Approximately three to five percent of children will carry a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyeractivity Disorder (ADHD) by the time they reach elementary school. Many children are helped by medication, counseling, tutoring, structured time management in the home, and healthy nurturing by parents, teachers, and caregivers.
Prior to beginning medication you should get a second opinion to make sure that your child has not been incorrectly diagnosed and that he/she accurately meets the DSM-IV criteria for ADD/ADHD. You may want to rule out that certain behaviors are not caused by life stressors including major changes in home, school, or caregivers, prior to the determination of a diagnosis. Additionally, you may want to try some dietary changes to rule out food allergies, including allergies to excessive sugars, food colorings, and additives in the diet.
Here are some things that you can do to help structure your child’s day to eliminate added stressors.
1.) Make sure that your child has a tutor to get extra help with homework. As a parent you will need to help structure your child’s time. Enlisting outside help for homework will help you focus on your child’s time management skills and limit conflict and excessive frustration. Communicate openly with teachers and other caregivers regarding your child’s diagnosis. Review periodically what is working and what is not working for your child.
2.) Help structure your child’s time so that he/she has ample to time to get ready for school, appointments and any extracurricular activities. Trying to do things last minute will be disastrous and frustrating. You need to plan ahead.
3.) When you give your child a task or chore that you would like accomplished, be very specific as to what your expectations are. Don’t just ask that he/she clean their room. Make a checklist of each chore that you expect completed (i.e. pickup clothing on floor, organize books, change sheets on bed, etc.)
4.) Make sure you give a very specific time frame for when you would like something completed (i.e. “Please take out the trash after school today before 5 pm”).
5.) Set limits for homework. If your child loses the ability to concentrate, or loses interest after 30 minutes of homework, structure the homework so that he/she is working on it in 25- to 30-minute intervals with 15-minute breaks. Factor in unstructured time throughout the day so that your child does not feel overwhelmed by too much structuring of their time.
6.) Limit extracurricular activities. If you have a son or daughter who is very interested in sports, make sure that they chose one sport per season so that they do not become overloaded by running to and from various activities, practices, and meetings.
7.) Do not push your child beyond their limits or set unreasonable expectations. It is very likely that your child will feel some embarrassment regarding their diagnosis. Pushing your child will intensify their frustration and yours as well.