Have you ever wondered why everyone else’s child is well-behaved, patient, and polite while your child can’t sit still or be quiet, doesn’t follow your rules, and “forgets” to complete tasks you ask him to do?
Are you exhausted by the end of the day trying to get this child to behave and stop pestering his siblings? Is this child always in a mess? Does his room look like it was hit by a hurricane? Are his books are all over the place? Is one mitten is lost? Does he have no idea where he left his shoes? If this describes your child chances are he has Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.
As the name suggests, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), is a learning/behavioral difficulty in which a child or adult has difficulty focusing on a task. He may be impulsive, inattentive and/or hyperactive. This difficulty is classified as both a learning and a behavior disorder as it most often interferes with both learning and social relationships.
ADHD is the world’s most commonly diagnosed behavioral disorder in children. It affects an estimated five percent of school-age children. Boys are three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD.
Studies have shown a possible hereditary link. Research also indicates that the brains of people with ADHD work differently from those of other children.
What does ADHD look like in a classroom? While there is no one characteristic (and we all possess these traits to a degree) the child diagnosed with ADHD is often inattentive. He may experience difficulty sitting or standing still. It may be hard for him to pay close attention to what others are saying or doing. His attention may wander from what is happening in the classroom to the sound of the lawn mower or children’s voices at a physical education class or a bird flying by the classroom window.
Children diagnosed with ADHD often have difficulty waiting their turn or following routines. They frequently interrupt and are frustrated by having to wait. They often display social and organizational skills of much younger children.
Those who have studied ADHD classify traits of this disorder into three categories:
Inattention, Hyperactivity and Impulsivity. The child who has ADHD may have behaviors which fit all three or only one of these categories. Children with only inattention are less disruptive at home in the classroom and, thus, are less likely to be identified as ADHD. Inattentive children and adults often display their inattention in one or more of the following ways:
They don’t pay attention to details and often make careless mistakes.
They have trouble paying attention when instructions are being given during school, home and at play.
They don’t listen unless their attention is specifically sought before the speaker begins.
They don’t follow instructions for chores, errands, school work and/or job assignments and frequently fail to complete assigned tasks.
They have a hard time organizing tasks, assignments, activities, and/or their working space. They often lose items or forget to bring tools needed to complete tasks.
They avoid tasks they dislike or find hard.
They are easily distracted and flit from one task to another, finishing anything.
They have difficulty following routines and often forget to do things like homework, errands, daily chores like making the bed or feeding the dog.
Individuals with hyperactivity traits are more disruptive in class and at home. Their behavior frequently irritates those around them. Their hyperactivity shows up in one or more of the following ways:
They can’t sit still. They fidget, squirm and wriggle about in their seats.
They are up and down out of their seats for no apparent reason. They seem as if they are wound too tightly.
They display “squirrelly” behavior running about, climbing on things at inappropriate times.
They can’t play or occupy themselves alone or quietly.
Those adults and children who suffer from ADHD who are impulsive often blurt out answers without waiting for the speaker to finish. They have trouble waiting their turn and are impatient with others. Their interruptions are often offensive to others.
Kids who have ADHD can be a challenge in the classroom. But they are no easier to deal with at home! As a medical condition or disorder ADHD has no proven test that 100% identifies it. The symptoms are social, emotional, behavioral not physical. There is no one examination or piece of information that accurately defines ADHD.
Parents and teachers are always the best identifiers of ADHD because they see these kids in many different social and academic settings (formal and informal) over time and not in a clinical or unnatural environment.
A major consideration is whether this condition impairs the individual’s ability to learn and/or his ability to relate to others in a positive way. Whether or not a condition is ADHD is largely determined by degree. A child may be fidgety, highly active, inattentive, disorganized or dreamy by nature and not be suffering from ADHD. The behavior may be in the normal range for children his age.
Through identifying ADHD and addressing the individual’s struggles, the diagnosis may improve the quality of life for the child, his family, his friends and classmates.
