ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is a common behavioral disorder that affects approximately 8-10% of school-aged children. Boys are three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls, although it is not fully understood why at this time. Children with ADHD are typically hyperactive, act without thinking, and have trouble focusing. They often have difficulty sitting still and paying attention. Although all children display these traits at times, children with ADHD display these traits over long periods of time and in different settings. And because ADHD interferes with a child’s concentration and attention, it can make it difficult for the child to perform well in school. However, there are strategies parents of ADHD children can use to help combat the difficult behavior patterns and help their children succeed in school.
One treatment recommended for ADHD is behavioral therapy. Behaviorial therapy attempts to change behavior patterns in the following ways: giving clear directions and commands, reorganizing the child’s home and school environment, and setting up a system of consistent rewards for appropriate behaviors and negative consequences for inappropriate behaviors. By making a few changes to the child’s daily routine, it can make a dramatic difference in the behavior of the child, which can make it easier for him or her to succeed in school.
Give Clear Directions and Commands
1. Create a routine for your child to follow and try to follow the same schedule every day. Post the schedule so your child knows when it is time to do homework, time to play, and time to do chores.
2. Limit choices to two or three options. By offering only two or three options, your child will be able to make decisions without feeling overwhelmed or over stimulated.
Reorganize The Child’s Home and School Environment
1. Reinforce the habit of staying organized. Establish a place at the home for your child to put their important items (backpack, house key, clothing, sports equipment, etc) as soon as they get home from school, so they are less likely to get lost.
2. Check and help your child organize their belongings on a daily basis, including their backpack, folders, and pockets. Establish a homework folder for your child to put their completed homework in. For loose papers, use color coded folders to organize and teach your child to file the papers in the appropriate folders.
3. Avoid distractions at home when the child is doing homework. Turn off the TV, computer, and video games, or anything else that can be a distraction. At school, have your child sit near the teacher, instead of near a window or door.
4. Keep in touch with teachers and school officials to share information and establish goals. Set up meetings with your child’s teachers. Try to set up the meeting in the classroom, that way you can get a feel for the learning environment. Listen carefully to what the teacher says about your child’s behavior and progress, although it may be difficult to hear.
5. Use a homework folder for parent/teacher communications. The teacher should include assignments and progress notes, and the parent can check to make sure all the work is completed.
Set Up A System Of Consistent Rewards for Appropriate Behaviors and Negative Consequences for Inappropriate Behaviors
1. Use goals and rewards to encourage positive behavior. Make a chart to list goals and track positive behaviors, then reward your child’s efforts. Be sure to keep the goals realistic, think baby steps, not overnight success.
2. Learn to discipline effectively. Instead of yelling at your child, use time outs or take away privileges as consequences for inappropriate behavior. For younger kids, it may simply take distracting or ignoring the child until they display better behavior.
3. Be on the look out for positive behavior and praise the child. Ask their teachers to do the same, praise your child when they stay seated, doesn’t call out in class, waits their turn, instead of criticizing when they do not.
4. Help your child discover a talent. Children need to experience success to feel good about themselves. Finding what they do well (music, art, sports, etc.) can boost their social skills, as well as their self esteem.
Besides the above strategies to encourage positive behaviors from your child, it is also helpful to devise a homework ritual. Keep in mind, that a new homework routine takes solid commitment. It also takes one to three months to become habit. It can take even longer for a person with ADHD. But the payoff is discipline, self-control, and success-building skills. Below are some tips in establishing an ADHD friendly homework ritual.
1. Create a homework routine. Schedule homework for a set time of the day, based on your child’s temperament. For some children, the best time is right after school, for others it may be after an hour of downtime.
2. Be consistent day to day. Post a daily or weekly plan/calendar that includes start and finish times each day. Schedule enough time to finish assignments without rushing, based on the grade level and your child’s history of completing assignments.
3. Give advance notice of homework time. This helps your child to shift from one activity to another more easily, especially from fun time to work time.
4. Help your child select a homework place. This could be the kitchen table, where they are able to spread out their papers and books, or a desk in a quiet den. Try to steer clear of the proximity to distracting electronics, but if your child concentrates better to soft noise, try gentle background music.
5. Stay nearby. Your child will concentrate better knowing your are close by. If they leave for the bathroom, remind them to come back. When they are done, remind them to return to work.
6. Set up rules. Draft and print a sheet that specifies homework start and finish times, when and how long breaks are, and that you will be nearby to help with understanding assignments, getting organized, and offering support, but not to do the work for them. Avoid arguments – calmly refer them to the homework rules.
7. Help your child get started. Make sure your child knows what the assignment is and how to proceed. Break down the assignment into smaller, more manageable pieces if necessary. Offer assistance that matches their learning style. For a verbal processor, read directions to your child, or have them read out loud. For a visual learner, show how to use highlighters or colored markers to outline key words and sentences. Underlining, note taking, and reading out loud teaches good studying skills and helps the child stay focused and retain information.
8. Keep them going. If your child tries to stop early, encourage them to keep going and remind them there will be a break soon.
9. Give breaks. Children with ADHD may become fatigued due to distractions, challenges in concentration, frustration, and restlessness. Help them recharge by scheduling frequent, short breaks (every 10 – 20 minutes).
10. Offer praise to keep your child motivated. For a younger child, offer extra play time, a favorite snack or game, or a special read aloud. For an older child, offer a favorite TV program, computer time, or phone time.
Raising a child with ADHD is a difficult task, not only for the parent, but for the child too. Using the above strategies and techniques will help you encourage and motivate your child in positive ways, and should help your child to behave appropriately and perform better academically.