Getting Ideas Down On Paper!

The three words which define my business have never changed! Imagination, inspiration, innovation: these lead my insatiable brain to discover more as I constantly search for links between the never-ending stimuli taken in by my hungry senses!

I suppose that’s where it all begins. In the flicker of an idea which, like a vivid firework, takes your attention for a moment and then paints a rainbow in your mind, demanding exploration and hungry for that creative spark which will turn it into a fully-fledged idea.’

Children are naturally imaginative creatures and those with ADHD have the awesome superpower of unbounded thinking outside the box; I often wonder if I’ve ever even see my box! When I was a child, ideas flowed from my brain like a waterfall of unbridled creativity and I remember telling long, detailed stories to adults who sat open-mouthed and wondered how such a young child could produce such elaborate tales.

However, I never enjoyed the planning side of stories – creativity doesn’t always want to behave logically – and I don’t feel I lived up to my writing potential in school. Even in year eleven, I still didn’t really know how to use apostrophes correctly and I always felt as though the curriculum was largely uncreative and involved too much planning for my liking. Nowadays, even though I plan some of my longer stories, I enjoy writing without boundaries and always come up with my best ideas on the spot – I just love writing spontaneously! If a parent asks me how to get their child to write more, I will always ask if they’re writing about something which interests them. Yes, it is important they follow the topic rules in school, but to really engage a child in writing they should be given the chance to write about something which fascinates them! When I work with children who have ADHD or similar, I always remember back to when I was younger and what really ignited my fire! When I am writing, ideas flow so quickly and it can be difficult to pin them down and stretch them into a story which actually makes sense, although with practise it is possible! This is true with most children who have ADHD and many I have taught give up so quickly because they don’t want to go through the monotonous process of planning. In my lessons, we do spontaneous writing, writing which captures the interest and takes all the necessary tangents needed to prolong engagement. In my mind, globes of multicoloured energy bounce around and whenever I sit down to write, I can imagine it as a whole universe inside my mind, with so many ideas and so many connections. Yes, it can be hard to choose which avenue to explore, but with so many, the mind of someone with ADHD is naturally created for storytelling!


My top tips for getting children with ADHD (and those without) to write:

  1. Let them write about what interests them! I’m a natural chatterbox and I love engaging children by asking them what has made them feel excited recently. A child I worked with today told me he’d been to the zoo and so we spent the lesson writing about favourite animals; there was no reluctance to begin and I know he was more focused because we chose a subject which piqued his interest!
  2. Give them something physical! I remember telling the most elaborate story about a an orange vase at my auntie’s house which kept a room of adults entertained. Like most children, especially those with ADHD and similar SpLD, I like to be able to see, and ideally touch, what I am writing about. When I used to do visiting lessons, we used physical stimuli in most of our sessions and this always enhanced writing quality.
  3. Give regular breaks! Unless I am hyper-focused on something, my attention span is limited and to keep concentration, I like to take regular breaks. Luckily, I am usually hyper-focused on writing (hence this blog) so I’ve never really had too much of a problem staying on task with creative exercises. However, many children (especially those who have had bad experiences with writing), will benefit from short bursts of focused-writing rather than long stints! It’s all about building positivity around writing!
  4. Give rewards! If a child dislikes writing, it’s important to reward progress, however small the steps might be. I am a big fan of sticker charts and certificates as these are inexpensive, yet build resilience and also improve a child’s general self-confidence and self-esteem.
  5. Embrace Creativity! The mind of someone with ADHD is like a universe waiting to be explored and it never really stops linking and creating. Embrace this. Always. There are no rules on how stories should develop and sometimes the most zany ideas can make the most fantastic stories!

Enjoy writing. Enjoy Creating. Make the most of your fast mind!

Learning To Plan & Planning To Learn

Administration makes me come out in a rash! It’s boring, repetitive and greys my brain quicker than a thunderstorm at a picnic. However, in order to run a business, I have to do it and, therefore, I have developed techniques to make the process somewhat more bearable!

1) I listen to isochronic music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvM9AfAzoSo&t=4220s. These soothing tones soothe my brain and relax its creative whirlwind whilst I get on with the important admin.

2) I get my admin done before anything else: The pull of procrastination is always there, but I know I have to do the boring work first! Therefore, I make myself do any paperwork before I start the creative jobs I love. When I have finished my admin, I usually reward myself with a square or four of chocolate!

3) I keep a tidy environment: My brain may scatter its ideas around like a toddler at a glitter party, but the environment around my workstation is always neat and I make a conscious effort to keep it this way. Anybody who knows me will understand that even the smallest object out of place is a distraction to my brain; I limit these by keeping an ordered space where I can sit down and get the important jobs done.

