Here we are a little over six weeks into the new school year. Has your child’s teachers sent notes home saying that your child is easily distracted? Were the grades on his or her report card not what you expected? Has your child been having trouble with other children at school? Have friends and relatives told you that your son or daughter is a little immature, but they will grow out of it? Could your child have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?
If you are concerned, the first thing that you should do is contact the school and begin a relationship with those that are in a position to help. Set up a meeting with the guidance counselor and your child’s teachers to discuss your child’s progress. This is opportunity to clarify how your child’s behavior is affecting their school performance. Ask for specific examples of misbehaviors and try to identify similar behaviors that are present in other environments, such as at home. It might be a good idea to take notes. Work with school personnel to develop a plan to ensure your child’s progress in school.
Teachers may identify several behaviors that seem minor when considered individually, but when considered as a whole can be indicative of ADHD. Some of these behaviors include:
- Walking around during class, sharpening their pencil often.
- Looking at other students, out the window or at the floor instead of paying attention to class.
- Not handing in homework that you know they completed.
- Difficulty following instructions.
- Frequently loosing things that are needed for activities at school or at home.
- Appearing to not listen.
- Being disorganized, and not paying close attention to details.
Next, ask the teacher what special adaptations or strategies can be put into place that can help your child manage their behaviors. Many times small changes in daily routine or classroom management can go a long way in helping a child focus while in class. Some examples are:
- Seating your child in front.
- Tapping your child’s desk when their mind seems to wander.
- Writing or having your child write homework assignments down.
- Giving extra time for homework or tests.
Follow up with the guidance counselor ant teachers to see how the changes have affected your child’s behaviors. Set up a meeting the following month. Use this time to look objectively at behaviors and review what is working and what needs changing. Continue to meet regularly until you and your child’s teachers are satisfied with your child’s progress.
If your child’s behaviors continue to be problematic, the next step is to make an appointment with your pediatrician/family doctor or a mental health professional. Be prepared to take along a list of your child’s behaviors and your notes from the school meetings. Thoroughly explain the reasons you think that your child may have ADHD. Several appointments may be necessary to rule out any emotional problems, conduct assessments, discuss treatment options and to develop a treatment plan.
At this point, the physician or mental health professional might recommend medication. Consider a trial period to see if it will help. There are many different medications available today and children may react to each one differently, so it may take a while to find the appropriate medication and dosage.
Medication alone, however, does not make a successful ADHD child. Research has demonstrated that modern psychological treatment methods, especially behavior modification, cognitive behavioral therapy and relaxation training can have a positive effect. Counseling can provide education for the child, and the family, to help them better understand the disorder and how to cope with it. Counseling may also be used to help build self-esteem that has been damaged as a result of having ADHD.