Published January 19, 2012
If you or a loved one lives with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) there are ways to ease the symptoms while in your home. Dr. Mark Haffey, EdD, director of the Haffey Center for Attention and Memory in Amherst MA, offered up good advice for making your house a place of support for those with ADHD.
"There are different systems for different people, but there are some general ideas that are helpful for most everybody," Haffey said. Haffey said that the "simpler the environment the better."
"People with ADHD often build in too many distractions such as TV's and music systems. The quieter the better for most people with ADHD," he said. Haffey added that some people with ADHD need to have low background noise while working or doing homework, others need total silent to perform those types of activities. "If there is background noise, it can't be a favorite show or song," said Haffey.
The launching pad
Haffey said that one the most universal techniques for people with ADHD is to have a "launching pad" in the front hallway or by the front door. "People with ADHD frequently lose their keys, wallets, cell phones, day planners, etc. Having a box or basket by the front door is puts everything where they need it to be when they launch their day – and that's where everything is returned when they come home," said Haffey.
Bill paying kit
One area is designated as the "bill paying area" and is set up with a basket for bills, envelopes, pens, stamps, and other typical items needed for bill paying. Haffey said that people with ADHD often get into trouble with bills because there is frequently some part of the bill paying process that is misplaced or can't be found.
The three-basket system
Whether used for mail or for other organizational needs, Haffey recommends using three baskets, which can even be color-coded. "You have one basket for things that have to be taken care of immediately, one for things that can wait, and one for things that need to be thrown out," Haffey said. He added that "people (with ADHD) tend to get stuck trying to figure out what they need to attend to and what they don't."
Haffey said that the advent of smart phones has been a boon for people with ADHD. Aside from scheduling appointments, alarms can be set up throughout the day to remind people of things they need to do. For example, Haffey said he knew of someone who found that if they "took a shower at 6 a.m. every day, the rest of their day went better."
Unfortunately, at this time, Haffey said, there is no type of insurance coverage for technology aides for people with ADHD. However, he added that there are medical groups in the US that are working on creating more sensible solutions for people with ADHD that save money in the long run.
The human element
When starting out working to arrange a home to better support someone with ADHD, Haffey said "it's best to hire a professional organizer." Otherwise, he said it's best to have someone, for example a parent, initiate organizing the home.
If you are trying to help someone with ADHD organize themselves, say in their bedroom, Haffey said that it is always good to have what he calls a body double. "The friend or family member can help, or just spend time with the person. Having someone there is often calming enough to reduce some of the stress of organizing," said Haffey.
How does color affect people with ADHD?
Haffey said that one of the best colors to paint the house in for someone who has ADHD is blue. "Blue is soothing to people. Science has shown that blue has a very calming affect on the brain waves. People with ADHD need an environment that creates a calmer mood as they tend to be distracted and frazzled," said Haffey.
So in general, the keys to a helpful living environment for someone with ADHD are organization, personal support, and keeping the house as simple and quiet as possible.