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ADD – How to Cope
Dealing with ADD is an ongoing challenge for parents. We do not “cure” ADD. We definitely have to live with it. “How to cope?” This is well stated. I aim to give you some concrete tools that you can start using immediately with dramatic results.
Remember, ADD is Attention Deficit Disorder with the primary problem focusing attention. We distinguish ADD from ADHD in that ADHD has both focus and hyperactivity problems. I started treating this (this) disorder in 1985 before we distinguished the two. I still prefer to think of them both as just “ADD.”
The ADD child is easily distracted. They are drawn to “the next shiny object.” On their way to the one shiny object, another catches their attention and they leave. This sounds funny, but it can be frustrating for parents or teachers trying to deal with these children. In fact, get a few of them in one place, and look out. Children with ADD are much easier to deal with one on one than in a group.
In truth, Attention Deficit Disorder is misnamed. It’s not really a “deficit” in attention. In reality, the child has too many things to notice or pay attention to. They notice everything. It really is too much rather than a deficiency.
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 capable of. We measure this developmental delay to be about 30% behind “normal” development. Therefore, a chronological 13-year-old can function more than a 9-year-old. He may look 13 but his abilities are only developed up to the level of age 9. The last two abilities to develop in the human brain are: 1) Internal vs 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 still needs to be installed. Using computer analogies works well to explain this easily. It’s like you keep hitting the right key on the keyboard, but the computer doesn’t respond. You get frustrated and wonder what is wrong with the computer. Then you wonder why you are so incompetent at operating this computer. In reality, there is nothing wrong with you or the computer. It still cannot respond to your command if the software is not installed. Just as your child cannot respond or perform to 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 his performance capabilities. That doesn’t mean he isn’t smart, or can do a lot of things. He may need to be told, reminded, questioned and supervised. It is your understanding and expectations that need to change first.
- Give one command at a time.Have you ever given a child with ADD a series of tasks such as “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 find him 10 minutes later playing with the cat in the hall outside his room. He has no idea why you’re upset and he has less of a clue about what you told him to do. If youare lucky, he has made his bed and is playing with a toy in his bedroom. At least he got the first task. An ADD child simply cannot process several sequential tasks. Stop frustrating yourself and him and give one task at a time. It will not yet happen that he processes and remembers several consecutive requests. Stop your own frustration. It doesn’t change. You need to change the way you assign tasks.
- When youassign a task, have him repeat it back to you so you know he got it.This one is huge. It sounds so simple, and it is. But it is also very powerful. Learning and memory are substantially strengthened by repetition. Additionally, the more sensory modalities you use when giving a command, the better. By modalities I mean visual, auditory and kinesthetic. Looking at you or looking at the task is visual. You hear it’s auditory. Kinesthetic can be touch or feelings (or both). So, if you touch him, or smile or create a good feeling and attitude when you talk, you will have operated in all three modalities. Your child will retain more and therefore be more likely to follow through on the task.
- If outside the house, give the instructions or commands at the point of performance.We cannot expect the ADD child to remember what behavior or performance expectations we have. We especially cannot expect him to remember situational specific expectations. Let’s use the mall as an example. At the door of the mall, tell the child what your expectations are. Let him repeat them back to you. The incidence of positive achievements will increase dramatically. At home, he can re-read the instructions at home after school that you gave him before school. Or, you can call him from work, with him in the room where you assign the task and you have created a point-of-performance situation.
- The most important thing is that as a parent you should relax and be as businesslike as possible.ADD children are particularly sensitive to the positive or negative energy around them. They are extra sensitive. If you are negative, angry, hostile or sarcastic, they will pick it up and be affected by it. The head for it. Be clear. Be firm. Be loving. Be as businesslike as you possibly can. This will always be the case whether our child has ADD or not. I have seen some sad situations in my practice where parents are so frustrated and upset with a child that they don’t realize how to talk to and about him. They sound like they can’t stand the kid. It can sound so hurtful. Imagine the sadness in that child when his parent sounds like she seriously doesn’t like him. This can cut to the core and cause severe damage to a child. A child has not developed enough armor to withstand so much hurt. It can cause long-lasting damage. So be as sweet, positive and businesslike as you can be.
These are just some of the things I know will help. Attention can be regained with the use of the child’s name. Touching the shoulder directs attention. The attitude of parents makes all the difference in the world.
Dealing with ADD is not really easy for everyone. But you can easily cope. Many successful, powerful and happy adults had ADD as children, and as adults. These children are usually bright and have a lot of fun. Sure, they are annoying sometimes. But can’t we all be?
© 2010 by John B Hudome, all rights reserved.
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