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Caring for a child with ADHD

by KATHY HUBBARD / Contributing Writer
| October 4, 2023 1:00 AM

Every child will squirm and fidget. Every child will have moments where they’re not paying attention. And every child will have a time when they can’t control their impulsive behavior. However, when these behaviors become pervasive and persistent and interfere with their lives, that child just might have ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder).

ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood. It affects between eight and eleven percent of children, depending on which report you read, and boys are more often diagnosed than girls. Although symptoms may appear as early as age three, they often become identifiable when a child starts school.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that a child with ADHD might daydream a lot, forget or lose things a lot, squirm or fidget, talk too much, make careless mistakes or take unnecessary risks, have a hard time resisting temptation, have trouble taking turns, or have difficulty getting along with others.

Research is ongoing to determine possible causes and risks. It’s widely believed that there is a genetic component, but it’s pretty much conclusive that it is not caused by eating too much sugar, spending too much screen time, or living in a chaotic environment.

According to Psychiatry.org, “ADHD treatment usually encompasses a combination of therapy and medication intervention. In preschool-age and younger children, the recommended first-line approach includes behavioral strategies in the form of parent management training and school intervention.”

An organization named CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) gives some great parental advice on their website. They start by stating, "the earlier you address your child’s problems, the more likely you will be able to prevent school and social failure and associated problems such as underachievement and poor self-esteem that may lead to delinquency or drug and alcohol abuse.”

They say that although life with your child may be challenging, there are things you can do to create a home and school environment that encourages your child’s success. At the top of their list of suggestions are these words, “Don’t waste your limited emotional energy on self-blame.”

They encourage parents to learn all they can about ADHD. They warn about websites that may offer cures, as there are none, but they recommend many websites that I regularly use, such as the CDC, their own, CHADD.org., and those with connections to universities.

The first order of business is to “make sure your child has a comprehensive assessment that includes medical, educational, and psychological evaluations (involving input from your child’s teacher) and that other disorders that either mimic or commonly occur with ADHD have been considered and ruled out.”

To help your child succeed at school, they say to become an effective case manager. In order for you to become an advocate for your child, you must open the lines of communication between you, the child’s healthcare providers, and the school and keep them open.

“Children with ADHD need to know exactly what others expect from them. They do not perform well in ambiguous situations that don’t specify exactly what is expected and that require them to ‘read between the lines,’” CHADD says. They also say to set daily “special time” with your child and to notice successes, even the little ones. They recommend getting parent training on assisting your child with social skills, such as making friends.

I particularly liked the advice that Elaine Taylor-Klaus, ImpactParents.com, gives. She says, “What kids with ADHD need most is a parent who really understands the way their brain is wired, accepts and respects them for all their complexity, believes in their strengths and possibilities, and empowers them to want to reach their full potential.”

And, she says, it’s easy to do, starting with getting support for yourself, particularly if you have ADHD. She says to create a home environment where it’s okay to make mistakes. Your child can learn from them and should learn from them without judgment or shame.

“Think in terms of fostering independence a little bit at a time and stay focused on the process and incremental change,” Taylor-Klaus says. “And, above all, lean into your relationships, love your kids for who they are, and don’t let the world’s expectations prevent you from meeting your kids exactly where they are so you can guide them to grow with love.”

Kathy Hubbard is a member of the Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at kathyleehubbard@yahoo.com.

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Kathy Hubbard