Kids with ADHD have difficulty putting on the brakes from acting on incoming stimuli. There may be challenges with distractibility, impulsivity, hyperactivity and difficulty disengaging from enjoyable activities. It is a medical condition largely caused by genetic factors. It can change over the course of time as kids mature or are able to compensate for it using skills that many people that have to manage their time also use. Kids with ADHD have other personality traits that are strengths to be recognized and used.
Here are some starting points for intervention, though a thorough treatment plan and medication consult often need to be implemented.
- List target behaviors that would be positive at home and school. For older children, get their input and negotiate to teach problem-solving and relational skills. Do not address too much at one time.
- This behavior will need to be prompted with a cueing system, especially expectations that are “out of sight, out of mind.”
- Reinforcements can help train the brain to focus, creating tokens that can be exchanged or lost for privileges. Create an ability to earn back losses.
- List the negative triggers that lead to off task behavior.
- Use lots of social reinforcers, including positive parent and teacher attention that is communicated in a variety of ways, including verbal and written mini-celebrations of progress communicated to both student and teacher. Think of some ways this can be expressed to your child. Mini-celebrations are similar to what one sees in sports after a score or good play.
- Think of rewarding activities in the classroom and home that would be desirable. Tokens or points can be used to earn special privileges, even for outside of class like a complete or partial homework pass.
- Think of material reinforcers like stickers and prizes.
- Use time-in and time-out. Time-in is used for one on one attention and calming, time-out reduces sensory inputs for a time. Even a short time-out may help, having the child watch the second hand go around the dial for a minute or two.
- Practice desired behaviors before they come into play, just like sports teams practice before the game.
- Prompt the behaviors before they are needed. Signals other than words, or code words can be used.
- Post the expectations with pictures or words at the points where they are needed. Have the student write or draw appropriate and inappropriate behavior to be used as cues.
- Allow a privilege to be used after practicing the behavior.
- Closely follow daily routines and include time for physical release of energy.
- Prepare for transitions and less structured times. Use relaxation or imagery to help move back to structure.
- Notice when your child is over-stimulated and intervene sooner.
- Stay calm, non-emotional and tolerant, or disengage until a later time.
- Use physical proximity, have the child find your eyes, then use short sentences, telling what to do, not what not to do. Repeat, do not discuss. Be wary of multi-step directions. Check for understanding.
- Deliver consequences with less talk as possible.
- Verbal and written communication between teachers and parents.
- A chart with pictures that the child drew that shows daily routines with which the child normally has difficulty. As the child completes each task, he or she can move a clothespin to the next picture. A checklist could also be used.
- The child can practice sustaining attention through the use of random sounds or beeps to remind child to pay attention during a task. Progress can be noted by tallying on task behavior when a beep is heard.
- Reduce distractions.
- Build in plenty of breaks to move around.
- Visual and auditory timers, like the Time Timer or from an app.
- Background music or noise which help block auditory distractions, or headphones.
- Small textured objects to manipulate or seat cushions, like Movin’ Sit Jr. or Disc O’Sit Jr.
- Use a buddy system, or a teacher’s aide.
- Create a calming area in the room.
- Adaptations for assignments and tests.
- Apps like Inspiration and Epic Win to help kids organize, focus, and complete tasks.
- Parenting Tips
More ideas can be found:
Dan Blair is a marriage counselor and family counselor.