ADHD? HYPOSENSITIVE? WHAT TO DO

9 Jul

This is a continuation of my now old post about Soviet Schools and how most kids who would have been labeled ADHD in the USA system benefited from the clear structure and many recesses in USSR.  And definitely, there was no Adderall in Soviet Union.  Well, what to do now, if your child is labeled ADHD (correctly or not, is another matter), and clearly cannot succeed in the current system.

 

  1.  The main mistake all parents almost instantly make (myself included) is starting the conflict with the teacher in order to protect your child. This is the worst mistake to make.  First of all, you need to recognize that your child is unique and does not feet the cookie-cutter system of American schools. Secondly, the teacher (even if she is awesome) cannot bend the system to fit your child’s needs. Just think about it. Children don’t have recesses. Neither does she. She is teaching for many hours non-stop.  She has to handle a class of 25-30 kids virtually on her own. Among those kids there are at least 4-5 (including  yours) that require unique attention because of ADHD, Dyslexia, Speech Delays, etc.  In addition, there is a handful of kids who are going through something. There is divorce, financial issues, move, illness (maybe even death) in the family.  At any point there is a child in the class who is not feeling well (headache, throat, stomach, you name it). And there are some kids who are being bullied.   She physically cannot spread herself so thin even if she tries.  If you start conflicting with her, she will resent you, and hence, your child.  If you respond to her complains in a defensive way you are not helping your child. Instead, recognize that she is right. Your child is unique and difficult to teach and manage.  Ask her about her experience with similar children, and what her recommendations would be (to  use at home). She is reaching out to you, because she needs help. Assure her that you are willing to help and be there for your child and for her.   Becoming and ally with the teacher (regardless of who she is and what she is doing) is the best thing you can do for your child while s/he is in her care.  There was a teacher who my child initially didn’t like and he was convinced she was picking on him.  I assured the teacher that I will fully cooperate with her. She was extremely thankful, she repeated that she likes my child and picking on him because she cares about him, and on every meeting she reiterated how thankful she is to work with cooperative parents.  My child finished the year with multiple achievements award signed by that same teacher.  The initial trigger for that turn over was my full and genuine recognition of the problem she pointed out (and my willingness to cooperate with her) rather than trying to run away from the problem or blaming her for being incompetent, unkind and what’s not.   I know think that she is an OK teacher.  Just like many other OK teachers my child will thankfully, have.
  2. Ask her what gives her the biggest pain. Is it the not-submitted Homework (I have may share of pain with those), behavior?  If the main problem is organization, then it’s on you to help your child by externalizing everything. For example, set a block in google calendar for HW time, with reminders. Make sure, your child clearly sees/hears reminders (half an hour before start, 15 minutes before start, and 5 minutes before start).  Make sure there are breaks in the Google Calendar, so that your child can jump, run, eat, drink for 5 minutes between different parts of HW.
  3. Sit down with your child to create a daily task list (on paper or in Google Calendar again). The point is for your child to check-mark every task, once it’s completed.
  4. Make sure your child visually sees his/her schedule. Even if you feel s/he knows it be heart, you won’t believe how much more s/he will be organized if s/he actually SEES the schedule, and look at it again and again for referencing.
  5. I cannot over-estimate the importance of daily chores. They are great for self-esteem, organization, sense of contributing to the family.   The point is not to overwhelm your child with work, but to make sure s/he is doing something meaningful, something that leads to your appreciation.
  6. IF the problem is not focusing in class, you NEED to get the teacher on your side.  Agree with her that there will be a sign for your child (she could tap him), when he daydreams. Explain to the child that she is not picking on him, she is trying to help him.  Ask the teacher if your child can be teacher’s helper or, if she rotates children, if she can give him some other chore. First, it will give him an extra opportunity to move a little bit. Secondly, it will help him create relationship with her and feel connected to her.  Ask her if he can get 3-4 bathroom breaks during the day. he will get a chance to run down the hall, drink some water from the fountain (and, go to the bathroom if needed). Those breaks will help him to concentrate better, when he is in school.
  7. It is extremely important that your child doesn’t suffer socially because s/he feels different from other children. ADHD kids are prone to being bullied (and sometimes, they are bully themselves due to poor impulse control. They occasionally shout at other kids, touch them, and alienate children, slowly becoming loners).  The best remedy for that is play-dates.  Pick a child or two and invite them to your house on more or less consistent basis. If your child will create relationship with about 2 children in her/his class, it will help him to become confident across all other social interactions.  Those kids will be unlikely to take part in bullying. S/he will her a small group to lean on. Overall, having a small group of children who support your child is sufficient to eliminate bullying, since for the most part, bullies pick on loners. It is your job to make sure,your child is not a lone by inviting other children from his class to your house.  I can’t stress enough  the importance of that point.  Alas, in my practice, this has been truly difficult to enforce with the parents. They are busy. They feel shy to call up other parents and invite their kids. They want it quiet in the house.  Yet, out of everything I wrote this could be the single most important thing you can be doing for your child’s development. It’s impossible to do well and achieve your potential when you are not happy. It’s impossible to feel happy if you spend so much time among kids who do not like you.  It is a parent’s job to help the child create those connections (and feel liked and accepted in class), but inviting other children to the play-dates. Your child will be more confident, happier, and ultimately, more successful even academically.
  8. It sounds tedious and artificial but you need to develop a system of negative and positive reinforcements for your child. Alas, since Pavlov and Skinner, we haven’t found any other behavior shaping mechanisms.  WHen your child behaves s/he deserves a small reword. When your child acts out in school, doesn’t do his/her homeworkd and so forth, s/he experiences negative reinforcement (fancy word for taking something away from your child). It’s best when the system is clear, predictable and your child is fully aware of it.
  9. It’s WONDERFUL when the positive reinforcement is time with YOU.  You can have ice-cream with your child and talk to her about a topic of her choice. YOu can watch a movie (of your child’s choice) with your child. Any joint activity with your child is a wonderful positive reinforcement, as not only it’s pleasurable, but it also enhances your connection.

 

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