The Homework System for ADHD Kids

Homework can be challenging for kids, and not just the homework itself. Kids have to write down the assignment properly, bring home the right books and materials, keep track of due dates, and remember to hand in the completed homework—all of which can be extra challenging for anyone with poor memory, focus, or attention to detail. ADDitude, a website of resources and advice for those who have ADHD or parent a child with ADHD, created a slideshow of their 13-step homework system designed for children with ADHD or learning disabilities, though the system would help any kid who struggles with homework. Among the suggestions are:

  • Get the teachers on board
  • Set up a home routine
  • Designate a homework location
  • Use a timer
  • Take breaks and refocus
  • Have a plan for long-term assignments

If your child is struggling with any step of the homework process, whether they have ADHD or not, be sure to check out the full slideshow to help you set up a system in your house. It may take a few months to become a habit, but creating consistent routines at home and school will help both you and your child stress less about homework.

New Illinois ABLE Program Helps Families with Special Needs

ilRaising a child with special needs can be expensive. Last week, Illinois State Treasurer Michael W. Frerichs unveiled the Illinois ABLE plan to help families save for future expenses. The plan was developed by the National Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Alliance, a consortium of 13 states that worked with Congress and state legislatures to create this special investment program that allows for tax-free investment growth when savings are spent on qualifying disability-related expenses.

The plan is similar to the 529 college savings plans in that families would be allowed to set aside money for future qualified expenses, invest these funds in professionally designed savings accounts, and avoid some tax penalties on the fund. Eligible individuals can open the account for themselves, or an authorized individual can open an account on their behalf. To be eligible, a person must:

  • Be entitled to SSI or SSDI because of their disability
  • Have their disability present before age 26

Annual contributions per beneficiary are limited to the federal gift tax limit, which is currently $14,000. Like the 529 college savings plan, anyone can contribute to an ABLE plan, including relatives and friends. The Illinois ABLE plan is designed to protect an individual’s federal benefits, and up to $100,000 saved in an ABLE account would not be counted against a person’s eligibility for SSI or other federal means-tested programs. ABLE account holders are still eligible for Medicaid regardless of their account balance.

Withdrawals from an ABLE account are tax-free if used for qualified disability expenses. These are any expenses that are incurred as a result of living with a disability and that are intended to improve the beneficiary’s quality of life. They include, but are not limited to:

  • Education
  • Health and wellness
  • Housing
  • Transportation
  • Legal fees
  • Financial management
  • Employment training and support
  • Assistive technology
  • Personal support services
  • Oversight and monitoring
  • Funeral and burial expenses

The state treasurer’s office has created a fact sheet to share with families who may benefit from the Illinois ABLE plan. The Illinois ABLE website provides additional information as well as providing a fast and easy way to sign up and create an Illinois ABLE account.

ISBE Unveils New Friendlier Website

seallogostacked_100pixelstallonwhiteThe Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) provides a wealth of information for families, teachers, administrators, and community members on their website. However, finding the information you were looking for used to involve navigating an extremely complicated series of menus and links, backing up from dead ends, and sometimes futile searches. However, right before the holidays, ISBE debuted their redesigned website with easier navigation, topics arranged in several different ways, and even a short introductory videos on how to move around and how to search the new website.

Across the top of the website are links to areas for key education stakeholders, including administrators, teachers, families, communities, and new media. The topics link at the end of the menu takes you to a grid of 21 separate topics, including:

A dozen of these topics are highlighted on the lower half of the home page. The bottom of the page provides links to the Superintendent’s weekly message and a calendar of ISBE meetings.

As the deadline for the state’s ESSA implementation plan approaches this spring, the easy access to Illinois’s draft plan and reader’s guide will be critical to families wanting to provide feedback. The third draft of the plan is currently being completed and should be available in the near future. Likewise, the information on the upcoming state assessments, including the PARCC assessment for grades 3 through 8 and the new SAT assessment for high school juniors, will be helpful for families wanting to understand the schedule for assessments and the release of their child’s results. There is also information on the new physical fitness assessments that are starting this year.

With the proliferation of misinformation circulating on social media today, it is especially useful to be able to go directly to the root source for accurate information. The new ISBE website makes finding that core information directly from the source so much easier than it has been in the past, allowing families to find out exactly what their child’s school needs to be doing to provide them with a quality education.

Helping Your Child Deal with Anxiety

anxiety-1337383_960_720-2Every parent has dealt with a child who is anxious about something, be it the first day of school, a piano recital, or meeting the new kid next door. Anxiety is certainly a part of every person’s life from time to time, but anxiety that is too strong or that happens a lot can become overwhelming and prevent a child from being able to function.

More Common Than You Think

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 18.1% of adults have suffered from anxiety in the past year, and 22.8% of those adults (4.1% overall) have suffered from severe anxiety, and the average age for the onset of anxiety was 11 years old. For children, the numbers are higher, with 31.9% having anxiety disorders and 8.3% of them with severe anxiety. Anxiety is the most common form of childhood mental illness.

Among the most common forms of anxiety (with links to information on each from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America) are:

Two Questions to Ask Yourself

Researchers studying kindergartners found that two questions parents can ask themselves about their young child that can indicate that a child may develop an anxiety disorder in the future. Those questions are:

  • Is your child more shy or anxious than other children their age?
  • Is your child more worried than other children their age?

The researchers found that parents are often tuned in to their child’s behavior, but are not able to specifically identify what the issue is. Also note that these questions target persistent behavior over time and not passing anxieties that are a part of growing up.

Knowing the Signs and Symptoms

As stated earlier, every child and adult experiences anxiety from time to time. Most, even those who live through traumatic events, don’t develop anxiety disorders. For those that do, the signs include:

  • Excessive worry most days of the week for weeks on end
  • Trouble sleeping at night or sleepiness during the day
  • Restlessness or fatigue during waking hours
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Complaining of stomach aches
  • Withdrawal from social activities

What You Can Do for Your Anxious Child

It is difficult to watch your child struggle and suffer, but attempting to anticipate your child’s fears and to try to protect them from those fears can actually exacerbate a child’s anxiety. The advice to families of children suffering from anxiety is to help them learn to deal with anxiety, not to avoid it.

The Child Mind Institute has a list of ten things to do and not do when dealing with an anxious child. PsychCentral has a list of nine things for families of anxious children to try. The two lists parallel each other, and key points include:

  • Don’t avoid things just because they make your child anxious.
  • Stop reassuring your child.
  • Respect feelings, but don’t empower them.
  • Don’t ask leading questions.
  • Teach your child to be a thought detective.
  • Allow your child to worry.
  • Try to model healthy ways of handling anxiety.

Be sure to check out both lists for more information on these and other suggestions. Don’t forget to mention anxiety issues when talking with your child’s pediatrician. Anxiety is a treatable mental disorder, but far too many children and adults do not get treatment.