How To Disciple Kids With ADHD

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How To Disciple Kids With ADHD

By Cori Wilson

It happened again. I sat down with all three of my kids with the best intentions of completing a short devotional reading, and it turned into 30 minutes of tears, jumping off of everything (literally), and then sending everyone to their rooms with a shout of frustration: “God, I need some patience for these kids you gave me!” 

I knew the problem. I knew my oldest son was struggling to focus, out of control in his own body, constantly moving, shaking, jumping, and distracting himself. I already knew without a formal diagnosis: Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. I knew because I also have ADHD. 

I’m a mom with ADHD with three little people to care for, and overstimulation is real, so why was this so hard for me to recognize in my own son? Denial maybe, but I was also thinking, “he’s just a little boy with too much energy” and “I guess he didn’t get enough sunshine today.” While he does have tons of energy, it was hardly ever true that he hadn’t spent enough time outside. 

Then it dawned on me. I have a degree in education, six years of classroom teaching experience, my National Boards, and life experience as a learner with ADHD. Why was I not honing all those experiences and using those same strategies I used with my former students on my own child? Why was I not teaching him the way I needed to be taught? It was like a revelation that the Holy Spirit brought to my mind at that moment when I felt I was at rock bottom to say, “Hey, Cori. I supply you with what you need to do what I’ve asked you to do. Just reminding you, dearly beloved.” From there, I took off. I never thought I’d have to make a lesson plan for family Bible time, but it was happening. 

What I discovered is so simple and drenched in common sense, but I know in the labor pains of discipleship, especially with children, sometimes I feel frantic and can’t focus. I hope these simple tips help you think practically about how to effectively disciple your kids—whether they have ADHD or not. 

Time of day is crucial. You likely already know this, but they have a window of time each day when they do their best work. For my son, this is right after breakfast. Because we homeschool, we have slow mornings, and we start with a Cross Formed Kids lesson first thing. If I wait until after homeschool, I can tell when he is out of steam, overstimulated, or overtired. 

Know your kid’s needs. Kids with ADHD are much more likely to be kinesthetic learners, meaning they need to be doing something with their hands. A craft, something to color, a game where they have to get up and move—all of these are elements of a lesson that is ideal for your ADHD-er. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but the goal is to recognize their needs and meet them where they are. Getting up and reciting verses or catechism questions, jumping on one foot, doing crunches, or even just standing with their hands on their head can be so helpful for a little one struggling to focus.

Short, sweet, and to the point. If you want to have a successful family Bible time with your child, make sure that your lesson, story, or section of Scripture is short, sweet, and to the point. To do this, you can break up longer passages over the course of a few days, or you can even take movement breaks every few minutes (maybe a good CFK song will do the trick!). Whatever you choose, be sure it is within your child’s limits. For young children three to five years old, I recommend no longer than 20 minutes, with a short movement break at the ten-minute mark.

Fidgeting is beneficial.  While some children may not be able to focus while having something in their hands, many children with ADD/HD benefit from the use of fidget tools. Not all toys are created equally, though. A good fidget must be silent, tactile, safe, tools, and inexpensive. 

Some tools our family has found useful are wiggle chairs, hand fidgets like dough or a squishy ball, and even chewing gum. If you know your child’s learning style, taking advantage of that knowledge will also be beneficial. For example, allowing a visual thinker to doodle while listening promotes focus. 

Curriculum choice is key. When we began homeschooling, the first thing I did was scour through hundreds of homeschool curriculums for “the one.” I was certain that after hours and hours of searching I would find something to fit my child’s needs. Thankfully, I did find what he needed for math, reading, and everything else academic. The problem was the one subject I am most passionate about: Bible literacy. 

While a curriculum isn’t always necessary for reading Scripture, it can be very helpful to have guidance and a plan to work through the Bible systematically. I struggled to find something engaging, multi-sensory, short, and that had substance. I went to homeschool stores, thrift stores, looked through pages and pages of samples online, and everything was either too many games and not enough content, or too much sitting still and not enough fun. 

Then I came across Cross Formed Kids. I was stunned! The lessons were everything I needed for my son, and not only that, my two younger kids got excited about what he was doing, so they joined in with us, too. Songs, crafts, activities, and a catechism question as the spine of it all: the perfect combination. 

The catechism questions and memory work challenge my children, while the songs, crafts, and activities keep them engaged, moving, and learning Scripture without even realizing it. The lessons are easy to implement and can be used over a week or more if need be. You can even use visual cues like those from Awe and Wonder (linked below) to help make it a routine and more predictable so that there is less anxiety about what is coming next. 

No matter what curriculum you choose or if you choose a curriculum at all, it is imperative that it engages and challenges your child. Without those two key elements, your child will find it hard to focus, and in turn, won’t learn anything. The ADHD brain is wired to learn through satisfaction and reward, so playing into that and benefitting from what we already know about ADD/HD will benefit your children (and you!) in the end. It may take a little extra work, but the benefits you will reap will all be worth it! 

Cori is from Asheville, NC, but currently finds her home in Forest City, NC. She earned her BA in English Education from Mars Hill University in 2015 and taught high school English for six years. She and her loving and supportive husband, Chris, have three children whom she homeschools. She felt God’s call to ministry early on in her Christian walk, and she has since become an “armchair theologian”, reading the Bible and soaking in commentaries, podcasts, and textbooks in an effort to know God more. 

Further Reading:

Awe and Wonder Special Needs Ministry Resources

Multi-Sensory Bible Lessons for Kids with Special Needs 

ADHD Stimming

How Fidgeting Promotes Focus


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