What works and what doesn’t
There are thousands of products on the market purported to help with ADHD. However, in the nearly eight years since my son’s diagnosis, we have tried dozens and found only a few to be truly beneficial. Following is my top 10+ picks of tools and gadgets for kids with ADHD. Note, a good portion of this list addresses sensory processing issues — we’ve found that super helpful for inattention and other ADHD-related issues as well.
My Top 10 Tools for Kids with ADHD
1) iPad PRO with Apple Pencil
This is, by far, the most successful tool we’ve offered our son to date. Any iPad, with the right apps, will allow a student to take pictures of worksheets and complete them on the screen (typing). However, the PRO is the only one that works with the Apple Pencil, and the pair means completing assignments practically the same as using pen and paper, but with the added bonus of never losing assignments (all those pesky papers our kids can’t organize and keep up with). He currently uses Bookshare, iStudiez for planner, and UPAD3 for ALL of his paper for all of his classes, organized in folders by class. This pair of tools has drastically transformed his academic experience. It’s expensive, but worth every penny with the amount of stress it relinquishes and the amount of time it saves (looking for and redoing assignments). It’s seriously magical. If your child struggles with executive function deficits, I can’t recommend an iPad PRO and Apple Pencil Enough. Below is the setup Ricochet has.
The HowdaHUG chair literally squeezes the user (gently) giving proprioceptive input many kids with ADHD are lacking. Before my son got a HowdaHug seat, I could not get him to read a chapter book for even five minutes, despite his ability to read above grade level. I’d find him fidgeting, kicking his legs, and standing on his head, all in an effort to sustain attention to read. He’d ask every minute or two if he had finished the allotted reading time yet. It was torture for him, and torture for me. Once we got the HowdaHug, he sat in it to do his reading and received all the sensory input he needed to focus on his book. In fact, the first time he sat in it to read, he read for over 30 minutes and never once asked how much longer. In my opinion, this seat is well worth the price tag for fidgety and inattentive kids. We found it to be nearly miraculous.
3) Skweezrs sheets
Skweezrs are our top three favorite find. This sheet is like an open-ended envelope for your child’s mattress. It is made of lycra and very tight fitting. It gives sensory input to calm and soothe a child, making sleep easier. My son used to pile blankets and pillows all around and atop himself to sleep. He needs deep pressure input to calm and remain less restless, and the Skweezrs sheet provides just that.
4) Time Timer
Kids with ADHD often struggle with the concept of time. They generally don’t have a good feel for how long a certain amount of time is, nor how much time has passed. The Time Timer provides a constant visual measure of time — the red disc fills in the amount of time you set and disappears as time passes. This is an excellent tool for kids with ADHD!
5) Weighted Blankets
Weighted blankets work much the same way as the Skweezrs sheet and the HowdaHug chair. The weight of the blanket provides proprioceptive input required to calm and relax that many kids with ADHD are lacking. A weighted blanket provides a lot more deep pressure than the other two products that help with sensory input. My son sleeps inside his Skweezrs sheet and under his weighted blanket every night. He will put the weighted blanket on when he feels anxious as well.
6) Chew Tools
My son has a serious oral-motor fixation. He is constantly chewing on something: fingers, fingernails, paper, pencils, shirt sleeves, buttons from the remote control, pieces of his iPod case, Legos, his school papers… You name it, he’s likely chewed on it. In first grade the school brought this to my attention when he was chewing the ends of his pencils until the metal that held the eraser was like a razor blade and cutting the inside of his mouth. I began searching for alternatives for him to chew on in class and found a few tools made specifically for oral-sensory needs. The Chewelry was pretty feminine back then, so we opted for the chew tubes that go on the end of a pencil, but anything safe to chew is fine. It helps with focus.
7) Chewing Gum
Solving the issue of danger with oral-motor needs can be as simple as allowing your child to chew gum. I had to get special permission from the principal in elementary school, but Ricochet has been allowed to chew gum in school for years. Chewing gum can be a good supplement to chewing tools when and where it’s permitted. Try to choose gum that is low in sugar, of course. I’ve given some natural chewing gum options below:
8) Large Binder for School
My son was really struggling with always having his materials at appropriate times once he began switching classes some in fifth grade. We tried color coding and the like but nothing was working, and he and his teachers were becoming exasperated with the issue. I decided to try one large binder to hold everything, and it turned out to be successful. This binder went everywhere with him and had writing utensils that I checked each night, poly envelops with velcro, color-coded: a clear for “keep at home,” red for “papers that needed attention (like homework),” and green for “completed papers” and anything he needed to turn in. The binder also had his planner and a notebook each for math and science. He loves the binder because he can finally be prepared for class with one simple rule: take the binder everywhere (except lunch and recess, of course). UPDATE: The binder was not enough once my son started 8th grade. He now has an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil to take the place of ALL papers and we love it. I added it to the top of the list here. If your school won’t allow your child to use an iPad exclusively at school, this is the next-best thing.
9) The Zones of Regulation
As with many kids with ADHD, my son struggles with emotional regulation and social cues. Around age 11, his OT started using the Zones of Regulation program with him and it helped a great deal. It helped him learn to put a name with his feelings, but also helped him recognize what particular emotions look like on other faces. Plus, the program teaches kids what activities and exercises they can do to transition from an undesirable zone and into a better place emotionally. I am a huge fan of OT for kids with ADHD, but you can do this program at home, as well.
10) Posted Weekly Calendar
Many kids with ADHD need to know what to expect and need help with transitions from one activity to the next. I found that a weekly calendar posted where the entire family can reference it is very helpful, especially in the summer when school is out.
11) Kindle with Immersion Reading
My son has a hard time with chapter books — he reads on grade level, but he hates chapter books because they are overwhelming and not one bit visual. He struggles a great deal with tracking too, losing his place in the text multiple times per page. We found that the immersion reading function on the Kindle Fire was a great tool to address these weaknesses. Amazon’s Immersion Reading allows you to couple a kindle book with an audio book so the reader can hear the text read aloud to them, but the text is also highlighted in sync. Not only is this a great tool for inattentive kids, but it also helps struggling readers, those with reading comprehension issues, and those with dyslexia. UPDATE: We do not use the Kindle Fire for reading. We now use Bookshare on the iPad that Ricochet uses for all schoolwork. Bookshare offers the same read aloud and highlight in sync, but the books are free to students with disabilities.
What tools and gadgets have you found to actually be useful for kids with ADHD?