Dr. Anupama Sethi, founder Executive Director of EmpowerKidz, a multi-disciplinary learning enhancement center dedicated to children with learning disabilities, dyslexia, slow learning skills, ADD/ADHD and/or moderate autism, has been helping kids from 1993 to achieve their full potential in life, and has experimented with research based new developments in the area of education and the science of teaching.
In conversation with this truly remarkable lady, who is bringing joy and acceptance into the lives of hitherto struggling children, this week we focus on her initiatives centred around children with Attentoin Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Q: Do the same programmes and activities work for all kids with ADHD?
No really. When you have a child with ADHD it's tough, socially. The quick fix is to put them in something lots of other kids are doing, like basketball or football. But you really want to consciously pick the types of friends and the activities that will help your child develop the skills he's working on. Your child stands a better chance of success if he can focus on what he's doing – and crowds of other kids or a loud noise level can make that difficult. Stick to small groups in reasonably controlled settings when you can.
Generally kids with ADHD do better with things that are interesting to them. Whether your child's passion is dance, martial arts, soccer, or art, we advise selecting an after-school activity that engages him in a structured setting, which is always helpful for children with ADHD.
Research findings indicate that boys with ADHD report significant lower intensity rates of participation in most activity domains. Furthermore, boys with ADHD also report higher diversity scores and lower enjoyment in ‘formal’ activities. Yet, no significant differences are found with regard to activity place and partners. These findings enhance the importance of providing therapy that refers to after school activities
Physical activity in general is very beneficial to kids with ADHD. I often recommend that they do an aerobic activity three to four times a week. Exercise helps attention, and it improves self-esteem.
Q: What are the most effective recreational programmes/activities that EmpowerKidz offers?
Children with ADHD can be more sensitive to sensory stimuli than a typically developing child – engaging recreational activities can help them feel emotionally regulated. We at EmpowerKidz use the IPP program for children with ADHD. It works to improve attention span, memory, comparison/contrast thinking, eye-hand coordination, systems reasoning and other skills essential to the learning process and holistic development of the children, helping them perform better in school and in life. Since IPP is learning therapy as opposed to tutoring, it deals directly with the causes of the child’s learning problems, in this case inattention and hyperactivity, which helps your students get back on track more quickly!
These activities provide an ideal way to integrate and support children with ADHD as they help develop skills, positive behaviours, and interpersonal awareness.
EmpowerKidz is also an authorized provider of TLP (The Listening Program) by Advanced Brain Tech USA, for children with ADHD.
Many children have problems with memory. Creating and engaging in fun memory activities helps build their retention power. EmpowerKidz offers Memory Matrix Program under SOI Systems.
Q: What kind of activities help kids with learning ability develop skills?
Research suggests that participation in arts, clubs, etc. correlates with higher social skills in children and youth with ADHD, and those with no diagnoses.
Craft activities are fun for everyone, but for children with ADHD, the opportunity to explore colour, shape, and sensory experiences can stimulate attention, foster calm, and create loads of fun!
Building objects or crafts promotes fine motor development, visual judgment, sequencing, and planning skills. The completion of the activity or project itself provides a good immediate reward for staying on task. Hobbies and crafts can be excellent tools to develop concentration, fine motor coordination, and work habits. Positive recreational experiences can help enhance the self-esteem and confidence of youth with ADHD, since so much failure is experienced in an academic setting.
If your kid is in a band, orchestra or a choir, they are learning to work as part of a team — a key skill for kids with ADHD. At EmpowerKidz we engage them in activities through music as unlike other activities that work either the right or left side of the brain, music exercises both sides at the same time, training your mind to multitask better. Music offers children with ADHD a chance to build critical life skills such as measuring, timing, sequencing, and creative judgment. Apart from taking active part in musical activities, listening to music itself is very soothing for the child.
Bubble wrap can inspire all kinds of activities. Roll out the bubble wrap carpet and let your child walk the “runway.” Make a hopscotch grid with squares of bubble wrap. Or use permanent markers to write letters on the bubbles, and challenge your child to see how quickly she can “pop” the alphabet. You can even let her paint the bubble wrap and then press paper down on top of it. When the bubbles pop, she’ll have a spectacular “bubble print” painting. This can be done both at home and/or at school.
Your child has probably noticed that some letters reach above the middle space on her lined paper, some stay inside it and some dip below it. In this game, you translate the way letters look into body positions. For tall letters, you jump up; for medium-sized ones, you stand in place; and for ones that drop down, you crouch. So for bag, you jump up for b, stand still for “a” and crouch for “g”. To start playing, write down a list of words. Then take turns choosing one and acting it out to see if the other person can guess what it is. Depending on the child’s needs, we can adapt this activity to an Indian version by using syllables/matras (ee,oo) from the Hindi language.
Q: Which activities do the kids enjoy the most?
Activities with model building, carving, woodworking, mosaics, jigsaw puzzles or that involve mechanical skills are very beneficial. Children with ADHD often love to figure things out and solve puzzles and we have found exceptional results with Lego blocks and Lego robotics, particularly with older children.
Our children have experienced many meltdowns while playing board games that move too slow. This is why we engage them in games and activities that move quickly. Or better yet, are strategy games that need a lot of thinking. Children with ADHD are typically very smart and will thrive when having to plan and figure things out.
Q: How do these activities help them in learning?
Children and youth with ADHD internalize the experience of being different from others through social comparison, which is reinforced externally by family members, community leaders, and peers. Consider a child, for instance, who has difficulty tying shoelaces or is unable to manipulate scissors, or one who cannot remain seated for fifteen minutes during a program or hang on to the rope during group outings or visits to the park. Often these difficulties result in the exclusion of children and youth from traditional leisure services. Yet it is these very leisure services that can make a crucial difference in the self-esteem and self-worth of youth with ADHD. Our culture devalues people with disabilities. As a result, youth with ADHD are not given access to the same services that other youth are offered. Leisure services provide an opportunity for youth with ADHD to ‘fit in’ and provide a context for enhancing strengths and offer increased opportunities for recognition.
Command games that involve attending to and following an instruction help children with ADHD in numerous ways. For instance, give him one command, after completing the job give him two commands simultaneously. Keep on increasing the number of commands until he fails to follow the command. This will actually improve his listening skills. Another such command game is “Simon says”, which has proven to work wonders with children with ADHD.
These activities when participated in individually or in small groups, helps not only in stimulating the learning brain but also with handling young children’s behavioural nuances.
EmpowerKidz tries to provide answers to ‘why’ a student is not learning efficiently and successfully by going beyond academics and tutoring. Dr. Sethi develops their foundation for learning in a holistic integrated approach, thus making learning enjoyable and academics more meaningful for the children.