October is ADHD Awareness Month
By: Robin Withrow, LCPC, CADC
ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is one of the most common neurobehavioral disorders of childhood affecting around 6.4 million children between the ages of 4-17. 60% of those children diagnosed with ADHD will continue to have symptoms into adulthood. Children with ADHD may exhibit the following symptoms: difficulty focusing, difficulty sitting still, talking too much, making careless mistakes, taking unnecessary risks and difficulty getting along with others. These symptoms can become more noticeable once children reach school age. Teachers may bring up concerns such as a child’s ability to sit calmly, focus on assignments or their ability to get along with others in social settings.
Parents may try to overcompensate for their child by cleaning their rooms, organizing their backpacks, doing homework and projects for them. It is difficult for parents to stand by and watch their children struggle with homework. This can become a very frustrating time of day for parents and students. Children with ADHD have been described by Dr. Ned Hallowell has having a Ferrari brain with bicycle brakes. He presents a positive approach to the diagnosis, focusing on a child’s strengths. Proper diagnosis and treatment can improve symptoms and help improve self-esteem; as many children with ADHD believe they are stupid or lazy.
It is important for parents to educate themselves about the diagnosis. In this hectic and competitive world, parents can become overwhelmed with the challenges of raising a child with ADHD. It is important to talk with your child about their experiences in school and collaborate together to make a plan for handling homework and household chores. Parents can also reach out to “CHADD” which is a national organization that provides resources for parents. (http://www.chadd.org/)
Parents can learn strategies to help their children by reaching out to school social workers, asking for accommodations and getting recommendations from doctors. ADHD children benefit from participation in sports, music or activities where they can build confidence. Michael Phelps has mentioned swimming helped him to channel his ADHD in a positive direction. Howie Mandel used his ADHD to his advantage building a successful entertainment career. With the proper encouragement any child with ADHD can grow up to be a successful adult. Parents may need to adapt their parenting styles to support their child, using verbal cues, writing rules out and being consistent with consequences.
Parents can easily struggle with their patience and understanding, unless they themselves also have ADHD. Transitions from elementary to middle school and high school to college are particularly challenging. Mood changes can occur concurrently with ADHD, and require parents to be more aware and proactive as depression and anxiety often develop. Having your child evaluated by a professional can help alleviate any worries. Proper treatment at a young age can offer a lifetime of coping strategies assisting with future success.
In summary, having a child with a diagnosis of ADHD brings challenges and joys depending on how one approaches the frustrations, energy, sensitivity, humor, compassion, and endless drive their child will exhibit . Keep expectations realistic and encourage your child to live up to their talents. Make sure to reach out to the resources available for parents. Keep in mind that one’s own self-care is also important. In times of frustration or feeling overwhelmed, take a minute to yourself to reset.