This work is about the necessary steps and measures which parents and other responsible individuals, including teachers, can take when living with a child or children with ADHD. The paper introduces the research topic by defining the disorder and giving the main features of the disorder. It also elaborates the causes of ADHD and how to identify a child with the disorder. The main body of the paper is about the management of the disorder, which basically describes the necessary measures which parents should take to ensure that an ADHD child is helped. If the measures highlighted herein are put into action, then, parents can find it easier to cope with the ADHD children.
ADHD is an abbreviation for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (Green, 2001). This disorder is one of the developmental and behavioral disorders and should not be confused with an illness or low intelligence. The main feature of this disorder is concentration difficulty (also known as attention deficit). Other features may include impulsivity and hyperactivity. Children with this disorder find it difficult to concentrate appropriately while at school. They may also behave in a unique manner while at home or at school. Usually, such children have low frustration tolerance and this makes them struggle with the social life and can find it extremely hard to either make friends or keep friends (Grainger, 1997).
How to identify a child with ADHD
A behavioral problem or a reading difficulty is not the best way of telling whether a child has the disorder. The best way to identify this disorder in a child is through a clinical psychologist or a paediatrician. The diagnosis is done when the child is between the age of four years and nine years. In some rare cases, adolescents and adults may be affected with ADHD. Research has it that boys are the most vulnerable and are more likely to have ADHD than girls. Diagnosing ADHD depends on several factors including the child’s maturity rate and the variations in the behavioral patterns and self-management. This makes it difficult to diagnose ADHD.
The key features of ADHD are:
1. Inattention (lack of attention) which is characterized by the child finding it hard to concentrate when on work or at play, the child not listening when addressed, troubles in organizing activities and tasks, frequent losing of materials like toys, books, pencils, shoes, etc, and the child getting easily distracted.
2. Hyperactivity which is characterized by the child fidgeting and squirming, the child having troubles in staying seated, and the child moving as if driven by some forces.
3. Impulsivity characterized by the child blurting out answers before the questions are completed, and being completely impatient especially in conversations and when playing (Grainger, 1997).
Causes of ADHD
The causes of ADHD are still not clear despite the thorough research which has been running for the past thirty years. However, it was found recently that the working of the brain in relation to self regulation and concentration varies considerably. Some chemicals found in the brain (neurotransmitters) also play an important role as far as ADHD is concerned. Research also reveals that food sensitivities play a significant role in ADHD. It is also thought that ADHD is genetic in some cases (Green, 2001).
How to manage ADHD
The disorder has no cure; however, good management plays a significant role. Also, there is no tangible evidence that ADHD victims eventually grow out of it. If not properly managed, the disorder may endanger the social life of the victim and can result into significant problems, both at school and at home.
The greatest responsibility lies with the parents. ADHD cuts across various aspects of life and requires various diverse strategies when handling it. Once the child shows the symptoms or has been diagnosed, the parent should always try the following measures outlined hereunder.
1. Management skills
It is always frustrating to live with an ADHD child; however, various measures can be put in place to save the situation. The greatest measure is to create limits, and to support and encourage the child. When firm limits are set, the child must definitely be responsible in behavior. The parent is required to set clear guidelines and give clear idea of the expectations (Barkley, 2001). The techniques that have been found working includes:
Giving clear instructions – parents are encouraged to use instructions instead of statements, comments or questions. An example of such instructions is “Please do your homework” instead of “Isn’t it time to do your homework?” The parent should also speak in the very normal tone when issuing instructions instead of quarreling and becoming angry.
Supervising the work of the child always – One should never instruct an ADHD child to do something when he/she is engaged in something else. You should always try to check how the child performs the task and must really care about how the task or the assignment is done.
Simplicity when talking to the child or when issuing instructions – parents are encouraged to be very simple when talking to such children.
In case you want the child to do several things, you must ensure that the first assignment is done successfully before issuing instructions about the second assignment. The parent must also ensure that he/she calls the name of the child so that the child may look at the parent and pays the maximum attention. You must also ensure that such things as toys, noise, games etc do not distract the attention of the child when the instructions are issued. You should also make the child repeat whatever you have said in order to verify whether he/she listened carefully and understood all the instructions. Finally, the parent should concentrate on the child until the task is completed (Barkley, 2001).
Encouragement plays a very crucial role in managing ADHD. An ADHD child always feels frustrated and very much troubled when he/she encounters difficult things. To ensure that such a child develops a positive attitude and improves, the parent should always encourage the child. Every parent should know that ADHD children cannot improve without encouragements and positive messages (Barkley, 2001). Such statements as “You can do it best, I like your intelligence, I’m confident in you, I love your strength,” should be constantly used by the parents. The impacts of the praises are great.
