For children with ADHD, school can present several challenges because of their struggle to concentrate and remember concepts. This brain disorder, which impacts roughly 5 to 11 percent of children, can show up in hyperactive or inattentive behaviors, says Paulina Multhaupt, a limited licensed clinical psychologist at Shelby Pediatric Associates and Child Lung Center in Shelby Township and Troy.
Hyperactive children tend to have more energy, frequently interrupt parents and teachers and have trouble sitting still. “They are coming from a good place but they are really struggling to keep a lid on their behavior and their movements,” she says.
For children with the inattentive presentation, “these are the kids that have a tendency to slip through the cracks because they are not disruptive.” They tend to be forgetful and lose things more often.
No matter which form of ADHD your child has, Multhaupt offers 10 tips to help your child thrive at home and school.
1. Proper diagnosis and treatment.
“We always want to make sure that a child actually has ADHD and we can only know that by doing a proper evaluation because ADHD can present in a similar way as anxiety and depression,” Multhaupt says.If parents opt for medication as treatment and a child is responding well, make sure they are taking their medication properly.
2. Get a 504 or Individualized Education Program (IEP).
“Consider a 504 plan or an IEP so the kids can get the accommodations in school that they need,” Multhaupt says. Once you receive a diagnosis, visit the school to begin the process of obtaining either plan. “Both of those will trigger the appropriate accommodations for that child and once those accommodations are in place, the school is now legally obligated to make the appropriate accommodations,” she says. “These accommodations are there to help that child with ADHD get on a level playing field.”
“It is imperative that kids with ADHD get adequate sleep,” Multhaupt says. Sleep time varies depending on the age of the child, however children should receive at least eight hours of shut-eye each night.
4. Create structure.
“At home, it’s a good idea to create a homework station or a place that a child always goes to do his or her homework and that area should be clutter-free with no distractions,” she says. That means there shouldn’t be a television, iPad, smartphone or anything else that will take a child’s attention away from schoolwork. “For school, we want to make sure there’s just the bare necessities in their desk,” she suggests.
5. Get organized.
“What is very useful for kids with ADHD is to use either agendas or their iPhone reminders,” she suggests. Set times for tasks, as well. “Brain breaks” are important during homework time. Work for 15 to 20 minutes, then take a five-minute break to run outside, have a snack or anything else to “get the wiggles out.” After the five minutes is up, children should get back to their homework.
6. Communicate with teachers.
It is essential for parents and caretakers to have an open relationship with their child’s teacher and touch base on a regular basis – whether it’s inperson or via email. “Both the parent and the teacher can share what’s working at home and what’s working at school.”
7. Keep standards high but offer support.
Be clear about expectations and avoid overly accommodating for the child because that sends a message that you don’t think they are able to do things on their own. “Come in with a mindset that a child can do this with the proper support in place as opposed to saying that a child cannot do something.”
8. Watch your words.
Don’t use words like “lazy” or “unmotivated” and avoid telling kids with ADHD that they aren’t trying hard enough. Instead, use empowering words and statements like, “Yes,you can do this,” she suggests. “Words matter and we do not want to fuel the sense of low self-esteem that can come with ADHD. Our job is to combat that, not to fuel it.”
9. Work towards a goal.
Set a rewards or point system with your child instead of taking privileges away. “Working towards something is often more effective than punishing,” Multhaupt says. “We don’t want to be punishing kids by taking away recess or taking away gym at school.” All of those actions inadvertently set children up for failure.
10. Get a tutor.
Having a tutor helps in two ways: it reinforces what the child learned in school and it takes the pressure off the child to have to finish things in class – since children with attention issues might take a little longer to finish their work.
For more information or to make an appointment, visit shelbypediatricassociates.com.