Several other conditions mimic the symptoms of ADHD, such as stress, lack of sleep, anxiety, and the like. Because much of ADHD screening involves observing behaviors, other conditions can be confused with ADHD, resulting in a child being misdiagnosed and then taking unnecessary medication.
Is It Really ADHD?
- Sleep is a big issue when it comes to attention or the lack of it. A child who does not get enough sleep will not be able to listen and focus the next day. A very predictable bedtime routine will help with this. Use earplugs, white noise machines, and a calm orderly bedtime routine. Darken the room, avoid stress near bedtime, and try to avoid anything that will stimulate the mind of the child before bed, such as high-action videos or discussing a troublesome situation with the child.
Structure is your friend when you have a child with attention or self-control issues. Something I read over a decade ago (I wish I could remember who it was) suggested that in order to prevent undesirable behaviors, we train children beginning at a very young age on how to behave in every situation they will encounter. The author called these situations “frames.” One frame is called, “How we behave at the table.” Instructions can include things like, “Stay seated until your food is gone,” “Wipe your mouth with your napkin,” “Take your plate to the kitchen when you are finished,” or whatever else your family decides is important. There are many other frames: bedtime, riding in the car, being in a store with a parent, getting dressed, taking care of one’s things, preparing for school in the morning, eating at a restaurant--and the list goes on and on. Explicitly teach your child what you expect him to do in each situation. Structure and information are your friends and will be your child's as well. Lessen the stress and you will see a calmer child. Some things that often bring stress to a child include loud, agitated discussions between parents, hurrying too much, too much packed into a day, not enough time to have free play, not enough physical movement, pushing a child to perform, competition, and the list could go on and on. Help your child to remove stressors by eliminating unnecessary activities and pressures. Allow them to have more free time to play and be creative.
Control Over Mental Energy Teach in short blocks of time. Fresh, new content should be limited to 10 to 15 minutes and then time to use the new information so that learning will deepen. Involve the children in hands-on learning as frequently as possible. Don’t tell them; let them figure things out using their hands and concrete materials. Use the element of surprise. Hook them into the lesson in a way that grabs their attention. This might be a story, a novel object, or a question that attracts the child to your content. Novelty is your friend. Take the lesson to another room, into the hall, out on the driveway, or on the porch. Tape sight words or math facts in a line down a hall and let your child hop and skip as he learns. Break tasks into specific parts to be done in sequence. Short bites. Supply cold water to keep the brain hydrated and the child alert. Let him stand up to work, swing her legs, or walk around the room while reading. Provide ample physical activity that will pump oxygen into the brain. Provide a challenge with specific goals to shoot for and applaud achievement.
Control Over Intake of Information I can use my index finger to point to the place on the page I need to be paying attention to. For example, when working on a math problem, I can point to it with my index finger. This tells my brain, “Pay attention to THIS.” When doing work that requires focus, I can sit facing a blank wall free of visual distraction. If sounds keep sapping my attention, I can use headphones or earplugs to block out the sounds. When doing a page of math problems, I should cover all but one line with paper to block out all the other problems. As soon as one problem is done, I can point to the next. At the end of row one, I can jump up, touch my toes or walk around the room once, then come back and slip the paper down to uncover the next row. When my teacher is speaking, I should look at her face and ignore everything else. (Teacher, keep it short and to the point!) When I hear my teacher giving me directions, I can whisper/repeat to myself what he said so I will be able to pay attention to it. (Teacher, consider writing your directions on a whiteboard for those children who absorb directions better if they are not oral). I should keep everything off my desk when I am working, and I can shine a lamp right on the place I need to focus.
Control Over Output Before I act, I should STOP, count to five, and then ASK myself, “If I do this, what will happen?” The challenge is to teach the child to pause. Tapping his hand against his leg for five beats is a tangible way to create some thinking time. It can be a physical routine that becomes a habit. Before I act, I should STOP, TAP, ASK. Before I act, I need to realize that I have many OPTIONS for what to do. I might not want to do the very first thing that comes to mind. If someone calls me a name, my impulse is to slap them, but I am going to STOP, TAP, and ASK myself if there are other options available to me. As I am working I should PACE myself. If I have a page of math problems, I will need 15 minutes for the whole page. This means I need 5 minutes for each row. I can point to each problem, and if I tend to go too slow and fall into a daydream, I will be careful to immediately point to the next problem. If I have the habit of rushing very fast and making a lot of mistakes, I will slow down. When I finish one problem, I will look at it one more time to make sure I did it right. When I am doing something, I will ask myself, “How is this going?” Does it look good? Am I rushing so fast that I can’t read my own writing? If I am dusting the furniture, am I getting ALL the dust? When something goes really well, I am going to pay attention to what I did that made it work well for me. That way, the next time I have similar work, I can look at my notebook to see what I did that helped me out the most.
Start Small and Finish Well
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