Helping Kids Understand ADHD
The leadership team at Star Tutoring has been asked to present at schools and PTAs recently, talking about ADHD and Executive Functioning. One thing we often get asked is how parents and teachers can help kids understand what ADHD is and what it means for them. I'd like to refer to this podcast from the CHADD webinar series with Dr. Jerome Schultz for some excellent insights.
Practical Tips for Parents and Teachers
Dr. Schultz begins by stating that ADHD is a biological, psychological and emotional disorder and, because of this, the best treatments involve a combination of medication, therapy and academic support (tutoring). The earlier you can diagnose ADHD, the earlier you can prescribe and test interventions. However, parents and teachers have to be careful about over-diagnosing - just about every kindergartner may seem hyperactive, but they don't all have ADHD! We need to compare them to their peer groups at young ages to try to identify if additional testing is necessary. Some tips for the home environment: know that in-home frustrations will occur and be comfortable addressing issues as a family. It's common for family members (without ADHD) to compensate for the member(s) with ADHD. Over time, this may generate feelings of resentment. You also have to be aware that non-verbal communication can send constant negative messages - this includes eye rolling, sighs and other physical cues. Young kids pick up on this and it builds what Dr. Schultz calls a "cumulative toxicity" - where bad feelings culminate over time. It's estimated that kids with ADHD may receive between 12,000-20,000 more negative messages by the age of 12 than their neurotypical peers. This can cultivate feelings of shame. All parents and caregivers to the child have to be aligned on their understanding and approach. If the parents are aligned but the grandparents are not, that can undermine the ADHD treatment at home. It's difficult to educate kids and young adults about their condition, but it is possible. Parents need to reinforce that kids can take ownership over understanding their strengths and weaknesses and how it impacts them and the people around them. Let them know that the ADHD can (and probably will) impact them negatively at times. But, it's up to them to control how they communicate their challenges and needs. As they get older, they will need to establish an environment around them that is conducive to their style. Finally, it's important to help other adults in the child's network create and reinforce a positive learning environment. It's okay for students to mistakes, but also let them remediate the mistakes. Give them a pass and let them try again. Encourage them positively and reinforce them by saying things like, "I like how hard you're trying," or, "I like the way you're thinking about this." The best thing we can do is learn more about ourselves and remember to take a long-term perspective. You can try different interventions, but you have to let it sink in for a few months - Dr. Schultz says to check back in 6 months. If it's working, then great. If it's not working, you have to try something new. We need to remember that there is no quick fix for ADHD - no 4 week crash course in Executive Functioning Skills. It's a lifelong process of learning and growing.
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We hope these tips are helpful for you and your loved ones! To discuss more tips and strategies, please contact our Center Director at (214) 444-3431. Star Sessions (by Star Tutoring) reinforces Executive Functioning skills and helps students become confident, independent learners. Contact us today for a free consultation!