Living with ADHD
By Charles Hopkins
Published 10/23/2007 | Parenting
ADHD, what is it? ADHD, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is a
condition that is usually characterized by lack of ability to focus,
impulsive behavior, and hyperactivity. Those who suffer from this
condition have an over stimulated brain that changes directions quickly
and without discipline.
There are three major symptoms of ADHD:
1. Inattentiveness. A child with ADHD cannot determine what is
important and what is not. They are easily distracted by sounds,
activities, and even smells around him. They cannot determine what to
focus attention on because they lack the skill to prioritize.
2. Impulsive behavior. A child with ADHD acts first and then
thinks. He does not take the time beforehand to consider whether there
might be consequences to his action. As a parent, you may be constantly
having to make sure your child is safe and not heading for the busy
street. They just do not recognize the danger of the fast moving cars.
It can be very exhausting to try to anticipate where their next turn
might take them. The child will probably spend more than their fair
share of time in the emergency room or doctor's office getting patched
3. Hyperactivity. A child with ADHD is constantly fidgeting,
tapping his feet, popping his knuckles, or tapping his fingers on the
table. They just cannot be still, even for a very short time. Sometimes
you will notice a constant lip or tongue movement.
If your child has the first two symptoms of inattentiveness and
impulsive behavior, but not hyperactivity, he may suffer from ADD,
Attention Deficit Disorder.
School is usually very difficult for children with either of these
disorders. The demands on concentration and for staying quiet are so
much greater in the classroom setting. Because such children find it
difficult to stay focused on anything for very long, the alternative is
to be disruptive, and overly active. For some, the disorder is so
severe that it interferes with their being able to keep up normal
learning. This calls for more parental involvement and understanding.
WHAT CAUSES ADHD?
Many things have been linked with ADHD as a contributing factor at
some point including artificial lighting and lead poisoning. It is now
believed that there are disturbances in some brain functions that may
be a factor. It is believed that there is involvement with the chemical
dopamine and its regulation in the brain. It has been discovered that
adults with ADHD metabolized glucose more slowly in the areas of the
brain that controls movement and attention. The disorder has also been
linked with the use of alcohol or drugs by the mother during her
pregnancy. Her diet during pregnancy could also be a factor.
EVALUATION AND INTERVENTION
Typically these children are bright, creative and keenly sensitive.
It is important to realize that they are healthy children with
extraordinary needs, requiring a special level of understanding. Here
are some suggestions parents of such children have found successful.
First, it is necessary to recognize the situations and the stimuli
that upset the child. It is essential to observe the signals in the
child that precede the emotional confrontations and to intervene as
soon as possible. One of the first things you will notice is a change
in facial expression. It usually reflects a rising level of frustration
due to the inability to deal with the situation at hand. Give kind
verbal reminders that the child needs to control himself, or if
necessary, remove him from the situation altogether. Time-outs have
been proven effective, not as a form of discipline, but a cooling off
period for both the parent and the child so they can proceed
A parent may find themselves feeling resentful at the behavior of
the child, taking it personally. It is essential to realize that when
these children reach their stress tolerance level, they lose all sense
of reasoning and comprehension. Sometimes you just need to back off to
give yourself time to gain control of your own emotions.
IT'S NOT JUST A KIDS DISORDER
Parents of children who have been diagnosed with ADHD are beginning
to realize that they had the same symptoms as a child but there was no
"label" for it when they were growing up. Unfortunately, children with
ADHD often grow up to be the adults that are always in trouble with the
police, always getting into fights, or can't keep a job.
If one who suffers from the disorder marries, it can put a lot of
strain on the marriage. They usually are not very good listeners and do
not communicate well with others.
Having a child with ADHD can put a strain on a marriage as well.
There is the tendency for parents to blame each other for the problem.
They may be quicker to react to the bad the child has done than the
good. This leads to even more negative behavior. Thus the family, and
anyone else who interacts with the child, become locked into a power
struggle as a result of not understanding or not knowing how to manage
the behavior of a difficult child, whether it be a child with ADHD,
ADD, or just one wanting attention.
Although a change in diet can play a major role in controlling
symptoms, there are other methods of treatment to consider. The three
most common are:
1. Medication. Since ADHD apparently is connected with a
disturbance of brain functions, medication can be useful in restoring
the proper chemical balance. Unfortunately, many children are over
medicated to the point that they are not able to function without the
medication, and with the medication they become lethargic.
Some experience undesirable side effects from medication, including
anxiety and certain emotional problems. Medication should be carefully
monitored under a doctor's supervision.
2. Behavior modification. Parents may feel that they should not
give their child discipline because he has the disorder. But in truth,
discipline and structure is the best thing for the child. As parents,
you cannot simply give up. If consistent discipline is given with love,
the child will better be able to accept the discipline. Set clear
limits with appropriate rewards and penalties.
Structure in the child's life is very important. There should be
strict routine in the daily activities. Of course, the child can have
some input in the structure and routine. But as a parent you have to be
sure they follow the routine. The child's energy needs to be channeled
in a positive way. It will take some determination on your part. You
will need to spend time working with him (or her) with their
schoolwork, patiently teaching and explaining things to him, often over
and over again.
3. Cognitive training. This involves helping a child to have the
proper view of himself and the disorder. They have to be helped to
realize that they are not "stupid" or "bad". They need to know the
disorder does not define who they are. It is a condition that can be
managed. Goals can be set, but they need to be realistic. One of the
biggest problems is the lack of self esteem that can develop in
children with the disorder. Give them constant reassurance and support.
Discuss rather than demand. If possible, get the opinion of the the
child in any decisions that involve him.
REDUCE THE STRESS LEVEL
It is very important to try to reduce the stress level by providing
an environment of order and stability. This might require simplifying
your life style in some way. Reduce the negative effect of over
stimulation. Cut down on the number of toys they are allowed to play
with at one time. Since these children are often very disorganized,
creating an organized environment can reduce frustration levels.
Have a structured but not rigid, routine that gives stability to
the child. The time schedule is not as crucial as the sequence, that is
the order in which events occur. Provide proper nutrition with
well-balanced meals and snacks. Create bedtime rituals they can look
forward to. If you take them shopping, make the trips short and only to
one or two places. When going out, clearly explain the type of behavior
Support from family and friends is the greatest "medication" one
who suffers from ADHD can be given. Try to draw attention to the things
they CAN do, not what they CANNOT do. Don't forget that love will make
your task as a parent easier. Hug your child every day, often.