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These tips from parents and experts will make life easier for your kiddo and you.For parents of special needs children with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), the hardest parts are often day-to-day living—getting everyone out to school and work on time, getting homework done and good reports from teachers, and obtaining some much needed sleep and relaxation. Once there’s a diagnosis of ADHD in your child, your first steps are getting the right medical care and understanding what ADHD is. ADHD is one of the most common childhood conditions that both children and adults can have, but symptoms always begin in childhood. According to WebMD, “Symptoms include inattentiveness, impulsivity and hyperactivity, but they differ from person to person … Children with ADHD may have trouble sitting still, following directions and completing tasks at home or school.” ADHD is more common in boys than girls and affects between 3 and 10 percent of children in the United States. In toddlers and young children, symptoms often manifest themselves in kids who are always on the go and can’t seem to sit still. Most children are diagnosed in elementary school because of inability to focus, make good decisions or plan things. Other signs include not letting others talk, having trouble sharing and taking turns, and inability to finish homework or chores. Treatments usually include medicine and behavioral therapy, but each child’s situation is different, so consult your medical, school and other support experts. And make sure your child has a thorough and comprehensive assessment. Below, parenting tips for handling ADHD in children, straight from the experts and other moms and dads:
- Establish morning routines. For an ADHD child, having a reliable schedule that is easy to follow can make the difference between chaos and successful departures to work and school. Get a good alarm clock and gently wake the child with a touch. Open curtains to let the light in. Have a regular teeth brushing, dressing and breakfast schedule in the same order to avoid confusion.
- Have structure in the day. Keep activities simple and healthy. Try to have a very set schedule. For example, on Monday and Wednesday, swim lessons; on Tuesday, art class and so forth. The more the routine, the easier it will be for the child to keep to it.
- Set clear and specific expectations. Make behavioral rules simple and always explain (even several times) what will happen if the rules are followed or broken. Most importantly, follow through every single time with the expected reward or consequence.
- Avoid “harsh” parenting. A study this month from Ohio State University found that approaches like yelling and physical punishment don’t work well with children with ADHD. The study of 99 preschool children found that to discipline an ADHD child, less harsh parenting had a significantly positive impact on behavior.
- Help your child succeed at school. Keep thorough records of all report cards, disciplinary reports, teacher notes, evaluations and IEP (Individualized Education Program) meetings and reports. Also, know about your child’s rights. Each state has a parent technical assistance center that can help with this. Go to www.parentcenterhub.org to find the center in your state.
- Encourage good exercise, sleep and eating. Children with ADHD need physical exercise and good sleep. What they don’t need is a lot of sugary food.
- Always notice your child’s successes, even the small ones. And tell your child often that your love is unconditional and that you will get through this together.
- Help your child with social skills. Children with ADHD may get negative reactions from their peers. Parent training can help you learn how to help your child control impulsivity and hyperactive or aggressive behaviors. For more information on this, go to CHADD, the National Resource on ADHD.
- Work together. Have all the adults who care for your child (parents, grandparents, relatives, babysitters) agree on how to handle the child and have consistent approaches to behavior problems.
- Find out if you or your spouse has ADHD. ADHD is often inherited and many adults have not been treated for it. Parent training can help you cope as well if you also have ADHD.
- Take good care of yourself. That means the usual—eat right, get enough sleep, exercise and try to keep your stress level down. If you are a working parent, that might seem like a tall order, but the more you can help yourself, the more you can help your child.