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ADD – How to Cope
Coping with ADD is a constant challenge for parents. We do not “cure” ADD. We definitely have to live with it. “How to cope?” That is well said. I intend to provide you with a few specific tools that you can start using immediately with dramatic results.
Remember that ADD is an attention deficit disorder, with focus being the primary problem. We distinguish ADD from ADHD in that ADHD has problems with both focus and hyperactivity. I started treating this disorder(s) in 1985 before we differentiated them. I still prefer to think of them both as just “ADD”.
An ADD child is easily distracted. They are drawn to the “next shiny object”. On their way to one shiny object, another catches their attention and off they go. It sounds funny, but it can be frustrating for parents or teachers trying to deal with these kids. In fact, find several in one place and be careful. Children with ADD are much easier to deal with alone than in a group.
In truth, attention deficit disorder is misnamed. It’s not really an attention deficit. In fact, the child notices or pays attention to too many things. They notice everything. It’s really too much, rather than a deficit.
The following are some great tips to help you deal effectively with most all children with ADD.
- Educate yourself. ADD is a developmental delay. A child cannot do what he cannot yet do. We measure this developmental delay at approximately 30% behind “normal” development. Therefore, chronologically, a 13-year-old may function more like a 9-year-old. He may look 13, but his abilities only develop to a 9-year-old level. The last two abilities that can be developed in the human brain are: 1) Internal vs. external motivation; and 2) Delayed gratification. Doesn’t every child struggle in these areas? Think of an ADD child’s brain as a really good computer, but 30% of the software still needs to be installed. Computer analogies work well to explain this easily. It’s like you keep hitting the right key on the keyboard, but the computer isn’t responding. You are frustrated and wondering what is wrong with your computer. Then you wonder why you are so incapable of controlling this computer. In fact, there is nothing wrong with you or your computer. If the software has not been installed, it cannot yet respond to your command. Just like your child cannot respond or meet your expectations because the brain has not yet developed this ability.
- Change your expectations. Now that you know your child has ADD, you need to adjust your expectations about his performance abilities. That doesn’t mean he’s not smart or capable of doing a lot of things. He may need to be told, reminded, prodded and supervised. It is your understanding and expectations that must change first.
- Issue one command at a time.Have you ever given a child with ADD a series of tasks like “go upstairs and make the bed, bring your basket down to the laundry room and take out the trash?” I bet you have. And you know what happens. 10 minutes later you find him playing with the cat in the hall outside his room. He has no idea why you’re upset, and even less of an idea of what you told him to do. If you’re lucky, he’ll make his bed and play with a toy on his bedroom floor. At least he got the first assignment. An ADD child simply cannot handle multiple tasks in a row. Stop frustrating yourself and him and take one task at a time. It will not yet process and remember numerous sequential requests. Stop your own frustration. It does not change. You need to change the way you assign tasks.
- When you give 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 greatly enhanced by repetition. Additionally, the more sensory modalities you use when giving the command, the better. By modalities I mean visual, auditory and kinesthetic. Looking at you or seeing a task is visual. Hearing you say is auditory. A kinesthetic can be touch or feeling (or both). So, when you touch it or smile or create a good feeling and attitude when you speak, you will be operating in all three modalities. Your child will retain more and therefore be more likely to stick to the task.
- If you are away from home, give instructions or commands at the place of performance.We cannot expect an ADD child to remember what behavior or performance we expect. In particular, we cannot expect him to remember situation-specific expectations. Let’s take a shopping center as an example. At the mall door, tell your child what your expectations are. Have him repeat them to you. The incidence of positive performance will increase dramatically. At home, after the lesson at home, he can re-read the instructions you gave him before the lesson. Or you can call him from work, with him in the room where you’re entering the task and you’ve created a performance point situation.
- Most importantly, as a parent, you need to relax and be as matter-of-fact as possible.ADD children are especially sensitive to positive or negative energy around them. They are extra sensitive. If you are negative, angry, hostile or sarcastic, they will pick up on it and be affected by it. Be positive. Be clear. Be firm. Be loving. Be as matter-of-fact as you can be. This will always be true whether our child has ADD or not. In my practice, I have seen several sad situations where parents are so frustrated and irritated with their child that they do not realize how they are talking to and about them. They sound like they can’t stand the kid. It can sound so hurtful. Imagine the heart in that child when their parent sounds like they seriously don’t like them. This can cut to the core and cause serious harm to the baby. The child had not developed enough armor to withstand so much injury. May cause long-term damage. Be as loving, positive and matter-of-fact as you can be.
These are just some of the things I know will help. Attention can be regained by using the child’s name. A touch on the shoulder focuses attention. A parent’s attitude makes all the difference in the world.
Dealing with ADD isn’t really easy for anyone. But you can easily figure it out. Many successful, high-performing, happy adults have had ADD as children and as adults. These children are usually bright and very funny. Sure, they’re annoying at times. But can’t we all be?
© 2010 John B Hudome, all rights reserved.
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