Ideas to Help with ADD Children

By Gary E. Dudley, Ph.D.

Here are some suggestions to help ADD children in the home setting:

  1. Set up specific time periods for waking, bedtime, chores, homework, playtime, TV, dinner, etc. Changes in schedule are disturbing to ADD children, so be as consistent as possible. Explain any changes ahead of time so they will be expected.
  2. Set up clear and concise rules for the family, including the ADD child. Rules, as well as consequences for breaking them, and rewards for appropriate behavior can be written down and posted in a prominent place. Consistency is the rule here - if a rule is broken, consequences should follow every time. If the child behaves, he should earn rewards or privileges.
  3. Give instructions as simply and clearly as possible. Ask the child to repeat them back to you, and praise him if he does so correctly. Do not give more than one or two instructions at a time. If a task is difficult or complex, break it into smaller parts and give one or two parts at a time.
  4. Provide him with his own special quiet spot without distractions, in which to do homework or quiet activities. Face the desk towards a blank wall, avoid clutter and avoid bright or distracting patterns in decor. Remember, the child may have difficulty filtering out unnecessary stimulation.
  5. Try to keep the child's stimulation level as low as possible. Have him play with one child at a time, involve him in one activity at a time, remove needless background noise such as radio or TV, have him put unused toys, games, etc. out of sight.
  6. Keep a diary of foods eaten and the effects, if any, on the child's behavior. Although rare, sometimes allergies can produce reactions similar to hyperactivity. Be aware that the effects of eating a certain food may not show up until later that day or the next day. Some common food products may be chocolate, tomato products, wheat, sugar, milk products and peanuts. Note any strong reactions (such as headaches) to fumes from perfumes, inks, detergents or cleaning products.
  7. Repeated messages, directions, requests, etc. ("nagging") are inefficient disciplinary techniques and create a variety of unpleasant side effects, including oppositional behavior and increased "tuning out" of the parents. To stop this ineffective process, try the following: Say what you need to say, but say it once - briefly - firmly - completely - calmly. Follow through with a logical consequence or restructuring approach. ACT - DON'T YAK!
  1. Provide supervision by being physically near the child, if he is trying to stay on track while doing a task. Don't hover over him, but be available to set him back in the right direction if needed.
  2. Allow your child choices within the limits you have set. ("Do you want to clear the table or would you rather sweep the floor now?") This will help him develop initiative and self-control.
  3. Help your child find avenues of self-expression that will help him tell others what he wants and needs in an acceptable, useful manner. Children sometimes use misbehavior to communicate. Teach (by modeling or demonstrating) appropriate verbal communication skills. Ask yourself , "What does my child want to have happen as a result of this behavior?" and help him find other ways to gain it.
  4. Use a timer with small chores in order to help give your child a sense of the passing of time.
  5. The ADHD child's behavior can often be irritating. However, should you become excessively angry your effectiveness with your child will be greatly reduced. Anger is normal, but it can and should be controlled while disciplining your child. Strive to keep your voice quiet and your manner calm.
  6. Separate the behavior you do not like from your overall assessment of your child, as in "I don't like it when you track mud in the house" rather than "How did you get to be such a dirty child?" Bad behavior does not equal a bad child!
  7. Above all else, the ADD child needs compassionate understanding. His parents, siblings and teachers should not pity or overindulge this child, nor should they tease him or make him feel guilty. He did not choose to have ADD, nor did his parents or anyone else cause it.

Although he may need extra help in adapting to the demands of school and home life, the ADD child wants to fit in and would usually choose to not be in trouble or have others be angry with him. With patience and understanding, much can be done to help the ADD child, and he can be as happy and successful as other children.