Learning 4 Life: Living with ADD/ADHD
by Katherine West
A Note to parents:
Kids are just as different and as beautiful as fish that you see swimming around in an aquarium. Just as a goldfish has special needs, so too does the jellyfish, flounder, and rainbow trout. If we have a goldfish, for example, we can not feed it as if it were living in the wild. Learn to accept what you have and work with it to make it the most beautiful and happiest creature in the entire world. Remember that each and every child is unique and different. Accept your child’s flaws and work with him or her to triumph despite those flaws.
Do you get notes from little Johnny’s or Sally’s teacher complaining about his or her inability to stay on task? Does the teacher criticize your child for sloppy handwriting, daydreaming, or fidgeting in his or her seat? If you know what I am talking about, you are probably the parent of an ADD or ADHD student.
ADD and ADHD are acronyms for Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Some children are only ADD, which means that they are prone to the following symptoms: extremely inattentive behavior, daydreaming, impulsive behavior, an inability to concentrate, problems with staying on task, sloppy handwriting, problems with written expression, impaired social skills, emotional immaturity, difficulty with personal relationships, inability to interact with peers, and many other factors that can make learning very difficult.
Other children are ADHD, which means that they have many of the above symptoms, but they also exhibit additional symptoms. Some of these include increased energy, nervousness, nearly limitless energy, and a need to be moving almost constantly. Sometimes this constant movement is a disruption to the classroom setting. The best remedy for this, or any other ADD/ADHD related problem, is classroom intervention by a creative teacher who is very willing to help all of his or her students learn.
The current education system does not make the next statement that I am about to make very clear. Non compliant or disobedient behavior is not ADD or ADHD behavior. Non compliant behavior is when a child willfully disobeys the rules. ADD/ADHD students are not normally non compliant. Of course, all children are disobedient at times. This is normal. I just want to point out that non compliant or disobedient behavior is not a normal ADD/ADHD behavior like fidgeting or daydreaming is.
What can I do to help my child control his or her fidgeting?
1. To reduce your child’s squirming about in his or her seat, use a non distracting squeeze ball. This ball can be made of a squishy type of rubber, plastic, clay, beanbag material, or any other soft substance. A Koosh ball, demonstrated on the Rosie O’Donnell show, is another example of a toy like this. This gives the child something to do with his or her hands, and also helps to lessen the child’s need to move around. You must instruct your child that this toy is not to be used to disrupt the class, and you must also notify the teacher of the reasons for this ball’s use.
2. A good idea is to set up a meeting with all the student’s teachers at the beginning of the school year. Some teachers may not be as willing to cooperate with the ball idea. Sometimes as parents we need to employ a little diplomacy and a lot of nerve. You can be persuasive, can’t you? I thought so… After all, you are a parent of an ADD/ADHD child!
How can I teach my student good study skills?
1. At as young an age as nine or ten, your child should begin keeping an assignment book. In this book, the child needs to write each and every assignment given by his or her teachers. By instilling this habit into your child’s daily routine, he or she will learn to be much more responsible. Less homework assignments will be lost or forgotten, and a good habit has been formed when you employ this technique. Be sure to make very specific rules about missing assignments. Also be firm and clear on the punishment that a child will face as a consequence of his or her missing an assignment.
2. Your child and you need to decide on a place that is conducive to studying. This should be a quiet place that is well lit and free from distractions. Once you have decided on a place to study, this should be the only place that your child does his or her homework and studies. There should also be a very specific time for homework to be done. Usually, as soon as the child gets home from school is the time for the homework to be done. This also goes for the kids who are involved in after school activities. Of course, it is a good idea to allow your child the opportunity to have a healthy snack before the work begins.
My child forgets his or her assignments, books, hats, gloves, and even coats at school! How can I help make my ADD/ADHD child’s memory sharper?
1. This is a very common problem with ADD/ADHD kids. For duties or other things that you want your child to do, give your child a very short instruction. Make them repeat it back to you. Give the instruction several times, reinforcing the memory.
2. For schoolwork, have the child write down each and every homework assignment, including reading assignments. Include the page numbers and reminders to bring the book home.
3. Get the child used to using a highlighter not only for homework instructions, but also for use in the assignment notebook.
4. I still have no foolproof way of insuring that my child does not lose her gloves, hats, and other personal items. The best thing that I can tell you is to teach them to keep specific items in a specific place. Her gloves go in the coat pocket. The hat goes in the sleeve. Her coat gets put in the locker. Good luck with this! I recall visiting the lost and found area weekly when Caitlin was very young. (kindergarten – 3rd grade)
5. Another great idea is to have your child keep a journal. This not only helps the child to remember things, but also encourages self-identification of thoughts and feelings. By writing things in a journal, your child will become much more adept at writing as well.
My child really has trouble making friends and maintaining relationships with peers. What can I do to help?
1. To help your child to thrive socially, get them involved in many extra-curricular activities. Many ADD/ADHD children are good athletes. Others are talented at music or singing. Some are budding artists. Wherever your child’s talent lies, involve him or her in the appropriate activities. ADD/ADHD children seem to do better with a very active lifestyle. Not only will the child make friends, but also the child will have ample opportunities to reinforce the relationships that he or she does make.
2. Another thing to remember is to allow your son or daughter to have parties. Be sure to plan outings either biweekly or monthly for your children to interact with a few friends. Whether it is a day at the beach, the pool, the zoo, the movies, a sleep over, or even the park, your children will learn to nurture their relationships with their friends. By keeping involved in school activities and keeping in contact with friends, the ADD/ADHD child will have much less trouble with peer relationships.
If your child experiences other emotional issues or increasing problems with peers, psychological counseling may be needed. Therapy can do a world of good for any child with a learning disability, even if the child is not having additional problems. I highly recommend that ALL children with ADD/ADHD have some form of psychological counseling or at least have the child evaluated by a psychologist and then go from there. Too many people are only concerned with what “other people” will think. Some people do not want anyone to think that there is something “wrong” with their child, so they resist psychological help. Please, keep your child’s best interest in mind! Attention Deficit Disorder is a neurological and psychological problem. If your child had a digestive problem, would you only bring him or her to a family physician? No! You would take them to a specialist- a gastroenterologist. (I hope I spelled that whopper of a word correctly!)
Next week’s issue will involve steps on getting an instructional plan in place for your child. This article will include age appropriate classroom interventions and tips.