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Top : Parents Corner : Medical : Yes, There's Hope for ADHD Children

Yes, There's Hope for ADHD Children

~ By Sandra Doran

I was washing my kitchen floor one morning when the call came from the nursery school. My son's young teacher was elusive, groping for words. Something was different about Eric. He seemed to have a hard time fitting into a structure and abiding by rules. Eric wasn't "bad," she assured me, but had I had his hearing checked? Could there be some trouble with his ability to process what others were saying?

I let the dirty water drip from the end of the mop while my mind struggled to define what she was saying. My tried-and-true parenting methods just hadn't worked, and I felt shame because I couldn't control my "unruly" child.

Seeking Answers

It would be a year before my husband and I would fully understand why Eric was the way he was. We began by visiting a clinical psychologist, who conducted a developmental history of Eric and observed our family in action. His diagnosis was clear: Our son was suffering from Attention-Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD).

Exactly what is this condition that characterizes 5 percent of school-age children today? Psychologist Mark Gang, Ph.D., of Fairfield, Connecticut, specializes in assessing and treating children with learning, behavioral and adjustment difficulties. He lists five core symptoms of attention-deficit disorder.

  • Poor sustained attention. These children get bored 50 percent faster than the average child. Thus, it is difficult for them to concentrate for long periods of time.
  • Impulsive, with poor delay of gratification. In other words, they don't think; they just act. They often interrupt, find themselves in dangerous situations, and don't follow directions. In short, they do what seizes them at the moment without thinking through the consequences.
  • Behavior often characterized by hyperactivity. These children move in quick, abrupt and often disruptive bursts. It is interesting to note that although this term is commonly used to characterize the disorder, it is only one of five core symptoms and is present in 70 percent of the children — not 100 percent. Thus, it is possible to have a child who has attention-deficit disorder without hyperactivity.
  • Diminished rule-governing behavior. They have difficulty following through with instructions, becoming easily focused on something else. Their tendency to be consumed by the moment interferes with the completion of the task.
  • Great variability of performance. Just when you think you have these children figured out, they display an opposite tendency. Such children are commonly labeled as lazy in the classroom when the teacher discovers they can make A's one day but slide back into D's and F's the next. These children are consistently inconsistent.

Where to Start

If you suspect your child may be attention-deficit/hyperactive, begin by discussing this concern with a pediatrician, who can rule out any medical conditions that create similar behavioral patterns. For example, lead poisoning — which at times has symptoms very much like those displayed by the ADHD child — can be identified by a simple blood test.

Once other medical conditions have been eliminated, it is imperative to find a psychologist whose specialty includes ADHD. If the professional has a limited understanding of the disorder, you may find you and your family sidetracked down a frustrating path. Our own search for answers led us to spend hundreds of dollars and countless hours with a therapist who simply watched Eric "play" and formed conclusions unrelated to our reality.

For me, the process toward understanding began the day I spotted a flyer attached to the post office door. "Hyperactive? Inattentive? Impulsive?" the paper read. "Now there's support for parents of children with attention-deficit disorders."

The nonprofit organization Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit Disorders (CHADD) was begun by a group of parents who realized the tremendous need for support among families with the attention-deficit problem. Through monthly meetings, a newsletter and networking, CHADD provides a system of caring for parents struggling to cope with ADHD children.

While you're learning more about this challenge, Dr. Gang suggests seven important things you can do to keep your family on track.

  • Become educated. Find out as much as you can about ADHD. Accept the fact that it is a handicap and that you need to modify your environment. Don't expect your child to behave like others.

Anytime we must adjust our strong expectations, we face a real loss. Psychologists call it "the loss of a dream." Before you can begin to deal with your child's problem, it's important to face your own loss squarely. Realize it will not go away, but rather will present a tremendous challenge. All of this is part of the healthy grieving process.

  • Set up special environmental conditions. What ADHD children need most is structure and consistency. They do best when they know exactly what is expected of them, and when they can function within a comfortable and predictable routine.
  • Understand what your priorities are. Take a realistic look at your family. Don't try to accomplish more than is necessary.
  • Focus on the strengths of your child. So often we spend the day haranguing the ADHD child for everything he does wrong. It's important to break this cycle and build his self-esteem. Each day provide opportunities for this child to do something he is good at.
  • Learn when to battle. If we let them, a thousand minor annoyances will provide ample opportunity each day to drain our energy reserves. Save that energy for the really important issues.
  • Buffer your child from negative feedback. Whenever possible, don't put your child in a position where it will be difficult for him to fit in. His social skills are often weak; he may not catch the nuances of social expectations among the neighborhood gang. There are days when you just have to put your child in the car and go to the library, the zoo or the park.
  • Attend to yourself and your marriage. Parenting the ADHD child is an overwhelming task. The statistics on marriages that don't handle the pressure are frightening. However, you can keep your marriage intact while struggling with a very demanding child.

Make a real effort to work as a team, sharing in the responsibility. It's important not to place blame for your child's condition, but rather to support each other as you attempt to reestablish harmony in the family.

Be sure to take time off together. You need it more than any average couple! Make time for yourselves as individuals, too. You may find that taking turns in giving care so the other parent can take even a simple walk will provide enormous relief.

A Knock on the Door

It has been several years since my husband and I discovered our son is ADHD. We have since learned that for each challenge God places in our lives, He provides blessings, too. Our son's boundless energy and endless questions are not all bad. While some days can be tempestuous and challenging, through it all we are raising a child whose heart goes out to the underdog, who begs us to stop and pick up a homeless man, who delights in serving the hungry at our church soup kitchen, who puts strangers at ease and lifts the burdens of the lonely.

At our church's annual camp last summer, we answered a knock at the door of our camper.

"We just wanted to let you know how much we are enjoying Eric," said a smiling woman, accompanied by her husband.

I motioned the couple to come in and sit down.

For the next 15 minutes, they shared what an encouragement our eight-year-old boy had been to their family. Their son, Steven, was blind, and Eric had a sixth sense for looking out for him. He made sure the boy was included in all the camp activities and accepted on the playground by the other children.

As the couple made their way back to their own camper, we thought of the ways our energetic son was enriching other people's lives—and not least of all, our own.

Need Help?

If you are wondering whether your child has ADHD, or how you can get help, contact CHADD for a referral to professionals in your community. The address: CHADD, 499 NW 70th Ave., Suite 308, Plantation, FL 33317; or phone (305) 587-3700.

"Yes, There's Hope for ADHD Children" appeared in the book Raising Them Right. Copyright © 1994 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

Submitted on : 01-Jan-1994

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6

Top : Parents Corner : Medical : Yes, There's Hope for ADHD Children

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