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ADD – How to Cope
Managing ADD is an ongoing challenge for parents. We do not “cure” ADD. We definitely have to live with it. “How can you cope?” This is well stated. I’m going to give you some specific tools that you can start using right away with dramatic results.
Remember, ADD is Attention Deficit Disorder, whose primary problem is focusing attention. ADHD is distinguished from ADHD in that ADHD also has problems with focusing and hyperactivity. I started treating this disorder(s) in 1985, before we distinguished the two. I still prefer to think of them as “ADD”.
The ADD child is easily distracted. They are attracted to “the next shiny object”. On their way to a shiny object, another catches their attention and they leave. It sounds funny, but it can be frustrating for parents or teachers trying to deal with these kids. Actually get a few of them in one place and pay attention. Children with ADD are much easier to handle individually than in a group.
In fact, attention deficit disorder has a bad name. It’s not really ‘attention deficit’. In fact, the child notices or pays attention to too many things. They notice everything. Better too much than not enough.
Here are some great tips to help you effectively deal with children with ADD.
- Educate yourself. ADD is a developmental delay. The child cannot do what he cannot do yet. This developmental delay is measured as about 30% behind “normal” development. Therefore, chronologically, 13-year-olds may function more like a 9-year-old. He may look 13 years old, but his abilities didn’t develop until he was 9 years old. The last two abilities of the human brain are: 1) Internal vs. external motivation; and 2) Delayed gratification. Don’t all children struggle in these areas? Think of the ADD child’s brain as a really good computer, but 30% of the software still needs to be installed. Using computer analogies is a good way to explain this simply. It’s like you keep hitting the right key on the keyboard, but the computer doesn’t respond. You will be frustrated and wonder what is wrong with your computer. Then you wonder why you’re so inept at computers. There is actually nothing wrong with you or your computer. It cannot yet respond to your command if the software is not installed. Just as your child cannot respond or perform according to your expectations because the brain has not yet developed this ability.
- Change your expectations. Now that you know your child has ADD, you need to adjust your expectations for his performance. That doesn’t mean he’s not smart or can’t do a lot of things. He may need to be told, reminded, prompted, and supervised. First, you need to change your understanding and expectations.
- Issue one command at a time.Have you ever given a child with ADD a series of tasks like, “Go upstairs, make your bed, take the mudguard down to the laundry room, and take out the recycling?” I bet it is. And you know what happens. 10 minutes later he is playing with the cat in the hall of his room. He has no idea why you’re upset, much less what you said to him. If you’re lucky, he’s made his bed and is playing with a toy on his bedroom floor. At least he got the first assignment. An ADD child simply cannot process multiple tasks in a row. Don’t frustrate yourself and him, and only give one task at a time. It will not yet happen to process and remember many consecutive requests. Stop your own frustration. Does not change. You need to change the way you assign tasks.
- When you assign a task, ask him to repeat it back to you so you know he got it.That’s huge. It sounds so simple, and it is. But also very strong. Learning and memory are significantly strengthened by repetition. Also, the more sensory modalities you use when issuing a command, the better. By modalities I mean visual, auditory and kinesthetic. If he looks at you or sees the task, it is visual. To hear that it can be heard. Kinesthetic can be touch or feel (or both). So, if you touch it, or smile, or create a good feeling and attitude when you talk, you’ve done all three. Your child will retain more and therefore be more likely to complete the task.
- If you are not at home, give the instructions or commands at the performance location.We can’t expect the ADD child to remember what behavior or performance expectations we might have. In particular, we cannot expect him to remember situation-specific expectations. Take the shopping center as an example. At the door of the shopping center, tell the child what your expectations are. Ask him to repeat them back to you. The occurrence of positive achievements increases dramatically. At home, after school, you can re-read the instructions at home that you gave before school. Or you can call him from work and he’s in the room where you’re assigning the task and you’ve created a performance point situation.
- The most important thing as a parent is to relax and be as resourceful as possible.ADD children are particularly sensitive to positive or negative energies around them. They are extra sensitive. If you are negative, angry, hostile, or sarcastic, they will pick up on that and it will affect you. Be positive. Be clear. Be confident. Be loving. Be as objective as possible. This will always be the case whether our child has ADD or not. I have seen some sad situations in my practice where parents are so frustrated and angry with a child that they don’t realize how they are talking to and about them. Sounds like they can’t stand the kid. It can sound so hurtful. Imagine the heartache of that child when his parents sound like they seriously don’t love him. This can cut to the core and cause serious harm to the child. A child doesn’t have enough armor to take that much damage. May cause long-term damage. So be as loving, positive and matter-of-fact as you can be.
These are just a few things I know will help. Attention can be regained by using the child’s name. Touching the shoulder focuses attention. A parent’s attitude makes all the difference in the world.
Dealing with ADD isn’t exactly easy for anyone. But he copes easily. Many successful, high-achieving, and happy adults have had ADD as children and as adults. These children are usually lively and very entertaining. Sure, they annoy me sometimes. But can’t we all be?
© 2010 John B Hudome, all rights reserved.
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