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"KEEP ON TASK" alert for ADHD 3rd grader Answered

My 8 year old son, Finn, was recently diagnosed with ADHD/inattentive (what used to be called ADD).  He isn't hyper, he just can't focus.  He is in the 3rd grade and really struggling and wants to do better which is causing him no end of frustration.  He has been brainstorming a lot recently on what may help him and he had an idea. I've look around and can't find it off-the-shelf so I was wondering if anyone has good ideas on approaches to DIY build.

Finn's idea was a pencil or pen which is pressure sensitive and detects if he stops writing and gets his attention with a flash of light or a vibration.  This is for use in class so it has to be something that wouldn't distract the other students.

I was thinking that instead of a "smart" pen, it may be easier to build a pressure sensitive clipboard which alerts when it's not being written on (when it's supposed to be, of course).

It can't be something computer/tablet based, it has to be something he can plug any worksheet into and have it help him stay focused until it's done.  He gets about 4 worksheets a day to "finish in class" and has to bring them home unfinished to add to his homework.

Any ideas on a good starting point mechanism would be very appreciated.

Regards,
Jason

Discussions

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world of woodcraft

3 years ago

I was never diagnoses with anything like ADHD (I am severely dyslexic which was probably enough to deal with without adding any more letters into the mix).. But I did find it super hard to concentrate in class.

I think vibrations or flashy lights for me would probably increase the likely hood of me being distracted (but this time by vibrations and lights).

One thing which really helped me personally to focus in on a task was a fairly simple picture of a zebra. (I know it sounds silly right now but it worked) I find it very easy to hit into a very creative part of my mind where I make lots of connections and will go off an all tangents.. The zebra was there to help remind me of what I should have been doing at the time instead of thinking of how I could probably build a structure capable of holding my own weight using nothing but the stationary in front of me.

I have worked as a teacher and did a little experiment based on the work of I think Canadian and american educational psychologists.. The research can be found in a book and website called fidget to focus.
The research kinda boils down to the fact that kids with ADHD have been living with it for some time and have some coping strategies down already.
For some .. an its worth pointing out some.. kids with ADHD, they can seance when there likely to start loosing concentration. At this point if the kid has a strategy to focus back in --- like the zebra--- then there more likely to get back to a focused state and reduce the frustration of loosing concentration in class and not really understanding whats going on because they missed 50% of it.
The book then looks at strategies and identifies fidget toys as a good way to focus.. I have tried this and it has had mixed results in my classrooms, and for me i think it depends on the situations.. But I would probably recommend checking out the research, an possibly looking at ways to work around which might not require a make as a first thing... Still defiantly make stuff because making stuff is awesome and if it works then its likely to help out a ton of kids with the same or similar problems. But other solutions might be worth checking out as well.

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JasonM140world of woodcraft

Reply 3 years ago

WoW,

thank you for your input. Finn does use fidgets as a pretty good mechanism to keep his attention in class. He has identified for himself that it doesn't work while he is trying to stay on task for an in-class assignment. The key point of the "you are not writing" alert idea is that it was Finn's idea for himself. My wife & I are learning all we can about ADD and suggesting & trying lots of new ideas for him, but I put a high value on those ideas he comes up with for himself.

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world of woodcraftJasonM140

Reply 3 years ago

It sounds like your doing a great job. An it has to be super empowering to have agency over your own experiments. If you guys come up with any good solutions please let me know. I fidget until I brake things but I do find it works for me.

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JasonM140world of woodcraft

Reply 3 years ago

Thank you for saying so. It it empowering but there is also a sense of urgency that goes with it and is a bit stressful. 3rd grade is hard at the best of times, and much worse if the student can't already write automatically.(Finn needs to think about every stroke of every letter he writes, just like I do. It's really hard to keep a thought in your head long enough to get it down on paper.) The urgency comes from wanting to bring any joy to the learning process so that he isn't totally turned off of school before he gets a decent chance to succeed.

