As a person who was diagnosed with ADHD in first grade, I am quite familiar with the fear and stress that families and parents can experience when they learn that their child is struggling with a specific disability. Many parents feel the best approach is to get their child as much intervention and support as possible. They find the best tutors, doctors, therapists, and specialists. They fret over whose class their child will be in. Is their child getting enough academic time? Will they ever catch up? Should they be doing extra homework? How is their time at home best spent with their child?

It’s difficult to know what the right answer is. But I speak from experience as a learning specialist and someone who struggles with ADHD, when I say that all these things are important, but do not let them overshadow your child’s need for free time. If your child’s schedule is filled with school, doctor’s appointments, tutoring sessions, homework, and little else, it may be time to make some adjustments. Every week, your child should have down time ( time to relax, just hang out, or do a quiet activity) and time for something they’re passionate about (not an activity chosen by the parents). I encourage the parents I work with to find out what their child would really love to do. Whatever that activity is, see if you can find a way to make it happen weekly. Your child will feel less stressed, more accomplished, and it will take the focus off of their weaknesses and give them time to do something they are good at.

When I was a kid, I was always involved in a sport and music lesson of my choice. I did this through high school. Not only did it give me an outlet for my energy, but it also gave me a chance to practice something I loved and felt like I was good at (the news came later that I was a terrible athlete and dancer only when I looked back at home videos of games and recitals, laughing at my enthusiasm in spite of my lack of talent). Doing something that brings you joy is important and that became ingrained in me at such a young age. It makes me a happier person and keeps me from getting bogged down by all the responsibilities of life, many of which I can’t fulfill at my best unless I have time to de-stress and enjoy life. I prioritize personal quiet time and physical activity daily. Because I refuse to compromise on this, I am a happier and healthier person. I’m able to do the things I need to do with energy and enthusiasm.

Don’t forget that if your kiddo has a learning disability, that doesn’t mean it has to always be front and center stage. Give them time to relax and think, and time to enjoy the things that make them happy!