When I first started working with children we identified some children as inconsequential. These children displayed impulsive behaviour. They would often repeat the same behaviours which had got them in trouble again and again. They did not seem to learn from their mistakes and usually showed little resentment when being told off. However, when they got older they might become more resentful at the constant rebukes. These children are now diagnosed as having ADHD, which stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
It is not clear what causes attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but the children will display impulsive and restless behaviour in more than one setting. If the restless, impulsive behaviour only manifests itself in one setting the child can control their behaviour when they want or need to. ADHD is not an illness, but parents do need to help children learn to control their impulsive and restless behaviour. Sometimes medication is recommended to help the child manage their impulsiveness. This should only be prescribed by a psychiatrist who will monitor the child. Typically, the psychiatrist will be part of your local CAMHS team. CAHMS stands for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service. You may also be offered workshops for parents caring for ADHD diagnosed children.
Children with ADD are less likely to be diagnosed. These are children who display Attention Deficit Disorder. They are quiet in class, but their attention span is short. They may start a task, but forget what they are meant to be doing. At home they might often go upstairs but forget what they are meant to be doing there. This is typical behaviour at my age, but not in a child! The risk is that teachers might underestimate the child’s ability. The child will need refocusing on their task from time to time. Some children respond well to being given a time to get the work done and allowed a small break before starting their next assignment. Of course, the child may have lost concentration during the class lesson, but most teachers are highly skilled at re-engaging the children when concentration has been lost. What is important is that the child has the correct diagnoses, so the teacher is aware of the child’s need. The school should have a plan to help the child concentrate in school and some children might be assessed for an EHCP (Educational Health and Care Plan} if the child needs significant extra support in school. The assessment is usually carried out by an educational psychologist.
To be the parent of an ADHD child can often be exhausting, but it is also very rewarding. Medication may be prescribed to help your child to concentrate, but this should only be prescribed by a paediatric psychologist who will monitor the child. Medication will be phased out as soon as possible. It is only used to give a window of opportunity while your child is taught to take control of their own behaviour. Your child will need expectations of appropriate behaviour to be made clear. It is often helpful if you have a signal when your child needs a reminder of these expectations without listing them. The signal could be a hand gesture or it could be spoken - something simple like ‘everything okay?’ The idea is to make your child aware of their behaviour before they have overstepped the mark thus protecting them from constantly facing negative responses. You may find your child can concentrate on certain activities without displaying their usual lack of focus. These activities could include doing puzzles, playing chess or making a Lego model. When you have identified helpful activities you can guide your child to take time out playing their favourite pastime so they feel more grounded. Some children are affected by what they eat. If you suspect some foods or drinks make your child hyperactive, test it by cutting those foods from their diet for a time.
Of course your child will go to school, join clubs and visit friends so, as they get older, they are reliant on what you have taught them and the understanding of others. You will have created an atmosphere at home where they feel safe to discuss any problem. When they raise problems you will listen calmly. If they have made mistakes, you will acknowledge they could have done things better and discuss what they might do differently another time. But you will also reassure them you are still on their side. If you think others have made the problem, ask your child what they want you to do before taking action. It is important your child feels safe talking to you.
One of the areas where problems often occur is in school. ADHD children are not the easiest to teach. Try to cultivate positive communications with the school. This is not an easy task. Teachers have limited time and may not be able to make the space to listen. I recommend that you first make an appointment with the school’s SENCO (Special Education Needs Coordinator). You can discuss what has worked for you at home and ask how you can communicate with teachers in a way they will find supportive.
For advice and help getting practical support if you have problems with schools or the local authority contact http://educationalequality.co.uk/
Roger Green, MBACP, phone number 07929400561, website http://www.rgcounselling.co.uk/