Do these descriptions sound familiar? Your child never seems to listen to what you say. His homework is never finished. He forgets things. His teacher tells you that he is easily distracted in class. He often can’t remain in his seat.
These may be signs of attention deficit disorders. Teachers know that many students have difficulty with school work because they have trouble paying attention. Now, research can tell us why. Experts say that 20 percent of the population may have attention problems that are known as attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity (ADHD).
What are these learning disabilities? What can parents do if they suspect their child is ADD or ADHD?
What If I Suspect My Child Has ADD or ADHD?
Neither parents nor teachers can diagnose ADD or ADHD by themselves. If you suspect your child has an attention disorder, have a doctor examine him. This can rule out other physical problems that show similar symptoms.
The school counselor, a child psychologist or psychiatrist, or other medical professionals may also be helpful.
If your child is diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, your doctor and the school staff can help you learn what you can do at home to help your child. Long-term treatment to meet a child’s medical and emotional needs is often required. Some doctors may recommend using drugs as one part of the treatment. The important thing to remember is that thousands of people have learned how to deal successfully with ADD and ADHD.
Parents Can Help Children With ADD and ADHD
What can you do if your child is diagnosed with ADD or ADHD? Here are some suggestions:
- Face the facts. Accept the idea that it is hard for your child to concentrate.
- Drop the scolding and nagging. They won’t help your child.
- Encourage physical activity. Many children with ADD or ADHD need outlets for their energy.
- Be encouraging. Children with these disorders need extra support.
- Boost your child’s self-esteem. Focus on your child’s strengths. Encourage involvement in activities where he can excel.
- Foster responsibility. Establish rewards and consequences for good and poor behavior.
- Follow good behavior with positive consequences as quickly as possible. Reward your child with some one-on-one time with you or a special snack.
- Provide structure. ADD and ADHD children need goals and family rules. Routines for things like homework and bedtime can make your child’s life easier.
- Discuss changes. Changes in routines are hard for most kids. They are a special challenge for children with ADD and ADHD. If you must change a routine, give your child plenty of warning.
- Minimize distractions. If your child needs to work alone, provide a quiet, uncluttered place for study.
- Written assignments will probably be the most difficult for your child. If possible, see if he can use a computer for writing. This will make editing and proofreading much easier.
- Tape a few reminders inside your child’s notebook: “Write down assignments. Take notebook and paper. Bring all books home.”
What Do ADD and ADHD ‘Look Like’ in Children?
At one time or another, all children have trouble paying attention. But when children are consistently unable to pay attention over a long period of time, they may have ADD. If they also fidget and are in constant motion, they may have ADHD. Here are some of the characteristics of children with attention problems:
- Often fidgets with hands or feet. Often squirms in seat.
- Can’t stay seated.
- Has difficulty waiting turns in group situations.
- Often blurts out answers to questions before they have been completed.
- Doesn’t listen well. Has trouble following instructions—especially complex instructions.
- Is easily distracted.
- Shifts quickly from one activity to another.
- Has difficulty playing quietly.
- Often talks excessively. Often interrupts others.
- Often loses things necessary for activities at home or at school.
- Engages in activities without thinking of the consequences.
Fortunately We Know a Lot About ADD & ADHD
For many years teachers and parents alike thought some children didn’t pay attention and do well in school because they just didn’t want to. Now we know that in many cases children don’t pay attention because they simply can’t.
Happily, once we know that a child has attention problems, we can do a lot at home and at school to help the child succeed. And, the very best approach is for parents and schools to work together.
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