Boost your child’s focus with these parent-recommended tools for ADHD
As a parent of an ADHD-diagnosed child, you know that your child has the ability to concentrate, but usually only on the things that capture their interest; then it’s a case of hyperfocus! However, for everything else, their inattention can become a significant obstacle, resulting in a constant struggle to maintain focus.
To assist your child to keep their focus when they need to, we’ve compiled a list of effective tools and strategies – as suggested by parents, educators, and healthcare professionals. These tools can help them stay focused for longer, block out distractions, or provide them with an outlet for their wiggles. Not all children are the same, so try these out to see what works best for your child and circumstances.
Put on the background music
There’s a concept called the load theory of select attention that says that we give our attention to something depending on the balance between late-stage attention and early-stage attention. Early-selection attention is when you deliberately concentrate on a specific thing, while late-selection attention is when you are involuntarily distracted by something else. The idea behind using music to help ADHD-diagnosed people is that it suppresses the brain’s ability to direct itself toward irrelevant stimuli. Hence, music provides a singular background noise, as opposed to many. Here are popular music choices, but ultimately use the music that your child prefers:
binaural beats: best listened to with headphones on, binaural beats work by stimulating both sides of the brain to create the singular wave that is sensed by your awareness. Search for “binaural beats for ADHD”, and you’ll get a variety of options, or look for music in the alpha frequency (9-13Hz).
rock music: some studies have shown that listening to rock music reduces hyperactivity and improves task completion in people with ADHD.
classical music: this also puts brains in the alpha state, which can lead to improved cognitive performance.
...Or listen to white noise
If your child doesn’t want to listen to music, get a white noise generator to help block distractions. Try apps such as Simply Noise that offer all types of noise – pink noise, brown noise, rainstorms or calming music – and get your child to see what works best. Alternatively, if the weather permits, run a loud fan in the background during homework time.
...Or use noise-cancelling headphones
With or without music, noise-cancelling headphones eliminate household distractions and reduce the sound of busy streets or shops, allowing your child to focus.
Let them fidget
Children with ADHD often don’t know what to do with their hands and are constantly fiddling. Research shows that ADHD children concentrate better if they’re allowed to fidget. These quiet toys ensure that restless fingers and bodies get their joy while not causing a distraction to others:
-Objects that can be squeezed quietly (and under a desk in the classroom):
squeeze balls, squishy balls, stress balls, hand exercisers, tangle toys, fidgets, and beaded bracelets
-Chewing bubblegum (if they’re allowed) or chewable necklaces
-Chair leg bands (like a yoga band) that they can push or pull against with their legs
-Bouncy balls or exercise balls
-Swivel chairs or rocking chairs
Take audio recordings
Paying attention to verbal instructions is important for doing well in school and beyond. For older children or teens, recording the teacher’s instructions and even the lesson themselves, can help them stay on track and review any missed information later on.
Get into an exercise routine
For overall general improvement in concentration, ensure that your child is exercising regularly. Research has shown that exercise has a number of positive effects for the ADHD-diagnosed child, one of them being that it helps with focus. When you’re deciding on extra-mural activities, sign up for the type of movement that they like – such as martial arts, dance, soccer or netball – so that they get the cognitive, social and physical benefits of exercise. For more on ADHD and exercise, read Why your child needs exercise for ADHD symptom management.
- Blanchfield, T. (2022). Music for ADHD: Benefits & Types to Improve Focus. Very Well Mind [Online]. Accessed on 28 March 2023. Available from https://www.verywellmind.com/music-to-improve-focus- adhd-6361057
- Jacobson, R. (2023). School Success Kit for Kids With ADHD. Child Mind Institute [Online]. Accessed on 28 March 2023. Available from https://childmind.org/article/school-success-kit-for-kids-with- adhd/
- Schneider, H. (2022). I’m a Health Writer With ADHD, and These Are the Noise-Canceling Headphones I Swear By To Help Me Focus. Well + Good [Online]. Accessed on 28 March 2023. Available from https://www.wellandgood.com/best-headphones-for-adhd/
- Terada, Y. (2018). 17 Ways to Help Students With ADHD Concentrate. Edutopia [Online]. Accessed on 28 March 2023. Available from https://www.edutopia.org/discussion/17-ways-help-students-adhd- fidget