One of the most damaging effects of ADHD is that the brain is not capable of seeing ahead and looking at the consequences of doing something well ahead of time. This can be anything from remembering to do an assignment to not forgetting what he needs the next day for school.
Given the fact that a 10 year old child with ADHD is probably behaving like a child two years younger, we need to keep this constantly in mind. With a normal ten year old child, we could tell them to get a report done within a certain time limit. With the ADHD child we need to:-
- make sure that a routine is followed
- break the task down into doable and shorter segments
- set a time limit for each of the mini tasks
- if it is a reading task with report writing, make sure that after each reading section, one or two sentences are written down.
The fact is that looking ahead and planning for that depends on the age of the child. A college student might be able to plan ahead for a week and study accordingly. A six year old can only see ahead for about twelve hours. Given that the ADHD child is about two years behind his normal peers, it is even more important to help them overcome this obstacle. We should also reduce our expectations by keeping this very basic fact in mind. That is the first golden rule.
As regards behavior we should be expecting five year old behavior from an eight year old child. The eight year old normal child can connect his behavior with consequences. The scenario changes significantly if the child has ADHD.
As and when it happens
The second golden rule is to react immediately when something happens. This can be a reward for good behavior or a consequence when bad behavior kicks in.
If we leave it till later and remind the child of what happened and dole out some withdrawal of a privilege, the child will have great difficulty in connecting the two. That is why we need to put these measures into effect the moment they happen or straight afterwards.
As regards anger issues and temper tantrums, this is very difficult to apply, I must admit, because we need a calmer atmosphere to help the child verbalize his or her anger. But with most other problems, we can apply the sanctions or rewards immediately.
Why we must reduce our expectations.
The third golden rule is to adjust our expectations as what the child is capable of especially bearing in mind the 30% rule as outlined by Dr. Russell Barkely. He advises against allowing a sixteen year old ADHD teenager to learn to drive as they will more than likely have the self control and emotional intelligence of an eleven year old.
Given that the child of six will be behind by about 30% in terms of behavior and academic performance, we have to keep this in mind and forget the exhausting input. What we really need to focus on is how to get the child to do what we want but we have to help them in practical ways to do that.
Here are some ideas to reduce the stress:-
- establish routines and stick to them. This takes time and patience.
- use these routines and structure especially for when homework has to be done
- prepare in advance and encourage children to lay out clothes for the next morning. Show them how you plan ahead
- use lots of planners and charts and make sure that they are visible in prominent places. This is ten times more effective than verbal reminders.
By following these three golden rules, we can at least contain and help reduce the damage caused by distractibility, impulsivity and difficulty in planning ahead. We can also help the child to be more aware of the consequences of his or her behavior over time. There is no magic solution but if we are more aware of the ADHD child’s limitations, we can make a big difference. Visit ADHD natural treatment to find out more.
Robert Locke MBE is an award winning author and has written extensively on ADHD and related child health problems including 3 Golden Rules for Dealing with ADHD Kids.