Wednesday 19 September 2018

14 weeks till Christmas: The challenges of my ADHD son using his learned knowledge

Anthony is great at his times tables. He learned them by rote. A very popular learning method for many. Sometimes it takes a moment as he rattles through them in his head, but he always gets them right.  So if he knows it's 14 weeks until Christmas, why can't he tell me how many days it is?

Often Anthony's challenges lie not within the maths itself.  It's within decoding the question or working out which maths to use.   It happens to him a lot, and it's very frustrating for him too.

I recently watched a video by Dr Russel Barkley via ADHD Homestead about Time Blindness in people with ADHD.  Dr Barkley talked about how many people with ADHD struggle to organise themselves due to Time Blindness, resulting in being poorly organised, late and unprepared.

In this video he discusses how you can effectively break your brain down into two areas - front and back as opposed to the often cotnsidered left and right.  He considers that the back part of the brain is generally where you acquire knowledge and the front of it is where you use that knowledge... and ADHD splits this and effectively cuts that connection.

In a way this makes sense.  Anthony has so much knowledge.  He can make endless lists of the information... Formula One statistics, anything about the recent Football World Cup and not too long before I suspect every player in it too.   He has no problem recalling this information.

Like he has little problem recalling his seven times tables.   Most of the time his difficulty is in using it.. or more realising he needs to use it.  Prime example today.

“Mum, lots of people at school have said it’s starting to get colder. Some people have said it’s not long till Christmas - but that’s just silly.” 

“Is it really Anthony?  Well how long is it till Christmas?”

“ Like 100 days or something ?”

That’s a pretty good guess, how did you estimate that?”

“ I remembered my teacher said it.” 

That’s his first great example of his good recall.

“Well how else could you work out?”

“I don’t know howam I supposed to work out?”

“Well what about using your phone and the calendar on it?”

A few minutes later  and after a lot of counting Anthony has worked out there are exactly 14 weeks until Christmas Day. So I asked him how many days will it be until Christmas day and he told me he still didn’t know and how could he possibly work it out ?

 "Anthony what is 12×7?"


"And what if you had another seven how many sevens would that be?"


"So what’s 7×13?  And if you add another seven how many sevens with that be?"


"So what is 7×14?  And how can you work our how many days is it until Christmas?"

And then he jumps excitedly in his seat because he 'gets it'.  The connection is made.

The hope is that the more times he makes the connection the easier it will be.  He's able to make the connection between his knowledge and how to use it more in some circumstances.  He's not good at telling the time... unless he's trying to work out how long it is until the Formula One race begins, or how much faster a driver is this year than last year.

He can't work out how many litres of water a bath will use but can work out how many laps a tank full of fuel will last.  And this connection to special interests and topics is something we need to encourage to help him make the connections.

If you know anything about this idea I'd love to hear from you.  It's certainly something I'd like to learn more about - so I can help Anthony remember his knowledge when he needs to use it.

This post supports The Makaton Charity #wetalkmakaton sign of the week 'Remember'.  We love Makaton as it helps our family communicate and are happy to highlight their signs where and when we can. 


  1. Love it when children finally have that light bulb moment. Looking forward to hearing how else he can use this new connection in the future! Thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub x

  2. Ah maths how the shutters used to come down right as the teacher had asked me a question on it. Much to the amusement of other children no doubt. Now I enjoy maths through geocaching.#CoolMumClub

  3. I totally get this. I can see how clever my son is and when he understands what is expected of him he does really well. I also see the confusion in his eyes when I am trying to ask him to do something he doesn't understand. I really hope I can find more ways to communicate more effectively with my son. I think we miss so much of my sons ability simply thorough a lack of effective communication.

  4. The brain is ever fascinating to me! There are physical exercises which are said to help build stronger connections in the brain, such as from the back to the front, though I don’t know how well established the evidence for that is (yet) xx


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