A gap year is an experiential year typically taken between high school and college in order to deepen practical, professional, and personal awareness. A gap year can be especially important and beneficial for students with ADHD. Here are some things to consider if you are thinking about a gap year for your ADHD teen.
In today’s world, apps are indispensable. They give us directions to keep us from getting lost, allow us to manage our money, and a hundred other daily tasks. So it is no surprise that apps have been created for helping students, especially those with learning and attention challenges such as ADHD, to organize and perform tasks more effectively. Apps, in combination with treatment modalities and coaching support, are empowering these students to perform at a higher level than they might otherwise.
Brock Eide, M.D., and Fernette Eide, M.D. discuss an interesting idea called “distributed cognition.” It has emerged as educational researchers rethink the concept of intelligence. Traditionally, intelligence has been measured by our ability to remember and regurgitate something we have studied. The Eides define distributed cognition in their article “A New View of ‘Smart’ for Kids With Learning and Attention Issues.”
One helpful idea is called distributed cognition. That term is a mouthful, but the concept is simple.
Cognition means how your brain knows and understands things. Distributed means shared. So distributed cognition is what you can know and understand if your brain cooperates with outside helpers—whether they’re tools, printed information or other people.
It also means that your intelligence isn’t fixed by the information you carry around in your head. Intelligence can be increased by the way you interact with your environment.
In other words, how “smart” you are is really the sum of two things: The first is what you know on your own. The second is what you can easily learn by interacting with the things you have easy access to.
Apps, search engines and other software tools assist students with learning and attention issues by freeing them of the necessity for memorization which is difficult. Apps can be especially useful in memory intensive areas such as:
- Procedures, especially multi-step instructions for how to do things
- Rote facts, like times tables, state capitals or the lists of chemical elements in the periodic table
There are dozens of apps to help students and adults with learning and attention issues, and more coming to market each year. Understood.org provides an excellent survey of apps for students of all ages. For example, the Voice Dream Reader helps students with reading issues: it is a customizable app that lets kids highlight text and have it read aloud to them. Healthline also publishes a regular survey of apps for people with ADHD. Below are demonstrations of some apps for users with ADHD.
Traxion is a mobile app aimed at helping those with ADHD organize your time and time tasks more effectively.
The Social Navigator helps children and teens with social and behavior issues learn to cope more effectively in various social situations.
Time to Rethink Our Educational Model?
As software becomes more deeply embedded into our world, it brings greater urgency to the work of updating our traditional educational model to match what we encounter in life. Distributed cognition is a way of life now outside of the classroom. Most adults would find it hard to navigate the complexities of modern life without Google and smartphone apps. In school, these technologies can be a great leveler for kids struggling with learning and attention issues.
I have a friend who has ADHD. She is an established professional, in a stimulating and rewarding job. Work is a constant balancing act, but she somehow manages to juggle it all without dropping any important balls. In fact, I think because of her interpersonal skills and ability to react in the moment she is able to be more successful at her job than someone who is better organized, meets all the deadlines with ease, but has an abrasive personality.
Yesterday she was sharing how she was leaving town in 24 hours. She was stressing – as usual – with a huge list of undone tasks to be accomplished before the plane takes off. She confided that she’s just resigned herself to pulling an all-nighter before she left to get it all done. I could tell she felt like she was failing, again.
After she left, I realized that every time she has ever gone on vacation, the last few days are always in crisis mode. She sees other people who get themselves calmly organized, have every duck in a row, and leave town with a clean desk and wishes she could do the same.
Next time I see her I’m going to tell her about the most important thing you learn when you work with an Edge coach – discover what works for you, not for other people.
In her own chaotic way, she’s already done that. In all the times I’ve seen her go, she always gets everything done. Always. She never misses the plane. Nothing important goes astray or can’t be fixed. I think she needs the anxiety and adrenalin of the last-minute push to get her mind in gear and focused on the not-so-exciting job of getting ready to leave.
Novel concept: what if instead of feeling guilty for leaving it all to the end, she accepts that that is how she works best? And instead of letting her family or friends make her feel guilty for running at the last minute, she celebrates the fact she’s figured out how to work with her strengths – in this case the ability to pull it all together in a crisis. It’s that very strength that makes her so successful in the job she currently holds.
Sometimes it’s not about doing something differently. It’s figuring out how to make the ride less stressful for yourself – and the people around you. Instead of spending energy feeling bad about what works for her, what would happen if she spent that energy focusing on helping her family understand how to come along for the ride?
What do you think would happen if you looked at an ADHD “bad habit” and see where it’s also strength in your life? What would change for you