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ADD – How to Cope
Dealing with ADD is an ongoing challenge for parents. We do not “cure” ADD. You absolutely have to live with it. “How to live with it?” This is well said. I intend to give you concrete tools that you can start using immediately with dramatic results.
Remember that ADD is an attention deficit disorder, the main problem being the concentration of attention. We differentiate ADD from ADHD in that ADHD has both problems with concentration and hyperactivity. I started treating this (these) disorder in 1985 before differentiating between the two. I still prefer to think of them both as just “ADD”.
The ADD child is easily distracted. They are attracted to “the next shiny object”. On their way to a shiny object, another catches their eye and off they go. It sounds funny, but it can be frustrating for a parent or teacher trying to deal with these kids. In fact, collect a few in one place and pay attention. Children with ADD are much easier to manage individually than in groups.
In truth, attention deficit disorder is a misnomer. It’s not really an attention deficit. In reality, the child notices or pays attention to too many things. They notice everything. It is really too much rather than a deficit.
Here are some great tips that will help you deal effectively with most children with ADD.
- Find out. ADD is developmental delay. The child cannot do what he is not yet capable of doing. We measure this developmental delay at about 30% behind “normal” development. Therefore, a chronological 13-year-old may function more like a 9-year-old. He may look 13 years old but his abilities are only developed to the level of 9 years old. The last two skills to develop in the human brain are: 1) Internal vs. external motivation; and 2) delayed gratification. Don’t all children struggle in these areas? Think of the ADD child’s brain as a really good computer, but 30% of the software hasn’t been installed yet. Using computer analogies works well to easily explain this. It’s like you keep pressing the right key on the keyboard, but the computer doesn’t respond. You are frustrated and wondering what is wrong with the computer. Then you wonder why you are so incompetent to operate this computer. In reality, there is nothing wrong with you or the computer. It cannot respond to your command yet if the software has not been installed. Just as your child cannot meet or meet your expectations because the brain has not yet developed the ability.
- Change your expectations. Now that you know your child has ADD, you need to adjust your expectations of their performance abilities. That doesn’t mean he’s not smart or capable of doing a lot of things. He may need to be informed, reminded, prompted and supervised. It is your understanding and your expectations that must change first.
- Give one command at a time.Have you ever given a child with ADD a series of chores like “go upstairs and make their bed, take their basket to the laundry room, and take out the recycling bins?” I bet you have. And you know what’s going on. You find him 10 minutes later playing with the cat in the hallway outside his bedroom. He has no idea why you’re upset and he has less idea what you told him to do. If you’re lucky, he’s made his bed and is playing with a toy on his bedroom floor. At least he got the first task. An ADD child simply cannot handle multiple sequential tasks. Stop frustrating yourself and give her one task at a time. It’s not going to happen yet that it processes and stores many sequential queries. Stop your own frustration. It doesn’t change. You need to change the way you assign tasks.
- When you assign a task, ask him to repeat it to you so you know he got it.This one is huge. It sounds so simple, and it is. But it’s also very powerful. Learning and memory are greatly enhanced by repetition. Also, the more sensory modalities you use to give a command, the better. By modalities, I mean visual, auditory and kinesthetic. Looking at you or seeing the task is visual. Hearing you say it’s auditory. Kinesthetic can be touch or feelings (or both). So if you touch it, or smile or create a good feeling and attitude when you speak, you will have operated in all three modalities. Your child will retain more and therefore be more likely to continue with the task.
- If you are out of the house, give instructions or commands to the point of execution.We cannot expect the ADD child to remember behavioral or performance expectations that we may have. We especially can’t expect him to remember situation-specific expectations. Take the mall as an example. At the mall door, tell the child what your expectations are. Ask him to repeat them to you. The incidence of positive performance will increase dramatically. At home, he can reread the after-school instructions that you gave before school. Or, you can call him from work, with him in the room where you assign the task and have created a performance point situation.
- More importantly, as a parent, you need to relax and be as pragmatic as possible.ADD children are particularly sensitive to the positive or negative energy that surrounds them. They are very sensitive. If you are negative, angry, hostile, or sarcastic, they will notice and be affected. Be positive. To be clear. Be firm. Be loving. Be as pragmatic as possible. This will always be the case whether or not our child has ADD. I have seen sad situations in my practice where parents are so frustrated and exasperated with a child that they don’t realize how they are talking about him and her. They sound like they can’t stand the child. It can seem so hurtful. Imagine the heartbreak inside that kid when his parents sound like they really don’t love him. It can cut to the heart and cause serious harm to a child. A child has not developed enough armor to withstand so much harm. This can cause lasting damage. So be as loving, positive and pragmatic as possible.
These are just a few of the things that I know will help you. Attention can be retrieved using the child’s name. Touching the shoulder attracts attention. The attitude of parents makes all the difference in the world.
Dealing with ADD is not really easy for anyone. But you can easily cope. Many successful, powerful and happy adults had ADD in childhood and adulthood. These children are usually bright and very funny. Of course, sometimes they are boring. But can’t we all be?
© 2010 by John B Hudome, all rights reserved.
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