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ADHD Survival Kit: 5 Tools Every ADHD Family Needs

Updated on May 6, 2014

These tools don't fix everything, but they sure make it easier to parent a child with ADHD

First off, my "credentials": 14 years in the trenches of ADHD parenting. Two of my 3 kids have ADHD -- one with inattentive & one with mixed subtype. I also have a long history with attention issues myself, dating back to early elementary school. So from many different angles, I know how challenging this can be. Seems like for every asset ADHD can bring -- creativity, intuitive learning, a passion for trying new things -- it brings at least 3 deficits that can derail kids at school, and their families at home. I don't have the answers, but I do have a few tools to share that have helped our family a ton.

(pictured: the magical TimeTimer)

1. A good blender

Does your kid take forever to eat? (My inattentive guy does.) Is breakfast particularly slow and spacy? (It is here.) Does protein in the morning and after school, before homework, seem to help with focus? (It does for both my ADHD kids.) If so, one word: smoothies.

With a smoothie, you can pack a ton of protein into a glass of yumminess. Try vanilla or plain yogurt with banana, peanut butter and some decent-quality cocoa powder. Or a fruit smoothie with yogurt or kefir, frozen and/or fresh fruit, some banana or honey for sweetness, and a splash of milk. If you add enough yogurt, peanut butter or other protein source, this is a meal in a glass. Perfect for kids who wish they were still sleeping, not eating, and are time-challenged in the a.m. -- or who need a healthy, hydrating pick-me-up in the afternoon.

KitchenAid KSB560ER 5-Speed Blender with Polycarbonate Jar, Empire Red
KitchenAid KSB560ER 5-Speed Blender with Polycarbonate Jar, Empire Red

With smoothie-making an almost daily operation here, we blew through several subpar blenders before finding this one. Finally, I've got a reliable model. It's fast, powerful, dishwasher safe, and doesn't need to be taken apart to clean. Not only am I in love with this blender, but we're in a serious long-term relationship ;)


2. A water bottle

Having just touched on hydration with the smoothie strategy, I might as well talk H20. With my son who has mixed-type ADHD, I noticed something a few years ago during a summer day camp program. On the way home from camp, he'd often complain, sometimes even yell, and frame his day in a very negative way. One day I asked how much water he'd had during the day. "I don't know" was the response, of course. So I handed him some and insisted he drink it. Major mood change.

Hydration is key for all kids -- boosts focus, helps the immune system, wards off headaches -- but kids with ADHD may forget to use the water fountains at school, or if they struggle to get to class promptly, they may simply not have time. If your child's school allows water bottles, I highly recommend this one.

CamelBak BPA-Free Better Bottle with Bite Valve
CamelBak BPA-Free Better Bottle with Bite Valve

Made from dishwasher safe, non-BPA plastic, this bottle has an easy sport lid but doesn't leak. Hallelujah! We have a fleet of them in the kitchen, ready to be deployed for school each a.m. Cool colors, too, and much lighter than Kleen Kanteens or Sigg bottles, which we've also used.


3. A Kindle

My kids' backpacks are SO crammed and heavy, especially on big homework days. I worry about the impact on their spines when they walk to and from school, frankly, or their balance / center of gravity when they bike. I tried strategizing a bit last year with the middle-school principal, who felt my pain (or the kids', rather!) but didn't have many ideas. One thing I asked about was using a Kindle for assigned and free-choice reading. (At times there are 2-3 different novels and nonfiction books floating in their packs ... not counting the textbooks, which sadly are not yet available for e-readers.) At the time, he said they weren't allowing them. But this year they are, which is great news for my son with mixed-type ADHD.

How will the Kindle help him? For one thing, he reads faster and more fluently when the type is not too small, and Kindle lets him control font size. Also -- providing he doesn't lose the Kindle .... fingers crossed! -- he won't lose his books. Once we buy them, we can reload them onto the Kindle, the PC, the iPad, whatever works. Finally, it cuts down at least some of that alarming backpack bulk.

4. A visual timer

If your ADHD kid struggles with time management, especially during homework, and you haven't used one of these, walk don't run. It's a must.

What my 14-year-old with inattentive-type ADHD likes to do is estimate how long each assignment will take him and then set the visual timer for that amount, to challenge himself. For a visual kid, this is the easiest way to see how much time is left. If used habitually, it helps build a better sense of the passage of time -- which is not an easy thing for my son (or me at times!).

Time Timer Original 3 Inch (Charcoal); 60 Minute Visual Analog Timer
Time Timer Original 3 Inch (Charcoal); 60 Minute Visual Analog Timer

When the kids were younger, we used an 8-inch Time Timer for can't-miss visibility. Now that they're older, we rely on the 3-inch version, which is nicely portable and takes up little space.


Who in your family has ADHD?

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Things that everyone needs, but *especially* everyone with ADHD...



~Nutrition (no skipping breakfast!)


Besides medication (often necessary, but not the focus of this page) and supplements (helpful for some, but generally not FDA approved), what tools have helped you and your child with ADHD?

What's in your ADHD toolkit?

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    • verymary profile image

      Mary 3 years ago from Chicago area

      @adammuller003 lm: I am thinking that my son with inattentive ADHD may need to upgrade to an iPhone before he goes away to college in (fingers crossed!) a year. Not sure it's as easy to set up those tools on his Windows phone. I'm going to check your Squidoo pages re that 5 min mindfulness technique, hoping you've written it up. Would be good for not only my son but potentially our whole family!

    • adammuller003 lm profile image

      adammuller003 lm 3 years ago

      -Reminder tools (an app on my phone where I schedule text to automatically update me with to-do's and other important stuff)


      -a 5 min. mindfulness exercise

      -and I'm giving the pomodoro technique a test run :)