Treating ADHD is a partnership between the school and sometimes a health care provider, parents or caregivers, and the child. For therapy to succeed, it is important to:
• Acknowledge the ADHD diagnosis and work as a team to help the child overcome learning and socio-emotional difficulties.
• Set specific, appropriate target goals to guide dealing with ADHD.
• Consider medication and behavior therapy as well as academic strategies.
• Communicate regularly with school, medical, counseling personnel as well as parents and the child to assess what is working, what is not, next steps and goal setting.
How Can Parents Help?
Teachers want to work with parents. Keep in constant and positive communication with the school. Let them know how your child behaves at home, any difficult times he or she is going through, any subjects or lessons he or she has particularly enjoyed in class. Parents can also play an essential role in working with teachers to develop instructional and behavioral strategies that can be used both in school and at home.
Limit visual, auditory and sensory distractions in your child’s environment. There is already too much busyness in his head!
Good diet, exercise and a good night’s sleep are necessary for all kids but critical for a child or adult with ADHD. Praise and reward good behavior.
Have clear and consistent routines and rules. Experiment with a system of rewards and consequences to help guide your child’s behavior. It is important to learn to handle disruptive behaviors. Support groups can help you connect with others who have similar problems. Be consistent. Your child needs to know what is unacceptable behavior, what is an acceptable alternative, and what are the consequences of inappropriate behavior. Just as importantly, praise and reward good behavior!
Too often parents, teachers and the child focus on what a child needs to improve. Keeping a record of what he does well can help you and the school remember where the child excels. This information can be used to build meaningful learning and social experiences. Focusing on strengths, can parents when a child is feeling frustrated, unsuccessful, or unable to cope.
For many children with ADHD, organization is difficult. Parents can help. Buy their child an assignment book, or PDA and teach him how to use it. Have him note details project requirements and due date. Breaking the project into steps is a good second step. If possible, parents should also get extra copies of textbooks so it cuts out yet one more organizational responsibility.
Children and adults with ADHD need external organizers. They thrive on consistency of routines and social conventions. As much as possible keep a consistent daily schedule, including regular times for homework, meals, and extracurricular activities. Make changes to the schedule in advance and not at the last moment.
Children with ADHD often have a difficult time making friends. Getting your child involved in extra-curricular activities provides another avenue in which he can experience success, and gain new friends.
Learned helplessness and feeling defeated often assail students with ADHD. Parents can boost their child’s self-confidence and self-sufficiency by giving him a chance to help others. They might tutor other children, serve on a school or community club, help the elderly, volunteer at a hospital or a homeless shelter, or make or collect materials for a service club.
Be your child’s cheerleader! It is critical to keep your expectations for your child high, and let your child know that you believe in him. If an assignment is difficult, the answer is not necessarily to make it easier but rather to help your child find a way complete it. Consult with your child about how to adapt this assignment to his strength.
Children need to learn to advocate for themselves. Your being a role model is the best way for your child to learn this. Let him see you advocating for him. Practice his advocating for himself. Teach your child self-advocacy skills that help him get the assistance he needs to be successful in an academic or social situation.
Know when to seek assistance for your child and your family. Talk therapy for both the child and the family can help everyone understand and gain control of the stressful feelings related to ADHD.
Keep current on the latest research regarding medical and alternative treatments for ADHD. While something like the Feingold Diet may be currently popular, find out whether it is effective rather than jumping on a band wagon. Keep in mind that every change—no matter how small—affects the organization and ability to function of an ADHD sufferer. Herbs, supplements, and chiropractic treatments for instance, have become popular. However, there is little or no solid evidence that these work! Do the research and talk with the medical/academic support team members.
While an ADHD diagnosis is no small thing, often knowing that your child has a disorder and getting help are less stressful than knowing something is wrong and having no support.
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Are you a parent coping with a child with ADHD? We’d love to hear from you! What strategies work for you?