by Dr. Shanthi Thomas
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD as it is commonly referred to, is an illness characterized by inability to focus, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. Most of us would have encountered some children who exhibit any or all of these symptoms. But do we know what happens inside the brain of a child with ADHD? How does he/she view the world?
For a child with ADHD, being neat, organized and tidy is very difficult. He/she might be labelled messy by family, friends and teachers. Their beds may never get made in the morning, and study table may be strewn with loose papers, notes and books. They are likely to have a much disorganized school life, with missed deadlines and forgotten assignments.
Hygiene is another problem for a child with ADHD. Brushing their teeth in the morning and taking a shower may become too overwhelming. Showering regularly may become another burdensome activity, which leads to them being labelled smelly.
Children with ADHD are seldom hardworking students, precisely because they lack the ability to focus on anything for a long time. For this, they often get labelled lazy. But it is not laziness; it is a lack of executive functioning skills. At school, such children perform badly, and may even fail. Often, they may be reprimanded for not working hard enough or not devoting enough time for a particular task.
The tendency to interrupt people while they are talking, talk impulsively and out of turn are all symptoms of ADHD that is so often taken as a lack of discipline. Some children with ADHD might even be called rebellious because they might be repeating some unwanted behavior over and over, despite being warned not to.
It is not easy for a parent to raise or teacher to teach a child with ADHD. However, there are some strategies that can help the child go through life with some semblance of normalcy.
Children with ADHD should be told firmly that certain behaviors will result in certain consequences. So a reward system can be in place for good behavior. For example, if homework is done and handed in on time, he can be given a playdate with a dear friend. In the same way, negative behaviors should have consequences such as time-outs, or being denied something that they normally like. The idea is that the child should be aware of expectations and consequences.
Parents and teachers, when dealing with a child with ADHD, should remember that it is with great difficulty that he/she achieves something, which comes easily to others. Therefore, what little is done right should be appreciated and praised. Minor misbehaviors should be ignored. For example, if school assignments are handed in on time, it should be appreciated even if the quality of work is not exemplary.
Exercise is a must for everyone, but for a child with ADHD particularly those with hyperactivity, exercising and other physical activities should be a part of everyday life. Riding a bike, training in any form of martial art, doing dance lessons, playing catch with friends, jogging and running– in short, any kind of physical activity helps.
Children with ADHD are usually exhausted from all the efforts of trying to do things that others do without any effort. Being sleep deprived will make matters worse. So, there should be a bedtime at home, and it should be followed consistently. It helps to avoid having televisions and computers in the children’s bedroom. It is equally important to insist that they hand over their hand phone, tablet or kindle to you before sleep, so the temptation to watch or read something will not be there.
This is a contentious issue, with some parents being dead against giving medicine to kids on a daily basis. However, a lot of children benefit from stimulant medications. They help children to focus their thoughts better and ignoring distractions. This will help them to get things done on time. Parents and teachers need to consult a psychiatrist in case the children in their care exhibit symptoms of ADHD, and need not be overly anxious about medication.
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