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ADD – How to Cope
Coping with ADD is an ongoing challenge for parents. We do not “cure” ADD. Of course we have to live with it. “How to cope?” This is well stated. I intend to give you some concrete tools that you can start using immediately with dramatic results.
Remember, ADD is an Attention Deficit Disorder with the primary problem being focus of attention. We differentiate ADD from ADHD in that ADHD has focus problems and hyperactivity. I started treating this (these) disorder in 1985 before we distinguished the two. I still prefer to think of them as just “ADD”.
The ADD child is easily distracted. They are drawn to “the next shiny object.” On their way to a shiny object, another catches their attention and they leave. This sounds funny, but it can be frustrating for the parent or teacher trying to deal with these children. In fact, take a few of them somewhere, and look out. Children with ADD are much easier to deal with one on one than in a group.
Actually, Attention Deficit Disorder is misnamed. It’s not really a “deficit” in attention. In reality, the child is noticed or attentive to too many things. They notice everything. It is actually too much rather than a deficit.
To follow are some excellent tips that will help you deal effectively with most children with ADD.
- Educate yourself. ADD is a developmental delay. The child cannot do what he is not yet able to do. We measure this developmental delay at about 30% behind “normal” development. Therefore, a 13-year-old chronologically may function more like a 9-year-old. He can see 13 but his abilities are developed only at the level of the age of 9. The last two abilities to develop in the human brain are: 1) Internal versus external motivation; and 2) delayed gratification. Doesn’t every child struggle in these areas? Think of the ADD child’s brain as a really good computer, but 30% of the software has yet to be installed. Using computer analogies works well to easily explain this. It’s as if you keep hitting the correct key on the keyboard, but the computer doesn’t respond. You are frustrated and wondering what is wrong with the computer. So, you wonder why you are so incompetent to operate this computer. Actually, there is nothing wrong with you or the computer. It cannot respond to your command even if the software is not installed. As your child may not meet your expectations because the brain has not yet developed the capacity.
- Change your expectations. Now that you know your child has ADD, you need to adjust your expectations of his performance abilities. This does not mean that he is not intelligent, or capable of many things. It may need to be told, reminded, prompted and watched over. It is your understanding and your expectations that have to change first.
- Give one command at a time.Have you ever given a child with ADD a series of tasks like “go upstairs and make your bed, take your hamper to the laundry room, and take out the recycling bin?” I bet you have. And you know what happens. You will find him 10 minutes later playing with the cat in the hall outside his room. He has no idea why you are upset and he has less idea what you told him to do. If you are lucky, he made his bed and plays with a toy on the floor of his room. At least he got the first job. An ADD child simply cannot process multiple tasks sequentially. Stop frustrating yourself and him and give him one task at a time. It doesn’t even happen that he processes and remembers many sequential requests. Stop your own frustration. It hasn’t changed. You need to change the way you assign tasks.
- When you assign a task, have them repeat it to you so you know they got it.This is huge. It sounds so simple, and it is. But it is also very powerful. Learning and memory are substantially enhanced by repetition. Also, the more sensory modalities you use to give a command the better. By modality I mean visual, auditory and kinesthetic. Looking at you or seeing the task is visual. He hears that he is hearing. Kinesthetic can be touch or feelings (or both). So, if you touch it, or smile or create a good feeling and attitude when speaking, you have operated in all three ways. Your child will retain more and therefore be more likely to follow through on the task.
- If outside the house, give instructions or commands to the point of performance.We cannot expect the ADD child to remember what behavior or performance expectations we may have. Above all we cannot expect him to remember the specific expectations of the situation. Let’s use the mall as an example. At the entrance to the mall, tell the child what your expectations are. Have him repeat them back to you. The incidence of positive performance will increase dramatically. At home, you can read the instructions at home after school that you gave before school. Or, you can call him from work, with him in the room where you assign the task and you have created a performance point situation.
- Most importantly, as a parent, you should relax and be as matter-of-fact as possible.ADD children are especially sensitive to positive or negative energy around them. They are more sensitive. If you are negative, angry, hostile or sarcastic, they will catch you and be affected by it. Be positive. Be clear. Be still. Be loving. Be as matter of fact as you can be. This is always the case whether our child has ADD or not. I have seen some sad situations in my practice where parents are so frustrated and exasperated with a child that they do not understand how to talk to each other and about him. They sound like they can’t stand the baby. It may sound so hurtful. Imagine the heartbreak in that child when their parent sounds like they seriously don’t like them. This can cut the heart and cause severe damage to the child. A child has not developed enough armor to withstand such injuries. It can cause long-term damage. So be as loving, positive and active as you can be.
These are just some of the things that I know help. Attention can be regained by using the child’s name. Tap on the shoulder focuses attention. A parent’s attitude makes all the difference in the world.
Coping with ADD isn’t really easy for anyone. But you can easily cope. Many successful, high powered and happy adults had ADD as children, and as adults. These children are usually bright and very funny. Sure, they are annoying at times. But can’t we all be?
© 2010 by John B Hudome, all rights reserved.
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