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Toga_DanJasonM140

Reply 3 years ago

maybe its time for him to learn a qwerty board.

or get a voice recorder to catch thoughts at the speed he thinks,

or get a dry erase board. sometimes writing BIG is easier.

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world of woodcraftToga_Dan

Reply 3 years ago

I can empathize with your kid. For me school wasn't at all fun. The joy came when I went to art school. I was given a copy of Claro read and dragon dictate. for me these two software's opened up the world.. Online gaming also helped in giving me a reason to really try to type fast enough to contribute to conversations.

The bad thing is that its likely to be difficult, The good thing is the difficulty isn't reflective of intelligence and we are lucky enough to live in a world where assistive technologies exist.

I am sure school is frustrating but if coping strategies can be developed now then later on when the curriculum becomes more focused on what the kid wants to do then im sure they will shine. An on the + I think that the difficulties might help them to develop a bit more of an insight which wouldnt be as easy to hit on for others.

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Downunder35m

3 years ago

Problem is that anything that detects no writing also flashes during the writing - and you don't want flashing lights on your pen trust me ;)

Don't want to judge or seem like a smartar.... but:
A friend of mine had his two little kids diagnosed in a similar way and they used special schools and extra training for the first years of school.
Meds did not do what they promised either.
The interesting part is that his kids are now in normal schools and doing totally fine!
One year the took a 4 week vacation on a holiday farm for kids.
No shops around and all food and drinks freshly produced on the farm.
In those 4 weeks the kids made a 180° turn with their mental state.
Lasted only 2 weeks once back home though.
With the help of the hobby farm and some good doc the diet for the kids was radically changed.
No more artificial stuff like sweeteners, colors, preservatives.
Nothing with high high sugar contents like coke, but still treat like candy and such.

After everything was banned that comes out of chemical plant they kids impoved to the point of being totally "normal" - in the terms of the initial diagnosis, not in terms of acting like loving kids if you know the troubles ;)
Fun fact: Before we had supermarket and fast food there was not a single case of ADD or ADHD know to doctors....

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JasonM140Downunder35m

Reply 3 years ago

Downunder35m,

Thank you for your feedback.

regarding "anything that detects no writing also flashes during the writing", I should have said in my original post: I would like a built-in delay (variable) between writing being detected and the alert activating. This is the part of the solution I need the most help on, actually.

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Downunder35mJasonM140

Reply 3 years ago

Ok, makes more sense...
It is not too hard to start a timer with an input signal and to delete the timer if another signal comes, simple code.
But getting the electronics and power supply small enough to fit into a pen will be tricky.
It might be easier the other way around and to use a digitiser under the paper.
Once no input for a while the light goes off.
Although this requires a little tablet or similar to work the the touch sensitvie digitizer.

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Toga_DanDownunder35m

Reply 3 years ago

i was thinking of something simpler than coding. like how long it takes to charge a capacitor.

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Downunder35mToga_Dan

Reply 3 years ago

True, old school is always an option but even very basic circuits would require decent SMD soldering skills as normal sized parts would create a BIG pen.

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JasonM140Downunder35m

Reply 3 years ago

Downunder & Toga_Dan,

I really appreciate you sharing your ideas.

I have access to some friends with great soldering skills, so if that is required I think it can be overcome. The main mechanism I don't know where to start with is the writing detection itself. Assuming it's built into a clipboard, what can be added that can send a signal to a circuit when it's being written on? I didn't want to go a bulky as a digitiser, unless someone knows of something more slimline than I have been able to find.

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Downunder35mJasonM140

Reply 3 years ago

Depending on the pen design a similar desing to the vinyl player could be used.
The needle is in a flexible mount, often just a piece of rubber, and when it moves a tiny magnet at the end induces a little voltage in two coils.
A pressure sensor as used for digital scales might work too.
Every time a signal is detected a timer is started, or to use Toga Dan's words, a capacitor charged.
For the last it would be a simple mono flop to start charging the capacitor or something similar.

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Toga_Dan

3 years ago

theres another option , no batteries required. a cubicle would keep him from gazing at that cute girl in the front row.