“Mom, I forgot my permission slip!” “Dad I’ll do my homework later, I’m playing Minecraft!”
Children with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) have neurological differences that center around inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Fortunately, the executive functioning skills that are affected by ADHD can be strengthened with intervention. Here are proven strategies to help your child manage their symptoms and reach their full potential in school.
Create a support team. By partnering with your child's school and mental health professionals, you can provide supports to help your son or daughter excel. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the most effective treatment for ADHD includes a combination of school support, behavior therapy, and medication. However, each child is different and your child might only need one or two of these interventions to thrive.
Hone your child's superpower.
Many children who have ADHD struggle with low self-esteem because they focus on their deficits. Pointing out your child's strengths such as creativity, enthusiasm, and a willingness to take risks can help change their self-perception. Many people who have ADHD possess hyperfocus– sometimes referred to as an ADHD superpower – the ability to focus intensely on activities that are interesting or enjoyable.
Consistency and routines are your child's best friends.
Establish a clear structure that includes a predictable sequence of events that take place before school, after school, and at bedtime. Be sure to include time for play and exploration. You can help your child create visual reminders of tasks that need to be completed, and design a comfortable homework space where your child can study with limited distractions. Introduce new routines gradually by adding one step each week until your child gains mastery. For older students, apps like Focus Booster can send alerts and notifications to help with memory and time management.
Leverage your child's interests to enhance learning.
If geography flashcards bore your daughter – challenge her to design travel brochures and plan a trip to learn the states! If your son starts to daydream when he has to write a book report – encourage him to perform a news broadcast about the story to collect his thoughts! Activities that are exciting or enjoyable will capture your child's attention and enhance learning. Most kids focus best in short bursts and benefit from movement breaks when they start to fidget.
Positively reinforce responsible behavior.
The opportunity to earn incentives can inspire positive changes in your child's behavior. Offer small rewards for daily achievements, and larger rewards for maintaining progress over time. If your second grade son turns in his homework he might get to choose his favorite meal, but if he turns in his homework consistently for a week he could earn a trip to the movies or a slumber party with a friend.
Coordinate with your child's school
If your child is struggling academically, find out if they qualify for an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan. Forming a collaborative relationship with your child's teacher is one of the most important steps you can take to support your child academically. Communicate your child's strengths and challenges, and ask for regular updates on your child's progress. Some accommodations that boost achievement include sitting near the teacher, using headphones during independent work, and expending energy by handing out papers or feeding the class pet. Research suggests that participation in extracurricular activities also boosts self-esteem and social skills.
Partner with Mental Health Professionals
Psychiatrists and therapists who are trained in the treatment of ADHD can provide effective treatment. Medication can help children with ADHD focus and think more clearly, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Play Therapy can help children develop skills for listening, following directions, managing stress, planning ahead, and thinking through consequences before acting.
With patience, consistency, and understanding your child can thrive in school and beyond!