First off, although officially categorized as a “disability,” having ADD or ADHD or other learning disability, is not a time to panic and think doom and gloom. In fact, in my opinion, who has ADHD and Dyslexia and a Ph.D., this is not a disability at all; rather, an opportunity. Our minds just work differently.
Basically, ADHD (Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) is a “developmental disorder,” that the Americans With Disabilities Act has classified as a disability. This is about getting the needed accommodation and services in a school or state program. And if there is no help or intervention, yes, this will turn into a lifelong disability. It can even be used as an excuse to do nothing with one’s life, even to venture into bad realms like drugs. However, with good intervention, will turn your child into a fully engaged successful person in school, home and in life. Then any career they have an interest in.
If you suspect your child does not get basic school work, is becoming very behind, or a note from a frustrated teacher, then this is the time to have them assessed. Talk to your pediatrician and get referrals. There are many programs, many free. In California, we have the “Regional Centers.” Be proactive and see what eligible services your school or district or state can do. In Method Schools, our customizable curriculum and tutoring will automatically help your child in school and a few helps I list below will make their home and educational journey a winner.
Be positive and committed to a supportive learning environment
Your child will frustrate you and most teachers. However, when you exercise patience, and more caring involvement you will create a better environment. In those times, try different ways to know a subject, one of those ways will work. The ADHD mind is hyperactive, like a V8 engine firing 12 cylinders in a small car, or an overclocked computer. As you explain something, or a teacher is lecturing, their mind is all over the place, unless they are interested. Why they can spend hours on gaming and 15 minutes on homework. Try to put yourself in their shoes, like to think of a time when you were overwhelmed or did not understand something, that is your child all of the time. So, compassion will go a long way.
Seek medical intervention
Talk to your pediatrician and get referrals to any specialists, such as, my son sees a Neurologist and a Behaviorist. I fought two years not to have my son medicated, trying to protect him. When he was out of control, we finally complied to a low dose medication and this turned our child around for the better.
Many times, this a neurological issue and they can’t help it. They are not seeking to ruin your day or screw up at school. Allow them more time for your child to get something when they are struggling. Sit with your child at times during homework or homeschool. Answer their questions and offer help with a good attitude.
A focusing tip...
A simple help ADHD is to have them use their index finger to track words as they read. Use a primary colored construction paper as a placeholder to see just one section of a worksheet or a computer screen at a time so they do not get overwhelmed. Show videos, learning apps, try different ways to explain something without being frustrated. When you are frustrated, take a break.
Be generous with praise
A child needs approval and to feel safe and loved. Give them praise for work when it is done, and when they accomplished something. Have celebrations and rewards too. When you provide a stable, happy home, they have a safe place and will be better at learning.
Structure is Very Important
Most children need a routine, bedtimes, meal times, getting ready in the morning, and this is especially true for ADHD. Set clear expectations and be consistent. Simplify as much as possible, like to have clothes laid out the night before, bath or showers at night before bed, which also helps relax them. Time things out and get them a watch to help them keep track of their time.
Build on your child's strengths
Find out what they are interested in and use that as an outlet, something to look forward to, like gaming, LEGO’s, art, sports, collecting bugs or whatever rocks their world. And, more time in their passion zone, as earned time when they do well or finish a section of work. So, time in this as an extracurricular activity and more time is earned for a visit to a museum of bugs as a reward. You can make an easy chart, and mark their success on it and have an agreement, then there is a bonus. My son is earning a trip to a local LEGO convention.
Keep your child busy
But not too busy. As their minds are all over the place, so are their bodies. They need exercise outlets like sports, martial arts, as well as music and art lessons to stretch the mind and so forth.
Not for discipline; rather, a place they can go when overwhelmed that is quite and they can decompress. We use a large beanbag chair designed for kids with autism.
Don't forget to get help, even if they are doing well
When you get them the help they need will have the tools needed to succeed, not only in school, also socially, and into adulthood and their professional life too.
ADHD is a disability and it is not! Your child is much brighter than average, perhaps a genius. Yet, they will be easily distracted, have a very short attention span, are unable to focus, will be hyperactive, fearful to try new things, impulsive, not very coordinated, not good at making friends, and will embarrass you as well as drive you crazy. But wait - there is more...
They will succeed with your help, and can be a university professor or a doctor or a lawyer or, well, there is no limit, when they get a handle on it. The key is your nurture and willingness to work at it and get them the help they need. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Hang on, you can do this! My single mother in an era when there was no help did so with me and my brother. We both are ADHD, me with learning disabilities and my brother with Asperger’s. Now, I am working with and homeschooling my son with Asperger’s.
More resources for help:
For a school that can help you and your child’s success look here: http://www.methodschools.org/
Dr. Richard Krejcir is an Author, Researcher and the Director of a nonprofit that does educational training in third-world countries. He is also a Homeschool Coordinator at Method Schools and an instructor in a STEM program and a father of a son with autism.