By Arlyn Roffman, Ph.D.
Many adults with learning disabilities (LD) or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) struggle in their efforts to maintain tidy living spaces. They admit to having stacks of papers on their tables and desks, food wrappers and soft drink cans on their car floors, and bathrooms that are not cleaned often or thoroughly enough.
Housekeeping entails a variety of skills, including cleaning, laundering and mending clothes, and - in some cases - general upkeep of the grounds. This article will focus on how the characteristics of LD and AD/HD create challenges for teens who are learning how to manage their living areas. I will also offer strategies for parents to help their teens prepare for this aspect of daily living.
The table below illustrates some of the ways various characteristics of LD and AD/HD can result in challenges to housekeeping.
|Learning or Attention Problem||Challenges when Housekeeping|
|Impulsivity||Tendency to drop belongings "here and there" and to feel overwhelmed by the resulting clutter|
|Disorganization||Problems with losing belongings when their living space gets cluttered; a tendency to forget to separate dark from light clothes when doing laundry|
|Executive function (prioritizing, organizing)||Problems prioritizing and scheduling several housekeeping chores; trouble organizing materials (e.g., cleansers) to perform a task|
|Temporal (sense of time) problems||Trouble allocating enough time to do a household chore completely|
|Visual-motor (eye-hand coordination) problems||Clumsiness when washing dishes or dusting; difficulty threading a needle and sewing|
|Spatial perception||Problems fitting and tucking the sheets while making a bed; difficulty sweeping or vacuuming the floor thoroughly or setting the table with the utensils placed where they belong|
|Distractibility||Tendency to become distracted in the midst of a chore and to fail to complete it within a reasonable time frame|
You can introduce housekeeping skills when your child is very young by having him help with simple chores. As your child with LD or AD/HD matures, you should start asking him to take on additional chores. You may want to create step-by-step checklists for multi-step housekeeping tasks which can be quite stressful for individuals with LD and AD/HD. A checklist will help your child focus on one task at a time and avoid becoming distracted or feeling overwhelmed.
Here are strategies for teaching housekeeping skills during your child's middle and high school years:
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