The Life of a Foster Carer: The Importance of Repetition and Routine for Children with ADHD
Mark, aged 32 from Bradford, fosters Ben, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADHD is a common disorder affecting the behaviour of a child. This can involve them being more hyperactive, impulsive and often struggle to keep their concentration compared to other children their age.
Mark’s description of a typical day with Ben shows how repetition can go a long way towards helping a child with ADHD form a positive daily routine:
“I wake up every morning and will knock on Ben’s bedroom, shouting “Up you get Ben, this is your first call”. I wait for a response but know I shouldn’t expect one.’
‘I then give him five more minutes before shouting up from downstairs, “Come on, up you get Ben, this is your second call”. Once again, I know I will be met with silence – this is the same every day!’
‘Eventually, I will have to go upstairs again or shout really loud until I start to hear those heavy footsteps from above. When Ben comes down there is no real communication, only grunts and moans…typical teenage boy behaviour!’
‘“Come on Ben, take your tablets”, I will say. It usually takes him another five minutes to really come around before he takes his tablets, and although we offer breakfast, it is very often refused.’
‘I ask him to go and get ready, because if I don’t, I know he won’t. When he does go to his room, I know I will have to keep prompting him to get dressed because he will forget otherwise’.
‘Ben has ADHD, so we have had to work with him on this routine. Now he knows it so well, it works for both him and us! Before bringing in the first and second call to get Ben up, we had massive problems getting him to get up. He would always refuse by saying we were nagging him. This new routine allows him to realise we are giving him first and second options.’
Brilliant school attendance
‘Ben sets off for school, normally in a good mood with his packed lunch in hand. Since being with us, he has managed a 97.5% attendance rate, which is fantastic considering he didn’t even go to school before coming to live with us a year ago.’
‘When Ben comes home, he will spring through the front door with his normal bubbly face and shout “Hello Jones!”. Although none of us are called Jones, he still loves to shout it!’
‘Ben’s first port of call after he gets in is always the fridge, and he will gladly make himself a sandwich and take it off to the computer, where he will spend a good couple of hours making conversation with school friends and family members through social networking sites.’
‘Afterwards, Ben will come into the kitchen at least five times asking “Is dinner ready yet?”, or “What’s for dinner?”. Each time he gets louder and more and more anxious.
Dinner and family time
When it is time for dinner, we make it a rule that everybody eats together. This way, we can go around the table asking how everyone’s day has been. This is a great time for the family to understand what we all do each day.’
‘Ben always finishes first and will look around to see who may be leaving something for him. Because of this, we always make sure we have plenty of buttered bread, because everything Ben eats has to be made into a sandwich! And yes, this even happens with Sunday lunch!’
‘Most evenings, Ben will spend time on the computer, but we try to make sure that we include family evenings during the week and weekend. This is so Ben doesn’t isolate himself from the family by staying on the computer. Some activities we like to arrange include the cinema, as well as swimming, playing pool and going motorbiking – all of which Ben really enjoys and these are the treats he gets for attending school.’
‘Ben will usually ask to walk the dog. I try to do this with him as this offers him the one-to-one attention he needs in case he has anything he would like to ask that he can’t say around the dinner table.’
Removing noise and light stimulation before bedtime
‘When it comes to bedtime, Ben responds well to visual aids such as turning off the fish tank light and closing the curtains before we would then say something like “Come on Ben, it’s bedtime”. Ben would usually go to his room before bed at about 9:30pm on weeknights. We then allow Ben to watch TV in his room for 30 minutes before going up to turn off his bedroom light.
This is another good opportunity to have a few minutes of one-to-one time in which to tell Ben how well he has done throughout the day.
Ben will eventually settle to sleep at around 11:00pm.