Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, often called ADD or ADHD, is a diagnostic label that we give to children and adults who have significant problems in four main areas of their lives: inattention, impulsivity, hyperactivity, and boredom. ADHD is a neurologically based disorder. It is a medical condition, caused by genetic factors that result in certain neurological differences. ADHD comes in various forms that are subdivided into categories: ADHD Inattentive Type and ADHD Impulsive-Hyperactive Type, or ADHD Combined Type. A few important characteristics of this disorder are: 1. It is seen in many situations, not just at school, or just in the home. 2. The problems are apparent before the age of seven. About 35% of all children referred to mental health clinics are referred for ADHD. It is one of the most prevalent of all childhood psychiatric disorders. Studies indicate that 50 to 60 percent of ADHD kids will outgrow most of their symptoms by the time they are in their 20s. Some symptoms seen in children diagnosed as having attention deficits are: 1. Difficulty sustaining attention to tasks. 2. Not listening to what is being said. 3. Fidgeting and squirming in seat. 4. Talking excessively. 5. Interrupting or intruding on others. 6. Difficulty playing quietly.
These symptoms can also be found in both children and adults with learning disabilities and/or sensory integration dysfunction.
Consistency is the key to helping ADHD children. They have a difficult time dealing with change, negative or positive, and they need to have a sense of structure. There are many forms of intervention that can be utilized at home and in school to assist a child with ADHD. It is helpful to establish rules for performing everyday expectations, for example, getting up on time for school, doing chores, finishing homework, etc. These rules should be consistent and followed by everyone in the home. Following a routine will help your child remember what is expected. Reward your child for getting things done without being distracted. Possible rewards include verbal praise, a hug, having a friend over to play, etc. Modeling positive behaviors is essential to your child's success; therefore, demonstrate the appropriate ways to get things done without becoming distracted. Help your child become aware of the relationship between behavior and the consequences which follow.
Sometimes children have difficulty listening to what is being said. Establish rules for listening when others are talking, for example, ask questions if you do not understand. Be consistent when expecting your child to direct his/her attention to what is said. Demonstrate the appropriate way to focus on certain sounds and deliver questions in a supportive way rather than a threatening manner. Consider giving your child a special responsibility in order to teach him or her to follow directions. Written reminders
can also be effective for helping your child remember what is expected. Carefully consider if your child is capable of performing the responsibilities expected of him/her. Too many tasks can lead to a feeling of being overwhelmed and frustrated.
ADHD children tend to act without thinking first. To help manage impulsive behaviors and increase compliance, try to: 1. Role-play a problem which can help a child determine appropriate behaviors for future situations. 2. Use a time to indicate periods of work and play time. 3. Provide a changing array of rewards and privileges. 4. Offer praise for specific behaviors.
Don't worry if you feel frustrated. Remember that accidents with following directions will occur; therefore, allow room for mistakes and the opportunity to learn from them. If you know the problems also exist in school, consider meeting with the teacher to determine appropriate interventions. It is vital to the child's success in dealing with ADHD that the interventions be comfortable for the parent and child.
Tracey Hadley is a licensed mental health therapist working for Family Service of the Chautauqua Region at Westfield Schools. She works primarily with children and their families. She is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University with a Masters of Science Degree in Counselor Education.