Helping Her ADHD Son Stay On Track: Sitting Down with Kenson Kids Co-Founder and the Mind Behind the On Track! Responsibility System for Tweens
Kenson Kids' On Track! Responsibility and Behavior System for Tweens is an all-in-one parenting tool that teaches organizational skills, accountability and self-reliance. Kenson Kids Co-Founder Jen Kent developed the On Track! System to help her ADHD son stay organized and to help with forgetfulness. Today, Kent's son is a thriving college student, and the skills he obtained by using the system played a big part. In the following conversation, Kent shares how the On Track! System was developed, how it evolved, and how it helped her family.
The idea for the On Track! system was yours. Tell us why you created it.
The On Track! System was born out of need. My son Jack was diagnosed with ADHD in the second grade. Before he was diagnosed, he was frequently in trouble with his teachers for not completing his assignments. I would see him do his homework, but somewhere between when he left home and when he got to school, it disappeared. He forgot to turn in important papers and field trip permission slips as well.
Jack attended a charter school with a highly structured program. The kids who thrive there are organized and bright. To keep him at that school, we had to find a way to help him get and stay organized.
The hardest thing, though, was seeing how hard it was on him. When his teacher called him out in class for behaviors he couldn't control, he was embarrassed and he felt like there was something wrong with him. That's why we were so desperate for a solution.
Tell us about the challenges of raising a son with ADHD.
The mind of a child with ADHD is occasionally disorganized. It's not that they're disorganized people, but the ADHD mind is somewhat scattered and they forget to complete tasks. Jack was constantly misplacing his things: we could spend 20 minutes looking for a shoe in the morning.
A child with ADHD may act impulsively, but typically they are not aware that they've done something wrong. They may blurt out an answer rather than raise their hand, or jump up to go to the teacher's desk without asking permission. That's what's frustrating as a parent: you know they aren't misbehaving on purpose.
What were some of the solutions you tried?
Because Jack also had food allergies, we didn't try medication. Instead, we adjusted his diet: we went organic and cut out additives. We also tried making checklists, placing sticky notes on a folder, and other reminders. By the time Jack was in the 6th grade, we were using a homemade version of what is now the On Track! System. It took a lot of trial and error to get it to that point: years of seeing what worked and what didn't work.
We used a folder system at school and set up a homework station at home. We wrote his checklist on a whiteboard that was over his desk. This space was where he came home and did his homework, and was a central location where he kept his shoes and everything he would need for school.
The problem with the whiteboard was that he couldn't take it with him. If he needed to do a task upstairs, by the time he made it to the top of the stairs, he would have forgotten what he went there to do. I'd find him playing with Legos instead. This is one way the system evolved: we went from using a checklist written on a whiteboard to a dry erase board he could take with him.
When Jen (Edmundson, Kenson Kids Co-Founder) saw it, she knew this could help other parents. Drawing from her experience as a psychiatric nurse, Jen added the behavioral component. Jack didn't have behavior issues, but they're not uncommon in children with ADHD.
Tell me about the components of the On Track! System. What's included in it? How and why does it work? Specifically, how and why does it help ADHD kids?
The On Track! System contains all the components needed for one or two children, including two daily checklists, a family rules sign, a master chore list, and two registers.
The register works like a checkbook register: parents can use allowance as a reward or consequence and their child can use the register to keep track of the money they earn and spend. Used this way, the system teaches money management. Kids can bring their register with them to the store instead of their wallet.
Parents can also use the register for points rather than an allowance, and tie a privilege to it, such as a sleepover or an outing with friends. The register keeps track of when they've lost privileges, as well as when they've completed and earned something.
The instructional book that comes with the system is a great resource for parents, with step-by-step instructions for using the system, keeping track of points, and more. It also includes a reproducible family rules worksheet, a behavioral self-assessment worksheet, and a self-reflection worksheet. The worksheets were created from Jen (Edmundson)'s experience in the hospital setting, and are all based on clinical research.
We also sell a supplemental pack that includes just the checklist, register, and pen. You don't have to use every part of the system. The charts alone are helpful, but for a parent that's struggling, the instructions provide so many solutions for communicating with your family, for dealing with personality differences and handling behavioral issues.
It works great for anybody, but definitely helps an ADHD child because, with it, you're establishing a routine, have a visual reminder of expectations, and are consistent with following through.
What ages does it work best for?
The On Track! System works best for kids ages 8 and up. It could be used for younger kids, as long as they're reading and writing well. It is ideal for kids who are too old to be motivated by earning a star.
How does On Track! differ from your other products?
The On Track! System ties in consequences. Much of Jack's impulsivity, forgetfulness, and disorganization, he couldn't necessarily control. I didn't expect him to be flawless, but he was expected to do everything on his checklist. When he didn't complete it, he knew there would be consequences. These were written on the whiteboard. Most often, failure to complete tasks led to Jack losing his screen device. He never lost it for more than a day. Understanding the consequences of his actions motivated him to do what he was supposed to do.
What is the biggest lesson you learned from raising a child with ADHD?
I learned that you expect too much if you expect an ADHD child to remember everything every time. By using a checklist system like what is in the On Track! System, there's no excuse to forget.
Following through is the hardest part of discipline for many parents. The On Track! System helps parents because they don't have to keep reminding their child about what they expect. It's one sentence that encompasses everything, from chores to homework: "Did you finish your checklist?" If kids know there is a consequence to misbehaving, and if it's consistent, that helps to decrease nagging, and that helps everyone: parents and children alike.