It is beyond any reasonable doubt that any good behavior deserves encouragement and attention. Parents should not pay attention to any negative behavior of the ADHD children. Instead, they should encourage and give praises to every bit of a positive behavior. On the same note, parents should not wait for exemplary behavior so as to give encouragements; however, once a parent notices an element of good behavior, such statements as “I’m pleased with you” should immediately follow.
3. Modification training of behavior
There are some behavioral modification training techniques which enables the ADHD children to learn and develop appropriate behavior. Such techniques reward positive behaviors and take away all the privileges for wrong or negative behaviors. Charts and stickers are helpful in ensuring that the child is on track. They also monitor the progress towards the negotiated reward (Barkley, 2001).
For ADHD child to behave well, very clear systematic structures must be put in place. The parent must always start by teaching the child what the parent wants. It is the parent’s responsibility to tell the child what good behavior is all about. The child must also be made to know the clear cut between good behavior and bad behavior. The parent should therefore set aside some special time specifically for the training purposes. In the training process, the parent must clearly explain the consequences of good behavior (rewards) and those of bad behavior (punishments). The child should be asked to make “responsibility statements” to make him/her realize his/her responsibility in managing the behavior. Such statements include, “I will do my homework every day before going to bed.”
Immediate recognition is very important for a child with ADHD after any achievement. A combination of short term rewards and long term rewards works well for most children. The parent should ensure that the child is rewarded after meeting an agreed target. For the betterment of the child’s behavior, the rewards should be frequent, fast and enticing. Finally, the parent can decide to be the best example by showing the child how to do a given job or task. The parent should then let the child try the same task and coach him/her where necessary and give comments. The parent should finally allow the child to work on his/her own.
4. Stimulant medications
From research, it has been found that medication can greatly improve the child’s ability to concentrate and reduce several symptoms of the disorder (Green, 2001). This is through the regulation of the brain chemicals; however, it seems strange on the face value. It is important to note that the stimulant medication do not work for all the victims. At the same time, they have side effects and a good number of parents do not encourage their use. The drugs are available in tablets form and are fast acting; however, they wash out from the system very quickly and should be administered at least twice a day.
Medication is of great importance since it helps the ADHD child to concentrate and even settle for a relatively long time which makes him/her benefit from educational and other behavioral strategies. However, medication alone cannot be a solution to the poor mathematical or reading skills of the ADHD child or any other problem faced by the child.
Parents are advised to seek stimulant medication from the registered professionals only, usually a psychiatrist or a paediatrician. The monitoring of the medication must be careful and thorough to ensure that the child gets the best dose and to check the possible side effects.
5. Educational strategies
Just as parents, teachers spend most of their time with children and are at the best position of identifying whether a given child experiences the difficulties resulting from ADHD. Teachers are the very first people who can recognize the above symptoms in a child. It is therefore important that teachers become part of the solutions if they are involved in helping the child to overcome the ADHD problems.
Once a teacher has realized that a given child may be troubled by ADHD symptoms, such a teacher needs to apply professional skills in supporting and encouraging the child’s learning.
Just in the same way as at home, the teacher needs to demonstrate the tasks, and then takes the child through the task by coaching and supervising, and finally allowing the child to go through the task on his/her own. The teacher should also ensure that such children sit at the front so that they can be reminded of the task. Simple tasks with simple instructions are healthy for such children. The teacher should ensure that complex tasks are broken down in simpler bits and the child allowed to finish one task before the instructions for the next task are issued (Barkley, 2001).
Once every stage of the task is completed, the teacher should give fast feedbacks and encourage the child for a job well done. Such praises are very important. As we stated earlier, the ADHD children usually respond better if the choices are limited. While at home, the parent should encourage and support the child to do and successfully complete the homework.
Both teachers and parents should be aware that reading problems or any other learning problem is not caused by ADHD; however, it may only worsen the situation. Logically, it seems true that medication improves the child’s concentration and attention, thus automatically provides the reading solution. However, this is not true. Reading problems are caused by other factors separate from ADHD. Special interventions or reading programs may be necessary for ADHD children to aid in their learning. Professional help may also be necessary.
Without any doubt, it is hectic to live with an ADHD child. It is very demanding and tiring. The parent should therefore ensure that he/she gets all the necessary support. One can decide to contact a support group. Sharing your experience with another parent facing similar conditions is also of great help. Always, one should not forget that he/she also needs to relax and enjoy himself/herself.
Barkley, R.A. Taking charge of ADHD: The Complete Authoritative Guide for Parents. Guildford Press, 2001.
Green, C. Understanding ADHD, Revised edition. Doubleday: Sydney, 2001.
Grainger, J. Children’s Behaviour, Attention and Reading Problems. Australian Council for Educational Research, Melbourne, 1997.