When I am finished with the boring tasks, it’s time to have some fun and do what I truly enjoy: teaching! I love passing on new skills and the thrill of helping young people develop their talents is the reason why I set up Bedford Tutor in 2012.

However, in order to learn effectively, a young person (well, anyone) has to be in the correct mind frame and it’s vital their brain is ready to engage with the material whether it be English, maths or mindfulness coaching.

Finding ACTION in distrACTION

When working with children who have ADD/ADHD (or any young person with similar problems), I ensure the lessons contain two specific characters: POF & POD. POF is Power of Focus and he/she must be engaged when the child is carrying out an activity which requires concentration: reading, writing, mathematics, etc. Power of Focus has energy levels which can be built up by good concentration on the subject at hand; I find children love seeing how much energy they can give their character. If I believe Power of Focus has been shown effectively, Power of Distraction can be activated. This character thrives on the creative connections which are formed when an idea springs into the mind and is an important part of the teaching process. In this part of the lesson, we play games which are dependant on distraction and we always include a good deal of comedy. Additionally, Power of Distraction can even be used as a tool to develop new ideas for story writing and coaching – children just need to be trained on how to use it effectively.

In my first lesson with children following my ‘Action in Distraction’ programme, I will actually get them to draw POF and POD. Most young people enjoy the creative side of this activity and it also makes the whole learning process much more personal, which enhances engagement from the very beginning and also builds a strong tutor-tutee partnership.

To find out more about how I teach, please visit my website: www.bedfordtutor.co.uk

Finding ACTION in distrACTION

The world is a distracting place. Sights, sounds, smells, tastes and feelings work together in their insentient intent to disturb us from our focus and send us twirling down a pathway filled with rainbow creativity possibly best illustrated by the crayons of a five year old. 

Technology isn’t distracted. Computers work in their mundane universe, sorting, filing and calculating without ever losing precious focus. Electronic circuits don’t get distracted. They were built by human hands to carry out an activity with preciseness, not limited or overwhelmed by an overactive imagination.

I am constantly moaned at for losing focus. I put down my keys in a place I can’t remember because I am too busy filming my cat. But, what’s so bad about being distracted? That one perfect moment of shifted focus may be the key that unlocks the door to a new idea, concept or realisation. Let me elaborate:

Bedford Tutor was not planned. I didn’t spend hours around a table discussing my fledgling ideas which were, back then, just imaginings from a creative mind.

No. I just jumped in. I was bored one afternoon (boredom is my antagonist) and decided to set up a business. I was already running ‘Amusination’, a children’s party business I’d set up at fifteen, and, obviously thought it would be a good idea to set up another one. Within hours I’d bought a domain name, acquired a website and designed a logo. I’d also developed a focus (ironic I know) which remains to this day: hands-on learning. 

I’ve never shifted from that focus. In my whole life, I’ve probably never been so focused. Yes, I was a good student at school, but outside the classroom I leapt from activity to activity in a wave of childlike optimism that quickly metamorphosised into boredom. I never got truly ‘good’ at anything, even though I could have done with more focus. I can draw, sing and play instruments well, but I seem to lack the ability to become a master of one – it just isn’t in my nature.

Then Bedford Tutor came along. It escalated into a business quicker than I’d anticipated and, within a few weeks, I had my first couple of students, Suddenly, I was focused: hyperfocused. I realised, very quickly, why school had never been a problem for me: school had been fuelling my overactive imagination from a young age with myriad lessons and new, fascinating subjects every few weeks. Over six years, this hyperfocus has helped me develop my business into what it is today, and it all originated from a beautiful distraction.

Nowadays, I thrive on distraction. In our tuition room, we have ‘Power Of Focus’ and ‘Power Of Distraction: POF & POD. We teach children about the importance of developing focus when working on a task and always ensure we are constantly developing our own focus (even if it is a constant challenge). However, we also have ‘Power of Distraction’, an undersold sister of focus whose job is just as important. We embrace random questions and sporadic laughter. We enjoy the eureka moments and thrive on giving our students unplanned choices which develop strong imaginations and skills such as problem-solving and empathy. Most of the time life choses for us. Everyday we walk into unplanned weather and shop in stores filled with unplanned groups of people. These experiences are almost always unplanned, so why not embrace the spontaneous? At the end of the day, we are animals who are physically wired to react to noises, smells and general changes in our environment. Yes, we require focus, but we also require the ability to realise what is going on around us and, if we never allow our brains to wander, who knows what we might miss?

We’ll always be committed to finding ‘Action In Distraction’ – Bedford Tutor wouldn’t be here without it!

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