This time of year parents are eager to have their kids spend time outside of the house burning off energy that has built up after a long winter spent indoors. While getting outside and being physically active are exactly what most kids with ADHD need, all too often trips to the playground take a negative turn when hyperactivity, impulsivity and social difficulties get in the way. Keep trips to the playground fun with these 5 tips for playground success.
All kids with ADHD have difficulty blocking out distractions and regulating their behavior in stimulating environments. Some kids with ADHD may also experience sensory processing problems that exacerbate these symptoms. Sensory processing problems and sensory processing disorder are not formally recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the DSM-5), but sensory processing symptoms are widely recognized by clinicians and educators as part of the clinical picture for many kids with ADHD (as well as kids with anxiety or autism spectrum disorders).
Parents of kids with ADHD are constantly faced with an array of treatment options including medication, various behavioral interventions, and dietary recommendations. In recent years there has been a lot of buzz about the use of a gluten-free diet to treat a wide range of physical and cognitive problems, including ADHD. In posts and comments online, some parents describe huge improvements in their child's ADHD symptoms after eliminating gluten from their diet. And some pediatricians and nutritionists recommend a gluten free diet as part of a child's ADHD treatment plan.
All kids feel anxious sometimes, but many kids with ADHD experience anxiety more frequently and more severely than kids without ADHD. In fact, studies suggest that 30-40% of kids with ADHD also have an anxiety disorder. When kids struggle with anxiety on top of ADHD, it can make it harder for them to succeed at school and develop the social skills that they need to cultivate strong and lasting connections with their classmates and friends. The stimulant medications used to treat ADHD symptoms can also exacerbate anxiety, making these otherwise effective medications difficult to tolerate.
It’s Monday afternoon and your child comes home from school with a behavior chart full of stars and a folder full of completed school work. You breathe a sigh of relief and happily think that you can look forward to a good week at school. On Tuesday anticipating the best you enthusiastically ask to see your child’s behavior chart and completed work folder. As he or she reluctantly pulls the items out of the backpack your heart begins to sink. You look and see that the completed work folder is practically empty, and the behavior chart contains only the smallest smattering of stars. You ask you child what happened that made today so much worse than yesterday, but he or she doesn’t have an answer. Your child just shrugs his or her shoulders and walks away.
April is Autism Awareness Month and organizations are spreading the word about the importance of autism screening, evaluation, and intervention. For parents of kids with ADHD who struggle with social interactions, the notices and flyers popping up in pediatrician offices, schools, and on social media can prompt questions about whether their child’s difficulties may sound more like autism symptoms than ADHD symptoms.
“I can’t sleeeeepppp.” We’ve all heard it. The complaining, whining or protesting of a child seemingly unable to fall asleep. According to a recent study conducted by British researchers, kids with ADHD are four times less likely to fall asleep quickly and stay in bed all night. And while a lack of sleep affects all children, its effects can be particularly hard on children with ADHD. There’s a great deal of available research related to why kids with ADHD may struggle with sleep (read more from a post I did last year on this topic), but while the science can be interesting, most parents just want to know the answer to a single question: What can I do to help my child sleep better?
For kids with ADHD balancing homework with interests in sports, music, art or other after-school activities can be a challenge. Homework takes longer to complete when you have ADHD – sometimes hours longer, leading many parents to feel like their child simply doesn’t have time to participate in extracurricular activities. However, studies show that kids who participate in after-school activities actually do better academically than those who don’t participate. For kids with ADHD, these activities also teach important social skills that can help strengthen their relationships with classmates and friends. When the afterschool activities involve sports, they also provide an outlet for the physical activity that many kids with ADHD crave. On top of this, for many kids, scoring a goal or landing a role in a play can be an extraordinary confidence boost that finds its way into all aspects of their life, especially if the challenges of ADHD have them struggling academically. So how do you support your child and ensure he or she thrives in both school and in extracurricular activities?
Rewards play an important role in helping kids with ADHD stay motivated and on track as they learn new behaviors or follow through on their daily behavior goals. Often when kids with ADHD don’t follow through on a task or aren’t making an effort the way we might expect them to, it’s because they are struggling to overcome the difficulties with motivation that accompany ADHD. Rewards give them the boost that they need, but are only effective when they are provided immediately, consistently, and are something the child truly wants to earn. The difficulties that kids with ADHD have with delayed gratification make smaller daily rewards more effective than delayed rewards that take longer to earn.
Classroom behavior charts, or daily report cards, are a common evidence-based intervention for kids with ADHD. When used correctly, they are an excellent tool that can help students with ADHD stay more focused, organized, and in control of their behavior. Too often classroom behavior charts aren’t designed or used correctly for students with ADHD, and as a result, the intervention leads to no improvement or very temporary improvement in the child’s attention or behavior.