You probably have heard quite a few people denying that ADHD even exists and that it is just another fad.
“To publish stories that ADHD is a fictitious disorder or merely a conflict between today’s Huckleberry Finns and their caregivers is tantamount to declaring the earth flat, the laws of gravity debatable, and the periodic table in chemistry a fraud.”- Russell Barkley and colleagues, International Consensus Statement on ADHD, 2002.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are people who know that ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is a real condition and needs treatment, care, understanding, and above all support. These people are just like you and me and want to know about practical ways to help people we love with ADHD to manage their lives at work, school, and at home. Here are 10 ways we can help them to cope, whether we are parents, colleagues, or friends.
1. We must let our ADHD kids move more
Research now shows that sitting still is not at all conducive to helping a child with ADHD to focus and concentrate. Their hyperactivity is not useless. The more they move, the better, because this is linked to how they will remember something or work out some cognitive process. Stability balls at home and at school are a great learning aid for them.
2. We must be more compassionate
Adults with ADHD are often popular because they can be funny, creative and good company. The problems arise when they just cannot cope with getting bills paid, organizing stuff, being punctual, keeping to deadlines, and remembering what their loved ones have just told them. Their brains just work differently. If you are close to a person with ADHD, you can first of all be more compassionate and push them to get treatment or therapy which will help them to cope. An ADHD sufferer once described it as:
“Like driving in the rain with faulty windshield wipers. Moments of clarity along with lots of blur.”
3. We must be the ADHD child’s best advocate at school
Lots of kids with ADHD get into trouble at school by misbehaving, getting low grades, and failing to keep up with homework assignments. Parents need to be really well informed about ADHD so that they can act as their child’s advocate. This will help to get them the best possible arrangements at school such as IEP, and so on. A great way to start is to read Michelle Davis’s book Special Needs Advocacy Resource Book.
4. We must set up a well structured routine at home
ADHD kids really thrive when they get into a routine. We can help them a lot by getting them to follow a well structured routine every day. Having lists and post its in strategic spots, organizing clothes and schoolbags, and having regular bedtime are just a few things that need to be followed. There are some more excellent ideas in Dr. Russell Barkley’s book, Taking Charge of ADHD: The Complete, Authoritative Guide for Parents
5. We must help them to get rid of excess energy
Kids with ADHD are always on the go and their hyperactivity combined with impulsivity can lead to pretty scary situations. One great way is to channel all that energy into exercise and sports. Sometimes, this can calm them down and tire them without having to resort to medication. Michael Phelps is a great example although all our kids cannot become Olympic champions!
6. We must limit media time
All the social networking, cell phones, video games, and TV can distract a kid and adult from engaging in much more active and healthier types of fun. As ADHD children and adults tend to hyperfocus, there is an extra risk here. They can spend hours on one game or activity, so using a timer can be useful. There is cool software called LeechBlock which can set time limits for time on Facebook or Twitter or any other site where they are spending too much time.
7. We must look after their sleep
Many people on ADHD meds have problems sleeping. It is just one of the side effects. If this is the case, it is essential to have the best possible conditions to avoid insomnia. Your kid may need up to ten hours sleep and if they don’t get that, it’s mayhem the day after. Switch off all devices, have a warm bath and read them a good story which should all be part of a well-structured routine. TV and social media in the bedroom are a no-no.
8. We must remember to break down instructions
Instead of telling a child or adult with ADHD that they never listen to you, try something else instead. The ADHD brain is trying to process a frightening range of stimuli coming at them. It is calculated that a child of 8 may only be able to handle 7 words at a time. This is why it is so important to break down instructions for chores, homework and behavior problems. Use frequent pauses and gestures so that the message is easier to understand.
9. We must remember the problems when an ex has ADHD
If your ex has ADHD, it can be problematic when your kids come back from visitation. A great way to avoid issues is to persuade your ex that a separate set of kids’ items should be kept at their house. Living out of a suitcase is no fun but having all their stuff there when they arrive and return is a great way to reduce the tension. Having a laminated list of things they must remember to bring back is also helpful.
10. We must help them to eat properly
As Dr. Mark Bertin has pointed out, people with ADHD are more at risk of suffering from eating disorders and obesity. The main reason is that they cannot plan ahead and when they are hungry, impulsivity takes over and poor dietary choices are made. The steep downhill path to emotional eating is all too often taken.
Many parents have ADHD themselves so the problem becomes even more acute if one of their kids has ADHD as well. Developing mindful eating habits can help. When you learn to pause while eating and savor the taste of food, this can be a lifesaver in developing healthier eating habits. Avoiding being famished can be useful too, so frequent healthy snacks during the day can also help. .
Looking after your loved ones who have ADHD is often challenging but when you change your approach as suggested above, you may be surprised at the results.
Featured photo credit: Mighty Jump/ David Goehring via flickr.com