How To Manage Your Child’s ADHD: A 5-Week Child Psychologist Plan

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ADHD and ADD are acronyms that you are likely familiar with by now. Many parents and medical professionals are concerned about the marked rise of ADHD over the last decade. Numerous people believe that the diagnosis is too readily given, and that ADHD medication is overused on American children. I have had many parents ask me to write about this topic, and I wanted to bring in an expert to help you with some skills and tools to manage your child’s ADHD.

 

According to the new data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the U.S., nearly one in five high school-aged boys and over one in ten school-aged children have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

 

To give you a better sense of how serious this in the U.S., an estimated 6.4 million children age 4 through 17 have received an ADHD diagnosis at some point in their lives. This is a 16 percent increase since 2007, and a 41 percent increase in the past decade!

 

Before I discuss the most effective ways to manage your child’s ADHD, I think it’s helpful to first discuss the criteria that pediatric psychologists use to diagnose a child with ADHD. ADHD can only be diagnosed if an individual displays at least six symptoms of inattention or hyperactivity impulsivity.

 

Symptoms of inattentiveness include the following: difficulty sustaining tasks or play activities, not listening when being addressed directly, failing to finish school work or chores, being easily distracted, forgetfulness, frequently losing items, and avoiding tasks that need prolonged mental exertion.

 

Symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity include the following: frequently fidgeting or squirming in a seat and getting out of a seat, running or climbing in inappropriate situations, difficulty playing quietly, excessive talking, interrupting, intruding on others, and seen as “on the go” or restless.

 

The onset of these symptoms must be before the age of 12, and they must be persistent for at least six months. Finally, the symptoms must not be motivated by anger or the wish to displease or spite others.

 

If you think your child might have ADHD, I highly suggest that you consult with a local child psychologist who can best assess and determine the correct diagnosis.

 

Let’s assume that you find out that your child has ADHD — now what? First, I suggest reading the book “Driven to Distraction” by Dr. Hallowell. I love this book because the psychiatrist, who is an expert in ADHD, presents ADHD in a positive light, which I think can help people see it as an asset rather than a disorder. I have other books that I highly recommend, but this one will be a good intro to start!
Once you have a good grasp on what ADHD is, it’s time to take some steps for you and your child. Here are five actions you can take that help you work with your ADHD child.

 

It’s important to note that nothing happens overnight. If we try to introduce many changes in one day, we are less likely to follow through with them, and we become overwhelmed by all of the newness. Take these steps one week at a time! Solidly focus on one task a week, and gradually add in each of the other tasks. Your child will not benefit from disrupting your entire routine. Focus wholly on just one step, and know that it is enough to do just that.

Our 5-week Plan

This is the plan that one of our trusted providers, a top child psychologist, uses with her clients.

Week 1: Hold Your Child Accountable

Many parents and educators wonder how accountability is important for a child with ADHD. They think, “If my child’s disability is out of his control, is it fair to hold them accountable for their actions?” The answer is unequivocally yes. Your child’s ADHD does not prevent them from understanding consequences, and the first step to maintaining consistency in behavior is to not excuse them from accountability. Furthermore, help them remain accountable by showing you have faith in their abilities, and expecting them to do what is needed. Do not make excuses because of ADHD, rather encourage the appropriate behavior and hold you child accountable.

 

Here is what to do the first week:

  • Initial meeting and rapport building with your child psychologist: This is the MOST important week, as without a strong rapport and trust of our provider, your child will not be able to make the progress we expect.
  • Introducing CBT skills through activities such as games/playing sports
  • The focus of CBT is on how people think.
  • Noticing details about child’s behavior (i.e. he has automatic, reflexive thoughts and interpretations of events). Catching those thoughts and analyzing what one is thinking at a particular moment is extremely important. Provider will be able to assess child’s way of thinking by understating their way of thinking and helping to guide the child to think in a more constructive/positive way.

 

Week 2: Create Consequences

There are many healthy techniques to use to discipline your children – all of which will help you to restore safety and calm things down, reinforce rules, teach children, and help them find a way to make amends.

Natural Consequences

  • The first are Natural Consequences, which happen automatically without any action on your part. For example, if your child does not wear a raincoat on a rainy day, he will get wet. If she forgets her lunch, she will be hungry.
  • You can use Natural Consequences whenever the result is not morally, physically, or emotionally damaging. They are highly effective because as the saying goes, “Experience is the best teacher.”

Logical-Related Consequences

  • The second type is Logical-Related Consequences, where you step in.  For example, if your child won’t dress properly for the weather, she may not go out. Or, if he does not clean up a toy, you may clean it up and then he is not allowed to play with it for a specified amount of time.
  • This works well when there is a specific issue and the consequences are clear.
  • Logical Consequences are imposed by the parent. However, logical consequences are different from punishment in some important ways:
    1. Logical consequences are planned in advance by the parent. They are not reactive or angry responses.>
    2. Logical consequences are often planned with input from the child.
    3. Logical consequences make sense in relation to the behavior. They are “logical.”
  • Logical consequences require time and are thought out on the part of the parent. They need to be planned in advance to be most effective. There are some basic guidelines that can be helpful to parents in developing logical consequences.
    1. Give your child a choice and speak to them in private about the consequences
    2. The Three Rs and an H for Logical Consequences is a formula that identifies the criteria to help ensure that logical consequences are solutions, rather than punishment.

