This article is for entertainment purposes only. Author is not responsible for diagnosis or therapy misadventures, but hopes that the information might be somewhat helpful. For solid proven advice, go to www.chadd.org
You just got your diagnosis, which you long suspected, that your third-grader has ADHD. First, sit back, relax, and relocate your sense of humor. You are in it for the long haul. ADHD won’t go away from pills or therapy.
Hyperactivity, attention problems, and control issues will wax and vane, but ADHD may also spark a technical or artistic talent through hyper-focusing ability. Instead of dreading the battles with your 10-year-old “wind-up toy,” there are a number of things you can do to help everybody survive.
One decision will ultimately be up to each parent: drawing the line between the child’s artistic individuality and common sense interventions. Potentially, your son might be another Albert E. or a Steve J. But can you stand by long enough to find out?
As a parent, you may sometimes feel like a challenged lion tamer or a useless parrot, not really like a “natural” authority figure. Perhaps you may lose your temper just as often as your five-year-old—all while your child is simmering in frustration with you (“nobody understands me”). Here are some ideas to manage your daily family life.
- Sounds strange, but it is effective: Turn the child’s bedroom door lock inside out to prevent him from locking himself up and going ballistic in a tantrum.
- Post the rules of the house and the work/play timetables conspicuously in important locations. Then, as a parent in crisis, all you have to do is firmly point at the rules, not yell. The child will understand.
- Invent achievement games based on hit lists (good behavior points) and sh** lists (bad behaviors). Simply the act of grabbing a pencil to note down a “yell” or “potty word” or “argues”, may redirect the behavior. No doubt, the hit list will do its own desirable modification by dangling a child-selected carrot. BUT: Change up the game every several weeks. ADHD children get bored quickly.
- De-clutter the child’s room, the fewer toys the better. Allow building blocks, coloring pencils, and creative materials. Simplify the house, remove unsafe contraptions, tools or toys. Your child may be as inquisitive as she is clumsy.
- Organize clothing and school materials in bins that are labeled or color-coded. This will help the child learn cleanup methods and avoid arguments about not knowing “where to put that stuff.”
- Limit TV time stringently and use favorite shows as a bait to get homework done. Sometimes it takes that emergency of a show “coming up at 6:30” to write the book report. Limit electronic game time and the Internet. Why? Overuse of electronic contraptions will ultimately reprogram your child’s brain. And you don’t want those cartoons brandished on her memory.
- Enroll the child in a karate class or other physical activity. Karate is great because it emphasizes precision of moves, mind over matter, listening to instruction, politeness and waiting your turn. Sports are time wisely spent and the kid shakes off the excess energy. Sportspeople also learn to play by rules.
- Try out a medicine, definitely! Maybe the first dosage might not be an instant success, but it would be tragedy to have all involved suffer more frustration than necessary. It is entirely possible to maximize the benefits and minimize the dose.
- Consult with a therapist who helps sort out your family baggage with a clear mind. Emotionally charged parents may view persistent “ridiculous” behaviors as “incurable,” whereas a third party can bring some sense into these dynamics.
- Consider neuro-feedback therapy, to help the child sort out his or her impulses. ADHD children can’t read their own minds (limited executive function), but neuro-feedback helps them visualize that. The drawback: It’s expensive. After a certain age (10 years old) children learn to better manage their feelings.
- Pick the right school—a highly structured one—as partner. You don’t want your child flounder from frustration or ridicule but have him/her supported on diverse learning behaviors. You don’t need a state plan for some simple accommodations (let the child work standing up, allow more time, etc.).
- “Make” (or “gently force”) the child to progress with skills that they hate the most. Yes, that sounds awful, doesn’t it? Encourage him on piano practice, reading, all that “boring stuff” that wiggly kids shirk from. There is proof that neurons and abilities can be newly formed through persistent habits, as quoted from a Lumosity e-news: “…evidence suggesting that the brain’s abilities are in fact malleable and plastic. According to this principle of neuroplasticity, the brain is constantly changing in response to various experiences. New behaviors, new learnings, and even environmental changes or physical injuries may all stimulate the brain to create new neural pathways or reorganize existing ones, fundamentally altering how information is processed.”
Giving up on ADHD is not an option. The natural disposition of distractibility will always be there, but the behaviors can be self-modified so that the cognitive efforts become an automatic skill for success.
Keep your calm in crisis and preserve your sense of humor, parents! Dealing with ADHD requires relentless patience. No, you are not living with a “dog too old to learn new tricks.” He will learn it! Just takes longer. Have faith, and you will be the happier for it.
Train the child to form habits and routines for good behavior. These automatic habits will relieve the child’s brain from constant “executive decision-making stress” because the socially acceptable behaviors can be recalled automatically.
When there is one ADHD person in the family, all members are affected by it. Especially the early school years can be a trial and upheaval for family harmony. Use your smarts to navigate your social system for the benefit of all. It’s a lot of work and requires foresight. You might feel that you are creating your own, home-made institution around the symptoms to keep your family in balance. But the rewards will be great.