The following entry was written by a friend of mine who has an ADHD child and has invested a lot of energy in finding the best ways to help them.
Background: I should note that ADHD is not necessarily bad. ADHD often means that someone is a “doer,” not a “sitter” or a “sponge”. Schools like sitting sponges, but there are other important skills in the world as well. It is therefore very important that ADHD not be allowed to destroy a child or his/her self-image.
In the long-term, doers are often the people that make the world go around. If they can survive the school system ADHD kids might go on to be the bosses or employers of some of the “sponges” that did better than them in school.
– Contact an ADHD support group or health care professional with experience treating children with ADHD. They can help guide the parents through some of the approaches below.
– Be in constant touch with the child’s teacher(s) and principal. Explain the situation and try to find ways with the teacher(s) to minimize any problems that might arise. A good teacher will learn to understand the child’s behavior and will discover ways to handle the child when s/he begins “acting up”. It is very important that an adversarial relationship does not develop between the child and the teacher as this will just make any behavioral problems worse.
– At younger ages some leeway might be given where the child has more room to move around. Sitting at a desk or table where other children are far enough enough away so as not to be bothered by the child’s fidgeting can buy some time. The same is true for allowing the child to get up and move around more often than other children might be allowed.
– Look for food allergies and sensitivities. Comprehensive testing can turn up substances that will negatively affect the child’s behavior. For example, minerals in tap water can be problematic for some children. Switching from tap water to bottled water for such children can make a big difference.
– Limit white flour and white sugar in all forms. Most children are negatively affected by bleached foods and hyperactive children are often more sensitive to them than others.
– On a related note, all carbohydrates should be eaten with a serious amount of protein. Protein slows the absorbsion of sugars into the blood stream which prevents blood sugar spikes which can cause problematic behavior. Diabetics are now eating protein with carbohydrates for the same reason.
– On the flip side, hunger (low blood sugar) and thirst can also cause problems. If your child is acting wild try to get him or her to drink 2 cups of water and then wait 5 minutes. You might be quite surprised at the change that occurs.
– ADHD children may be quite intelligent which seems to help some of them survive for a while in school even though they are not able to pay much attention in class. But their method of learning is often different. It is important to try to find the appropriate method which will allow the child to learn the way he or she is designed to learn. Of course this is true for all children, not just ADHD children.
– Look for a different school system. A new school may be more accomodating to the child’s needs or may be more interesting or better suited to the child’s way of learning. Classes or the school day might be shorter. There might be more emphasis on creativity, action, or participation instead of just staring at a teacher all day. In fact a new school might provide some excitement for the child which would make school less boring for a while (but not for long).
– On the other hand, special schools for ADHD children might not be the way to go. Having so many “problematic” children together might set the child off more and encourage bad behavior since there will be no “normal” children to emulate. Also, many ADHD children can be violent when their blood sugar spikes. A school where there is a lot of violence is not the best place for any child.
– Alternative therapies: Just because the scientific/medical approach doesn’t have a good solution doesn’t mean there isn’t one. Look around for alternative therapies that might be helpful. I know one child that was helped a lot by Cranial Sacral Therapy and One Brain. There may be an underlying physical, emotional or other problem that is causing or exacerbating the ADHD and these alternative therapies can sometimes flush out and deal with such problems.
– Some ADHD children have a surprising lack of certain social skills even if they seem totally normal and have lots of friends. For example they might not have any concept of understanding body language or might have a hard time understanding the concept of listening to authority. In some cases behavioral training can help such children.
– Drugs such as Ritalin should be used only as a last resort. They may have side effects and their use may cover up a real underlying problem. If possible it is always best to treat the real source of the problem if there is one. If drugs are used the minimum dosage should be tried to see if that is sufficient.
– Most importantly, a warm, caring and supportive relationship between the parents and the child is a must. The lack of such a relationship might be causing the problem (or others). But even if there is another cause a good relationship will help the child to maintain a healthy self-image and can encourage him/her to perservere. An ADHD child can often be more exasperating than other children and a good relationship can also help the parents to continue to work *with* the child and not say or do things that will make it even harder for him.