Because ADHD is complex and each person with ADHD is unique, it’s hard to make recommendations that work for every child. But some of the following suggestions may help create an environment in which your child can succeed.
Children at home
- Show your child lots of affection. Children need to hear that they’re loved and appreciated. Focusing only on the negative aspects of your child’s behavior can harm your relationship and affect self-confidence and self-esteem. If your child has a hard time accepting verbal signs of affection, a smile, a pat on the shoulder or a hug can show you care. Look for behaviors for which you can compliment your child regularly.
- Find ways to improve self-esteem. Children with ADHD often do well with art projects, music or dance lessons, or martial arts classes. Choose activities based on their interests and abilities. All children have special talents and interests that can be fostered. Small frequent successes help build self-esteem.
- Use simple words and demonstrate when giving your child directions. Speak slowly and quietly and be very specific and concrete. Give one direction at a time. Stop and make eye contact with your child before and while you’re giving directions.
- Identify difficult situations. Try to avoid situations that are difficult for your child, such as sitting through long presentations or shopping in malls and stores where the array of merchandise can be overwhelming.
- Use timeouts or appropriate consequences for discipline. Start with firm, loving discipline that rewards good behavior and discourages negative behavior. Timeouts should be relatively brief, but long enough for your child to regain control. The idea is to interrupt and defuse out-of-control behavior. Children can also be expected to accept the results of the choices they make.
- Work on organization. Help your child organize and maintain a daily assignment and activities notebook or chart and be sure your child has a quiet place to study. Group objects in the child’s room and store them in clearly marked spaces. Try to help your child keep his or her environment organized and uncluttered.
- Try to keep a regular schedule for meals, naps and bedtime. Children with ADHD have a hard time accepting and adjusting to change. Use a big calendar to mark special activities that will be coming up and everyday chores. Avoid or at least warn children of sudden transitions from one activity to another.
- Encourage social interaction. Help your child learn social skills by modeling, recognizing and rewarding positive interactions with peers.
- Adopt healthy lifestyle habits. Make sure your child is rested. Try to keep your child from becoming overtired because fatigue often makes ADHD symptoms worse. It’s important that your child eat a balanced diet for healthy development. In addition to its health benefits, regular exercise may have a positive effect on behavior when added to treatment.
Children in school
Learn all you can about ADHD and opportunities that are available to help your child be successful. You are your child’s best advocate.
- Ask about school programs. Schools are required by law to have a program to make sure children who have a disability that interferes with learning get the support they need. Your child may be eligible for additional services offered under federal laws: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). These can include evaluation, curriculum adjustments, changes in classroom setup, modified teaching techniques, study skills instruction, use of computers, and increased collaboration between parents and teachers.
- Talk to your child’s teachers. Stay in close communication with teachers and support their efforts to help your child in the classroom. Be sure teachers closely monitor your child’s work, provide positive feedback, and are flexible and patient. Ask that they be very clear about their instructions and expectations.