Science Monday: Working with ADHD children

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (commonly known as ADD or ADHD) in children presents many challenges for all involved. Often there are frazzled parents, irritated teachers, dismissing/judgmental friends, impulsive/distracted kids with loads of shame and pressure, and distant medical professionals.

I write as a professional and a parent. This means I’ve read lots of research and clinical approaches and have found them frustrating to implement in the real world of the family. The clinician in me knows that adequate treatment of the problem of ADHD requires: (a) good medical review, (b) creative parenting, (c) reinforcement strategies to help the child learn self-control, control, and organization, (d) academic strategies to help with learning, (e) possible diet and medication intervention, (f) possible psychological assessment, and (g) possible family and individual counseling. That’s enough to wear any parent out!

The parent in me knows that the primary change agent is me and the primary agent needing change is me. I need to be educated about what it is like to be my son (and to have the thumb of control on him at all times). I need to check my attitude and expectations about how quickly and thoroughly he will respond to my directives. I have to be flexible and creative in motivating him to work towards emotion and behavior control.

But truth be told, I’m tired and I’m afraid I caused him to be this way. I know I didn’t cause him to be this way. He was always emotionally labile, intense, and looking to the next thing…from birth. So, when counselors work with parents, they have to encourage parents with the following: You didn’t cause this, but you are responsible to find ways to help your child.

Looking for some good books? Check out Vincent Monastra’s, Parenting Children with ADHD: 10 lessons that medicine cannot teach(APA, 2005). Monastra does a good job giving some practical advice (“time stands still,” increasing protein in diet), debunking stuff (threats aren’t helpful, food dyes doesn’t cause it, etc.), and has some useful assessment tools.

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