Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can be a real struggle. It’s a complex neurological condition, and it affects our cognitive abilities used for planning, organization, and time management as well. It’s an invisible disability that results in our children and adolescents (and adults too) struggling in silence. Children with ADHD look like every other kid in the classroom or the karate class, and this is where it’s difficult for parents to advocate for their children because they become their child’s executive functioning brain for years, until they can’t ‘cover it up’ anymore. And then the real struggle begins for our children.The Physiology of ADHD
Children with ADHD have different brain wiring along with possible comorbid disabilities, such as anxiety, dyslexia, executive functioning deficits and/or specific learning disabilities. There is no one size fits all profile for any child with ADHD – each child has a unique combination of symptoms and challenges.Studies have also shown that the ADHD brain produces lower levels of a neurotransmitter called norepinephrine. Norepinephrine is linked arm-in-arm with dopamine. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that controls the brain’s reward and pleasure center. Lower levels of dopamine can result in the experience of depression, a low tolerance for stress, increased fatigue, mood swings, poor ability to concentrate, addictions and failure to finish tasks.
ADHD is known for setting its own set of rules. The ADHD brain is consistently inconsistent. A person with ADHD may be able to retain information from the school work, but yet, the next day, he can’t get his homework started. Because our children with ADHD have difficulty with handling situations and struggles consistently, this plays havoc on their feelings of confidence, certainty, safety, ability to trust, etc. Hence the inconsistent presentation of our children on a day to day basis in school and at home.
Despite ADHD’s association with learning disabilities, ADHD does not mean that our children are less intelligent, less capable, or less talented. In fact, many of our children with ADHD have significantly higher-than-average IQs. It’s important for a student with ADHD to learn their processing styles and get to know what works best for them so that they can become their best advocate in school and later in life.
Yes, ADHD Is Real
SO, to answer the question – ADHD is real. There are real physiological implications, even if they can’t be seen with our physical eye. The ‘symptoms’ affect our children’s ability to regulate their emotions, plan ahead, start a task, finish a task, focus for a sustained period of time, and be able to remember where they left their back pack, shoes, or daily planner.
Supporting Your Child with ADHD
Introduce your Child to his Teacher
Start the new school year off by scheduling a time to meet with your child’s new teacher and give him/her a profile on your child. It’s always helpful to create a bullet list of your child’s strengths and weaknesses to hand to your child’s teacher so she he/she doesn’t have to take notes about your child or commit anything to memory. Also, use this as a time to describe your child’s learning style, learning strengths and accommodations that have worked in previous years.
Schedule Monthly or Bi-Monthly Parent-Teacher Meetings
Schedule monthly check-ins with your child’s teacher to ensure that he’s receiving effective accommodations. Together, discuss how you can challenge your child academically, behaviorally, socially and emotionally in slow and progressive ways that emphasize praise and positive feedback.
Insist on Multi-Sensory Teaching Methods
Use a variety of strategies to accommodate the multitude of learning styles in the room will be of key importance to learning for your child. Include visual, auditory and kinesthetic facets to all lessons, plus opportunities for students to work cooperatively and individually.
Make a routine for your child and stick to it every day by using checklist, or laminated signs with reminders in their rooms. Establish rituals around meals, homework, and bedtime. Simple daily tasks/chores, such as having your child lay out his or her clothes for the next day or feeding the family pet daily, can provide structure too.
Break tasks into manageable pieces
Try using a large wall calendar to help remind your child of their duties. Color coding chores and homework can keep them from becoming overwhelmed with everyday tasks and school assignments. Even morning routines should be broken down into discrete tasks.
As your child’s parent, advocate and daily support, you have a stressful job. However, it’s important to remain positive and encouraging, as you know that your child is receiving negative feedback on a regular basis about what they struggle to do. Praise your child’s good behavior so they know when something was done right. Your child/student may struggle with ADHD now, but with the right support and tools they can flourish as an adult with ADHD/ADD. Have confidence and be positive about their future.