-Touch Therapy works on people of all ages (including me!) and I think this is an amazing concept. For Goalie, the benefits were immediate and quite noticeable, it allows him to have a better quality sleep and that always leads to a better day! 

During the daytime when it would be difficult to carry around a weighted blanket, we use a weighted vest during times of anxiety and over stimulus. The picture above is a picture of the vest we had made for Goalie. We pack it in Goalie's backpack and the teacher is aware that he is having a difficult time coping with emotions that giving him 20 minutes of vest time will calm him. Goalie often asks for hugs when he is struggling with anxiety and nervousness which is a signal the vest is needed. If this is something you would be interested in trying I would highly suggest checking out Crunchy Blankets. I personally have ordered from here and the quality is amazing and you will have a hard time beating the price. In addition to great quality, you can choose your fabric, weight and other attributes of the blanket to your needs and preferences. I also came across weighted lap blankets that are made to be used for school, travel and meals.

This is something that we will be trying out for the first time this year. Honestly, I wish I would have purchased these sooner. Sensory Necklaces also known as chewies are great for children with ADHD, SPD, Motor Delays and Autism. These necklaces are not too expensive and can be worn around your child's neck. The necklace keeps something that is safe for your child to chew on near them during a time of stress or when a sensory break occurs. Goalie has a hard time dealing with transitions and separating from me. What I love most about sensory necklaces is that it is unobtrusive to your child and does not cause a distraction in most settings. There are so many different types of necklaces and they are even making bracelets now. 

Here are the Sensory Necklaces we purchased for Goalie. We decided to try these first because they came in different toughness levels and had different textures. We purchased the extra extra tough chewies because Goalie is not gentle when he chews on things. He has ruined shirts and has even bit his hand during a stressful episode that left large indentations and marks on himself that lasted for over a week. We included Goalie in the selection of his necklace too because we wanted him to like what he is wearing. I mean if he refuses to wear it, or wants to take it off, it is not serving it's purpose. 

Up until this past year I had NO CLUE what a Ball Chair was, they are also called Wobble Chairs, or that it was actually something that existed. The idea of a ball chair is that your child can sit on it yet still wiggle around without being disruptive and it helps keep them focused on the task at hand. These chairs are actually beneficial to posture and is considered as a type of therapy as well. I am in the process of researching on whether it is possible to have the school provide this to Goalie during the school year but I also plan to purchase one prior to him starting homework. These Ball Chairs are not only beneficial to children with ADHD but children without any special needs as well. Little Man actually wants to get a grey or black one to match his Star Wars Room 
If you feel the ball chair is too large or an eye sore you can always try out a Wobble Cushion. Wobble Cushions are easy to move around and do not take up much space while still fulfilling the sensory needs of an overactive child. If the school is unable to provide a Ball Chair for Goalie I will be purchasing one of these for the teacher to keep at school.

4. Fidgets:

Goalie has always used fidget toys. Essentially fidgets are toys that assist your child in being calm, quiet and focused. Goalie is constantly moving his hands but giving him something small to hold keeps him from swinging his body everywhere. These are extremely useful during Mass for us. If you have ever noticed your child rubbing things between their fingers, it is a calming and self-soothing technique. Goalie uses blankets and soft things to rub. These fidgets are easy to carry around and meet the sensory need to touch and move something and also releases calming serotonin into the body because it relaxes the body. These are similar to stress balls that adults use.  

As you may have assumed, there are many different kinds of fidgets that can meet the needs of different children. I am suggesting the ones linked here because they are relatively inexpensive and are used by the behavioral therapist we use. 

At some point or another your child will need some quiet or alone time. Goalie normally has problems in the afternoon. That is because he has spent a whole day in school, attending therapies and refocusing himself. Understandably he is a little cranky and needs time to unwind. Normally when this cranky mood sets in we start with some quiet time. Goalie has the opportunity to sit and read, color or play with his sensory bottle. He actually prefers the sensory bottle more often than not.

You can purchase calming sensory bottles for very cheap but if you are an artsy person they are very simple to make as well. The sensory bottles at our home were made by me and Goalie because he likes to be hands on and it is beneficial to improving his motor skills. We have been discussing the possibility of creating a few more so he can give one to his teacher to keep in class and creating one that has Superman colors to use at home. You can use glitter, small objects and water beads to create a unique calming sensory bottle your child will love. If we make some new bottles soon, I will link back to this post with step by step instructions on how to create your own.

I have created an Amazon Associates Store that has these five essential products and more that are used to help children that struggle with ADHD, OCD, SPD, Autism and many other special needs. Please feel free to check it out and maybe you can find something that will be soothing and calm your child. If you see other products I should list please contact me, I want this store to be a quick reference for anyone looking for products that will benefit their child and families. I hope you all have an amazing Back-to-School experience.

I am linking this with Talk it Up ThursdayThink Tank Thursday and Let's Get Real.

God Bless!

Please feel free to message me with any questions. It takes a village to raise a family but also know that I am NOT trained to diagnose or prescribe anything for you or your child. Please do your own research and I suggest that you talk to your doctor or therapists about what is right to meet the needs of you and your child.


  1. Some of these items might even help children who aren't considered to have disabilities. Visiting from Talk it up Thursday

    1. I agree! My older son utilizes the weighted blanket and sensory bottles all the time. I think these are some great products. Thanks for commenting and checking out the post!

  2. We are currently looking into weighted blankets for our 3 year old. She's been having a hard time sleeping at night.

    1. Weighted blankets are amazing! I am looking into getting one for myself as well to help with stress and a better nights sleep. They have helped my son sleep through the night. He use to wake me up every couple hours and we would have to go through tucking him back in bed, hugs and kisses, rubbing his back and readjusting night lights etc. before he would go back to sleep. I hope it works for you and your daughter too! We drink sleepy time tea too. They make a kids version and my boys love it.

  3. Thank you! We're always looking for quiet things for church. The fidgets would work great.

    1. I hope they work well for you! We have to stick to solid color fidgets otherwise my little guy is distracted by the different colors. If you try them out, please let me know your thoughts!