The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports that in a classroom of 25 to 30 schoolchildren, at least one is likely to have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Parents and teachers are required to rise to the challenge as they have to go beyond being the average parent or teacher. Children with ADHD are by far more active and have less control over their behavior than other children. There may also be Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) issues at play.
How to Deal Successfully with the Challenges of ADHD?
Learn all you can about ADHD. Learn how to troubleshoot problems and create an environment that makes life a bit easier for your child. Find a trained professional to learn strategies and skills to help your child overcome difficulties. Look into sensory activities that will help your child learn to self regulate. Here are two articles that are a good starting point for learning about ADHD:
- Your Child has Just Been Diagnosed with ADHD – Now What? by Cindy Goldrich, Ed.M., ACAC
- Impulsive, Hyperactive and Emotional: Risky Behavior by Sunny Aldrich, ACCP, Professional ADHD Coach
Take Care of Yourself
Special-Ism offers many tips and strategies for taking care of you, the parent/caregiver/teacher. Here are three examples:
- Ahhh, Calgon Take Me Away (a.k.a. Stress Relievers for the Special Mom and Dad) by Julie McAllister
- Solutions for the Chronically Stressed Caregiver by Adrienne Ehlert Bashista
- Feeling Tense? Choose the Right Foods to Reduce Stress by Special-Ism
Communicate with patience. Offer instructions simply and directly, breaking tasks down into multiple steps. This will help your child stay focused on the assigned task. For example, instead of stating, “Write your name at the top of your paper”, say “Go in your desk, open your pencil box, take out a pencil and write your name at the top of the paper.” Each direction may have to be given a step at a time. This will help a child stay on track.
Keeping a regular and consistent routine will help your child know what to expect each day. Wake up at the same time each morning and go to bed at the same time each night. Have meals and playtime at the same times each day. Throw in extras into the routine, have homework time, TV time, game time, etc. Let your child know in advance of an activity that will disrupt the regular routine. If your child can read, give him a weekly schedule. If the child knows what is happening in advance, he is less likely to be thrown into a meltdown because he is off course.
ADHD kids lose things all the time. Create designated places for all their things. A place for shoes, clothes, homework, desk items in school. Organize toys. [easyazon-link asin=”B000NO9GT4″ locale=”us”]Legos[/easyazon-link] in one container, [easyazon-link asin=”B007RYE2V0″ locale=”us”]K’nex[/easyazon-link] in another, with action figures in yet another container. This will teach your child much-needed organizational skills.
To get started, let Marcella Moran, MA, LMHC help you to answer What Kind of Organizer is Your Child? In How Organized is Your Child? Marcella provides tips to help your child organize school work into folders or binders. The more organization your child has, the better he will do at staying on track.
Keep Choices Simple
Offering choice is empowering to children, but offer two options instead of five. Too many options can overwhelm a child with ADHD. Limit playmates to one or two at a time to prevent overstimulation.
For study time or classroom time, look around at what might derail a child with ADHD from focusing on a task. At home, create a homework or study area. Turn off the TV or radio. Remove toys from this area. Keep this area neat and tidy. Pick up some additional tips from Marcella Moran, MA, LMHC in Organizing the Homework Area.
Consider keeping a sensory box full of fidget toys on the table. Chloe Rothschild provides the The 101 on Fidgets. Provide crunchy trail mix for munching.
Cindy Goldrich, Ed.M., ACAC provides classroom accommodations in School Help for the Child Struggling with Distractions and Lack of Focus. Dan Perdue, Personal Coach presents internal versus external distractions and ways to manage each in Old McDonald Had a… Oh, a Squirrel! – Managing A Child’s Distractions. You may want to share all of these suggestions with your child’s teacher.
Supervise Social Time
Social skills are impaired in kids with ADHD mainly because of their impulsivity. Again, keep playmates to a minimum and stand guard. Step in and offer guidance as needed. Reward positive behavior by saying, “Nice sharing” or “Great idea” or “That was very kind of you” to help reinforce positive social skills. It also gives their self-confidence a boost.
Accentuate Their Positives
What is your child really good at? Sports? Music? Drawing? Karate? Whatever their strength is, accentuate it. Fostering the positives and strength in talent helps to boost their self-confidence. However, if sports is a strength and the team sport you are involved in is too competitive and leads to high levels of frustration, look for an individually focused sport like swimming or karate. A High Intensity Sport May Suit Your Child’s Needs addresses team versus individual sports.
Make Learning Fun and Engaging
Create funny stories to retain boring facts. Make up silly songs to tie in with a lesson. Use active learning like role-playing a presentation wherein the child can act out a role. Supplement learning with a relevant movie, book, or field trip. Talk to your child’s teacher and perhaps this fun learning style can be offered to the entire class. Work together. Standing in front of the class, talking in a monologue is not going to engage these kids. Hands on fun learning will.
Oh, what a challenge for parents of children with ADHD. You cannot go over the top but you have to ensure that there are boundaries that are not crossed. Counting, 1-2-3, may be the answer (Phelan). However, there are some situations where counting just won’t work, like pinching or hitting a sibling. That should be an immediate trip to the bedroom.
Be sure to keep your temper in check. No yelling, no spanking! It teaches nothing about the positive behavior you want your child to embrace. Consider a positive rewards chart to emphasize desired behavior. For negative behavior, encourage an alternative outlet. For example, you may want to have a no hitting, kicking, biting, pinching, etc. rule in your house. Kids may hit when their frustration level gets really high. You can encourage deep breathing, counting to ten and back down to one. If your child needs an immediate outlet, encourage him to hit a pillow or stuffed animal, but never another person. For additional insight, read Pause the ADHD Outburst by Dan Perdue, Personal Coach.
Be Your Child’s Advocate
No one else will be–it is your biggest job. Be your child’s number one fan. Praise the positives. Encourage your spouse or partner to get on the same page. Advocate at school with the teacher sharing your child’s strengths, as well as what works at home with his weaknesses. With love and care poured into all you do for your child, the road can certainly be less challenging.
National Institute of Mental Health, Office of Communications, Bethesda, MD.
Phelan, Thomas W. [easyazon-link asin=”1889140430″ locale=”us”]1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12[/easyazon-link]. Parentmagic, Inc.; 4th edition, October, 2010.