A couple of days ago I read an article by a man with ADHD which suggested a way to help kids stay focused, using some of the innate strengths that come with ADHD. The basic plan is two-fold: 1) don't let the child sit, but do all work standing at a table that's chest-high. 2) Set the timer for 15 minutes. During that 15 minutes the child is to remain at the table, with work in front of her. If she does the work, great. If not, okay. When the timer goes off, there's no finishing the line you're writing, no reading to the end of the paragraph -- when it's time, it's time.
Then set the timer for 15 minutes of play. Same deal: the child can do whatever he/she wants, but as soon as the timer rings there's an immediate end to whatever's in progress. No excuses, no arguments, no delays, no saving the game being played, just back to the table. Then 15 minutes of work, etc.
The idea behind this (aside from the wisdom of not having to sit still!) is that ADHD kids can hyperfocus when it's to their advantage to do so. And because they hate being interrupted at something they like to do, they suddenly have a really good incentive to get work done so that there is uninterrupted time to play. Although the kids tend to goof off during the first 15-minute period, they generally quickly self-correct.
I mentioned the 15-minute idea to my squirmy and distractible one, and she was keen to try it. I didn't have a way to raise our table up (I figured we'd try the rest of the strategy first, to see if the effort of table-raising was even worthwhile), but I set the timer. WOW. I mean, WOW. In some senses it takes longer than our regular school strategy, because there's time off in between everything. But when she was working, she was working. And what was even better was that I didn't have to nag at all.
It amazed me that my daughter was able to shift from watching a video to doing phonics without any time to transition. I'm guessing that she simply switched from one hyperfocus to a different one. (I can't do that!) I also found that the 15-minute blocks of time helped me. When Snuggler was in her play time, I made phone calls, did chores, or worked with the other kids. It gave me a brief block of uninterrupted time, time when I knew that I didn't have to be supervising her work. She did almost everything unsupervised today, and that was a huge relief!
For Little Guy, who wanted to climb on the 15-minute bandwagon halfway through the morning, this strategy was a disaster. He has too many ideas that require a lot of time to execute, and needs long blocks of play time in order to settle in. For him, school is better done in one consolidated block of time, leaving the rest of the day free.