Management of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in Children
It is extremely common to hear parents and teachers alike complain about children who are extremely hyper-active, or who are not paying attention in the classroom. While such complaints could be developmentally appropriate as well, often behavioural management becomes a significant cause of concern for the parents or teachers working with such children. Moreover, with growing awareness about mental health and its related concerns, there are instances when such children are labelled or identified as suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
However, it is necessary to ensure that we all have a complete and correct understanding of the disorder of managing such behaviour appropriately.
It is important to remember that a child with ADHD could present with either inattentive behaviour, or with hyperactivity-impulsivity, or even a combination of both, which leads to significant interference in the child’s functioning or development in personal functioning, at home as well as at school.
A child’s Inattentive Behaviour can typically be manifested in the form of distractibility, forgetfulness, incomplete tasks, carelessness, etc. On the other hand, Hyperactivity and Impulsivity in children could include excessive energy levels, with the child seeming to be constantly ‘on the go’, excessive fidgeting/squirming, impatience, etc.
Role of Parents in Management of ADHD
First and foremost, it is important to note that once you have identified a child you suspect of being at-risk for ADHD, he/she requires a formal assessment by a mental health professional, along with adequate interventions by the combined effort of a team of mental health experts including psychiatrist, psychologists, remediation specialists, occupational therapists, art therapist, etc. In order to effectively rehabilitate the child, it is important to make his or her re-integration into society and in his or her everyday life and routines as smooth as possible. Along with behavior therapy, social-skills training are important to enable the child to form sustainable peer relationships and to enhance the acceptability and self- esteem of the child.
As a parent, to help your child who might seem to be having some of the symptoms of hyperactivity and/or inattentiveness, the following are some of the points which you could keep in mind:
1. Collaborative interventions. In order for any interventions to be successful, it is important for the parents to collaborate with the teachers as well as professionals working with the child. Communicate regularly with the teachers so that you work as a team in tackling the problems that your child is demonstrating.
2. Create a simplistic approach. Help your child break tasks into simple units and encourage him to do the same at school in conjunction with his teachers. This could also mean giving the child simplistic and short instructions, with clearly specified tasks and goals decided and communicated in advance.
3. Maintain a distraction free environment. Request the teachers to have your child sit away from doors and windows to reduce distractions. Also request them to give him responsibilities to keep him engaged with what is happening in the class.
4. Accepting and non-judgmental approach. Listen to your child and be patient. Remember, the child is not doing anything intentionally to trouble you. Therefore, we as parents need to also become more accepting, as we educate ourselves about the symptoms and their behavioural management.
5. Apply principles of behavioural modification. Use reinforcement strategies to encourage positive behaviours, which could be simple techniques, but need to be implemented consistently. As a parent, it could be helpful if you choose to do things with the child to help develop the desired skills, making the task at hand more fun and engaging as well. Develop a system of reminders, in order to help sustain the child’s attention to the task, as well as to remind the child about the associated consequences as well.
6. The role of a professional is irreplaceable. In order to ensure the adequate identification of behavioural concerns, seeking an evaluation by a qualified professional is necessary. Furthermore, treatment is a must and you should not hesitate in meeting the right experts including Psychiatrists, Clinical Psychologists and Occupational Therapists.