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ADHD

ADHD Strategies: Box Jumps and Chunking

A number of years back I joined a CrossFit gym and discovered box jumps. Box jumps are exactly what they sound like – you jump onto a box, like in the picture above. However, sometimes the height of the jump is increased and once it is increased high enough, a sort of paralysis can occur. The jumper might stand in front of the box thinking, “3-2-1 jump!”, but their legs just won’t obey the command.  

You can see a video of  it here.

For the person with ADHD, starting a task can feel like trying to jump onto a very high box. The intentions might be good, the self-talk might be encouraging, but the individual may still find it impossible to begin. This is one component of procrastination for the ADHD mind. 

Luckily, the solution to this problem is the same as with box jumps – start with a lower box. In ADHD terms this refers to a strategy called chunking, which individuals with ADHD often report to be their most helpful strategy. 

Chunking involves taking a task and very deliberately dividing it into smaller parts. For example, if a student needs to write an essay, that can feel like a very high box to jump onto. However, an essay can be chunked into smaller tasks, such as:

  • Brainstorm ideas for the essay
  • Create a written map of the essay
  • Sit in front of the computer and open the word processing app
  • Write a thesis statement
  • Write the introduction
  • Write a main idea for each body paragraph
  • Etc.

Sometimes these chunks can be divided up and accomplished at different times, but sometimes it is enough to just have them written down and move onto the next thing each time one chunk is completed. 

For chunking to be effective it is critical to write down the chunks or in some other way visually represent them. ADHD often limits working memory and remembering all of the steps of a task puts an additional strain on memory that can make completing the task even more difficult. 

Chunking can be applied to any task that needs to be completed at just about any age. For example, imagine a six-year-old child who seems to refuse to get ready for school in the morning no matter how many times her parents ask. What if she is not being rebellious or difficult, but just can’t jump onto such a high box? Chunking could involve breaking up the task into smaller “boxes” by posting pictures where the girl can see them each day. Something like this:

For cleaning a bedroom, chunking might involve:

  • Putting clothes away
  • Throwing out scraps of paper and junk
  • Putting books on shelf
  • Putting toys in the toy box or closet

In order to avoid exhausting working memory, parents usually find more success when they do the chunking for younger children and present the chunks one at a time. For older children, it is important to teach them how to do chunking themselves. And as adults, it is important to recognize the height of our own boxes and decrease the size of those boxes by writing down the smaller components. 

Sarah is offering ADHD group counselling sessions for junior high and high school students to learn strategies for excelling with ADHD. 

Learn more here: ADHD Group Counselling.

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