Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Parenting an ADHD Child

Some days with special-needs children can be so overwhelming, you feel desperate at the end of the day for the right prayer, the right book, the right approach, the right things to say...anything to make tomorrow better than today. It's very hard to accept that the difficult situation isn't going to go away. There's no cure, but there will be good days (along with the bad days and horrific days). 

In adulthood it will persist for your child and look somewhat different, but from a parenting perspective it will still be hard. 

How do you endure? How do you keep smiling? How do you not envy those with neuro-typical children, even though you love your child with everything you've got and wouldn't trade him?

At the end of the day the hope is not in a cure, but in extending the daily grace necessary for all involved to feel loved and valued. This disorder begs for grace, prayer, trust, faith.

And what's true in every difficult situation is true in this one: Count your blessings, not your "curses". It works every time to refocus us on God, rather than on our difficulties.

Information does help and I look for it frequently. Here is a series written on ADHD from Focus on the Family.


2. Facts About ADHD 

3. More Facts About ADHD

4. How to Help an ADHD child

Included in the series is a letter written by a 7th grade boy to Focus on the Family, shared below. It made me so thankful we homeschool. Following this letter, I share an excerpt about tips for handling your ADHD child, and an encouraging link about your child's hyperfocusing.

When I began the second grade, I went from having a good teacher to a hard one. I did not feel ready for second grade, and felt different from the other kids. Writing words were hard, like writing the Korean numbers. No letters or numbers made sense, and I had trouble remembering everything I learned. I did not understand and remember the directions, and everyone seemed mad at me all the time.

When you're in second grade, you feel pressure to wear cool clothes and hang out with cool friends and do well in school. I began to feel like I was a failure and heard my teacher tell my mom I was at the bottom of my class. What did that mean? I did not know, really, what that meant until the other kids made fun of me and called me "stupid." I felt stupid. I told my mom I was stupid. My pride was hurt because I didn't feel like the other kids, or I didn't feel like I belonged. Everyone seemed to have fun and school stuff was easy for them.

I had one friend like me, and we started a club only for kids like me. My teacher told my parents that I might have a learning disease, and should have some tests. I had a tutor everyday after school, and I learned the stuff real good at night, but at school I could not remember what I'd learned or the right way to do problems.

In fifth grade I still had trouble learning, and people, especially my teachers, were getting more and more mad at me for forgetting. Sometimes, I would forget all the stuff and have fun. Sometimes I would not. Mostly, not.

My mom tried really hard to help me remember things, and she was starting to get mad at me, too. They told me I was not trying. The teacher told my mom I was lying about not remembering and that I was lazy. I'm not lazy. I'm just so tired of people telling me to try harder. I did not blame them for my disease, so why does everybody blame me?

Tips for Handling Your ADHD Child

Here are 18 suggestions from a book by Dr. Domeena Renshaw entitled The Hyperactive Child, shared by Focus on the Family in the above-linked series. Though her book is now out of print, Dr. Renshaw's advice is still valid:
  1. Be consistent in rules and discipline.
  2. Keep your own voice quiet and slow. Anger is normal. Anger can be controlled. Anger does not mean you do not love your child.
  3. Try to keep your emotions cool by bracing for expected turmoil. Recognize and respond to any positive behavior, however small. If you search for good things, you will find them.
  4. Avoid a ceaselessly negative approach: "Stop." "Don't." "No."
  5. Separate behavior, which you may not like, from the child's person (e.g., "I like you. I don't like your tracking mud through the house.").
  6. Establish a clear routine. Construct a timetable for waking, eating, play, television, study, chores and bedtime. Follow it flexibly when he disrupts it. Slowly your structure will reassure him until he develops his own.
  7. Demonstrate new or difficult tasks, using action accompanied by short, clear, quiet explanations. Repeat the demonstration until learned, using audiovisual-sensory perceptions to reinforce the learning. The memory traces of a hyperactive child take longer to form. Be patient and repeat.
  8. Designate a separate room or a part of a room that is his special area. Avoid brilliant colors or complex patterns in decor. Simplicity, solid colors, minimal clutter and a worktable facing a blank wall away from distractions help concentration. A hyperactive child cannot filter overstimulation.
  9. Do one thing at a time: Give him one toy from a closed box; clear the table of everything else when coloring; turn off the radio/television when he is doing homework. Multiple stimuli prevent his concentration from focusing on his primary task.
  10. Give him responsibility, which is essential for growth. The task should be within his capacity, although the assignment may need much supervision. Acceptance and recognition of his efforts (even when imperfect) should not be forgotten.
  11. Read his pre-explosive warning signals. Quietly intervene to avoid explosions by distracting him or discussing the conflict calmly. Removal from the battle zone to the sanctuary of his room for a few minutes can help.
  12. Restrict playmates to one or two at a time because he is so excitable. Your home is more suitable so you can provide structure and supervision. Explain your rules to the playmate and briefly tell the other parent your reasons.
  13. Do not pity, tease, be frightened by or overindulge your child. He has a special condition of the nervous system that is manageable.
  14. Know the name and dose of his medication. Give it regularly. Watch and remember the effects to report back to your physician.
  15. Openly discuss with your physician any fears you have about the use of medications.
  16. Lock up all medications to avoid accidental misuse.
  17. Always supervise the taking of medication, even if it is routine over a long period of years. Responsibility remains with the parents! One day's supply at a time can be put in a regular place and checked routinely as he becomes older and more self-reliant.
  18. Share your successful tips with his teacher. The outlined ways to help your hyperactive child are as important to him as diet and insulin are to a diabetic child.

My son Peter hyperfocuses on various topics, such as gardening, composting, farming, fishing, and owning a dog. He will research obsessively, and follow me around and talk about the topic ad nauseum, and ask for money to buy this or that related thing. It can be very challenging on the nerves, as can all aspects of ADHD. He often vacillates between two obsessions at once, depending on weather conditions and what's available for research.

The snow is finally melting, so he's obsessing about gardening and composting. All of these are positive things, except the lack of response to social cues when he's obsessively sharing. Here is an article on the positive side of hyperfocusing.: Have Passion, Will Focus: Encourage Your ADHD Kid’s Obsessions

Here is a book by Edward Hollowell about seeing ADHD as a gift, not a problem.

Superparenting for ADD: An Innovative Approach to Raising Your Distracted Child 

Are you parenting a hyperactive child? How are you coping, and how do you accentuate the positives?

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