The Three Rs and an H of Logical Consequences

  1. Related
  2. Respectful
  3. 
Reasonable
  4. Helpful

Details:

  1. Related means the consequence must be related to the behavior.
  2. Respectful means the consequence must not involve blame, shame or pain, and it should be kindly and firmly enforced. It is also respectful to everyone involved.
  3. Reasonable means the consequence must not include piggybacking and is reasonable from the child’s point of view as well as the adult’s.
  4. Helpful means it will encourage change for everyone involved. If any of the Three Rs and an H is missing, it can no longer be called a logical consequence.

(These could also be renamed as the Three Rs and an H for Focusing on Solutions.)

Tools that will help you better connect with your child and empower them:

  • Learning about your child’s core beliefs and using exposures to practice those beliefs.
  • Core beliefs can be positive in the case of someone who is confident in their ability. They can also be negative in the case of someone thinking they’re bad at a particular task.
  • Emotional exposure is also one potential strategy that’s traditionally associated with phobias and traumatic experiences. One tries to challenge the emotion and negative thoughts enough that they can bring it down to a manageable level.
  • Normalizing stressful and negative emotional tasks can make them more approachable.

 

Week 3: Suspend Privileges

Obligations vs. Privileges

As part of imposing consequences, you may suspend privileges. But before you can do so, you need to understand what privileges are. Sometimes parents get so caught up in giving to their children that they miss what power they do have.

Your relationship with your children can be categorized as:

  • Parental obligations – what you absolutely must give your children, such as basic nutritious food, proper medical care, school attendance, and respect.
  • Privileges – what you choose to give to your children, such as special foods that meet their preferences, outings, sports, and activities.

The delineation between a privilege and an obligation may be different in different households. For example, in one family, playing a sport may be a privilege, while in another, once registered, it may become an obligation. The idea is to figure out what in your household is a privilege and as such can be taken away when necessary.

 

Week 4: Foster Time Management Skills

Children with ADHD suffer from “time blindness,” meaning they lack the ability to stay aware of time and use it well. This leads to wasting time, and lack of productivity. In order to help your child with “time blindness,” try to make time external. If you make time physical, rather than conceptual, you can help your child see how much time has passed, how much is left, and how quickly it’s passing. Do this by using measurable things like clocks, timers, counters, or apps.

 

Week 5: Teach The Importance of Respecting Adults

It is important to establish a healthy relationship between the child and the adults in their life. They must understand what is, and is not, appropriate to say to their authority figures. They must understand that there is a right time and place for certain behaviors and language. What will begin to help your child understand this is building a strong relationship with a positive role-model (i.e. his coach).

Executive Functioning

Children with ADHD tend to struggle with the following core executive functions:

  • Self-awareness
  • Inhibition
  • Verbal working memory
  • Emotional self-regulation
  • Self-motivation
  • Planning and problem solving

What Can Help With These Struggles?

  • Enforce Accountability (as described above in week 1)
  • Foster Time Management Skills (as described above in week 4)
  • Write It Down
    • Help the working memory by making information visible using notecards, signs, sticky notes, lists, journals, etc. When your child sees information right in front of them, it will be easier to jog their executive functions and help build their working memory
    • Also consider getting a planner- this can be an essential step to helping with time management. This will be a place to keep track of deadlines, homework, and also fun activities such as sports practice and birthday parties.
  • Offer Rewards
    • Help self-motivation by making motivation external using rewards</
    • Children with ADHD have trouble motivating themselves to complete tasks if they do not have immediate rewards
    • It is best to create artificial forms of motivation like token systems, or daily report cards
    • Reinforce long-term goals with short-term rewards to help strengthen the child’s sense of self-motivation
  • Make Learning Hands On
    • Making a problem as physical as possible, like using jelly beans or colored blocks to teach math, or word magnets to teach sentence structure, will help to reconcile the verbal and non-verbal working memory
  • Stop to Refuel
    • Emotional self regulation can be deleted when a child works too hard over too short a time (i.e taking a test)
    • Take frequent breaks to refuel during tasks that stress the executive system
    • 3-10 minute breaks are best in order to aid the child in getting the fuel they need without getting distracted or losing track
  • Get Physical
    • Exercise will give a boost to a child’s executive functioning
    • Physical activities help to refuel, and can help your child cope with ADHD symptoms
  • Sip on Natural Sugar like a Juice
    • During a test or project, have your child sip on a lemonade, a fruit juice, or sports drink for just the right amount of natural sugar (not too much added sugar, though!)
    • The glucose will fuel the frontal lobe, which is where the executive functioning comes from
  • Show Compassion
    • Children with ADHD are generally just as smart as their peers, but their executive functioning problems keep them from showing what they know
    • It is important to show compassion and a willingness to help them learn
    • Do not revert to yelling at your child for their mistake, instead, try to understand what went wrong, and help them learn from it

What About After the 5 Weeks?

From our experience, when parents stick to this plan, they start to see a change by the end of 4 weeks after meeting with a children’s psychologist. It takes anywhere from 12-30 weeks to fully change a behavior, so stick with it. Just remember that, step by step, you are making a positive change in you and your child’s life. Families who are committed to this plan have a high success rate with this 5 week plan! Keep at it, be vigilant, and you will see drastic differences. You’ve got this!

Interested in finding the best child psychologist in your area? We can help! Call us for a free consultation, and we’ll set you up with one of our incredible providers.

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