Understanding ADHD and your child
ADHD – most of us can think of someone we know when we hear those letters (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), or ADD (attention deficit disorder). This person may be a child we grew up with or went to school with. Perhaps it is your own child or yourself as a child. Whoever it may be, we are generally familiar with the phrase ADHD.
Generally, we automatically think of someone who is hyperactive, fidgety, impulsive, or inattentive. When we think of ADHD and children, we think of the most “ill-behaved” child we know and wonder if that particular child may have this disorder.
Yet the disorder is not as straightforward as our thinking or society would like to have us believe. In order for us to have a more accurate perspective and understanding, let’s have a closer look at ADHD and the various ways parents can employ to assist their child with ADHD.
What is ADHD?
Diagnosing ADHD in children younger than 5-years-old is difficult since kids this young often display “symptoms” of ADHD which are age-appropriate. Plus, children grow and develop at an exponential rate in the first five years of their life.
ADHD often prevents people from inhibiting their social responses, as such they may blurt things out or come across as fidgety or inattentive.
Three main categories of ADHD in children
ADHD in children can be categorized into one of three categories:
1) Inattentive type – Also known as ADD, children may go unnoticed or undiagnosed since they are not overly active or disruptive.
2) Hyperactive, impulsive type – This form of ADHD is characterized by hyperactivity and impulsivity even with good attention span.
3) Combined type – Children with this type of ADHD demonstrate hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattentiveness. It is the most common type of ADHD among children today.
A child who has ADHD may: be constantly moving; squirms and fidgets a lot; doesn’t complete instructions; gets distracted easily; talks excessively; comes across as not listening, or interrupts others regularly.
These are a few signs you child has ADHD. Remember that your child doesn’t have to be impulsive or highly active to be diagnosed with ADHD.
A word on diagnosing ADHD
Diagnosing ADHD is comprehensive. Doctors will need information from parents, the child’s school, the child’s teachers, and other caregivers involved in a child’s life. A doctor will want to know what signs your child is displaying, the duration of time that your child has been displaying these signs, and how it affects both your child and your family.
Doctors will also factor into their diagnosing processes anxiety, depression, bipolar, undetected brain seizures, or sudden changes in life such as death, divorce, relocating. The child will have to be displaying at least six or more signs specific to inattention or hyperactivity for longer than six months in a minimum of two environments. Thus diagnosing ADHD is not as simple as a teacher or caregiver saying a child has ADHD. In fact, diagnosing ADHD requires a lengthy process of investigating and examining your child, their lifestyle, health, and environments.
Is medication answer?
Although medication is often prescribed to children with ADHD, it doesn’t mean it holds the answer to your child’s needs. While some children may or should take the prescribed medication, children would also benefit from good eating and sleeping habits, exercise, support at home and at school, behavior therapy, and education.
Some positive aspects
ADHD is not all negative and frustration. On the contrary, it can have its perks. Children with ADHD have vivid personalities and interests while being a ton of fun to be around.
In the same way that ADHD can cause children to lose interest and focus, that same burst of energy can be channeled into something they love or enjoy thus causing them to display incredible motivation, focus, and dedication.
Another lovely positive aspect to ADHD is that these children often see what others don’t and are known for their intense imagination and creativity. They are the future problem solvers, innovators, and artists.
Parenting any child comes with its challenges. Add ADHD into the mix and parenting takes on a whole new level and parenting skill. Fortunately, you can help your child develop into a mature and successful adult by implementing some of these strategies:
1) Be positive. Children with ADHD often expect and receive criticism and have their wrongs pointed out to them. Focus on what your child does right. Notice their efforts and praise them. This may be in the form of affirmation or include rewards your child enjoys. The rewards should be small yet meaningful.
2) Easy to understand directions. Keep your directions short and simple. This will help your child understand what is expected of them while helping them to obey those instructions. Get your child’s attention, instruct your child, ask them to repeat back to you what they should do, and keep your instructions short.
3) Have clear rules. Your child needs to know what the rules are as well as the consequence for following those rules and breaking them. Keep the rules short and simple. Be sure to follow through on either the reward or the punishment
4) Consistency is vital. In all your interactions with your child (as much as possible) use a calm voice. Give your child a warning and then follow through. Be sure to make promises that you can keep. Avoid repeating your instructions multiple times.
5) Routine, routine, and routine. Have a set routine for your child. This includes bedtime, food, TV, play, and homework. Be aware of your child’s needs. Your child may need you to help them prepare for school the next morning by having school clothes and books already prepared. When it comes to homework, incorporate several small breaks in your homework routine in which your child can do something they enjoy. Be sure to keep distractions to a minimum. In all your routines, keep that element of fun.
6) Accept and affirm your child. Your child needs to know that you accept them for who they are. Try to minimize emphasis on good grades (although that is important) and focus more on their best efforts. Shower your child with kisses, cuddles, tickles, and lots of smiles. Point out to them their strengths. Know their interests and abilities. Know your child. Take the time to understand what their underlying message is.
7) Quality time. Spend time with your child by reading stories and interacting with them during story time, encourage their interests, and encourage social skills through serving others in your family and community.
8) Lead by example. Children absorb most of what they see us doing. Model to your child the behavior that you want them to have. Share with them your interests and activities; this will inspire them.
9) Take care of you. As a parent, your patience is going to be stretched to the wire. Take time for yourself. This may be in the form of meditation or some alone time to regroup. Learn stress management techniques and exercises to help you with your stress levels. The more at peace, you are with yourself, the abler you are to interact with your child in a patient and positive way.