Steps to Improving Attention in ADHD

1. Medication Management

The inability to focus and concentrate for individuals with ADHD has a neurobiological basis, meaning there are known biological and chemical differences in the brain of an ADHD child than from other children without ADHD.  This brief video offers a good explanation. Therefore, it is so important to find the right medication and dosage. It may take ongoing visits with the psychiatrist to find the right prescription, but it is an important step towards successfully treating the symptoms. If you are not sure about medicating your child, you may find my post on medication helpful.

2. Gradually Improve Skills
Set smaller goals first based on their current functioning levels. For example, if they can successfully follow a one-step direction, set your first goal for following two-step directions. If you expect huge advances in a short period of time, it can lead to frustration, disappointment, and low self-esteem for the child.
3. Games to Make Learning Active
Our teachers reading this article already know this about learning. Active and fun learning is more effective, more memorable, than static learning. For individuals with ADHD,  it takes a lot more stimulus to maintain attention. The more stimulating, or interesting/fun/active, the greater chances you have to maintain their attention! Here is a great site with some fun ideas for attention-improving games. One of my favorite games to improve attention is Stare!.
4. Set Clear Goals and Expectations
Setting clear goals and expectations is important for all areas of the child’s life. This includes chores, routines, and grades.  “Clear” is an important factor here. If you tell your child they must be “good,” that can mean different things to different people. What does “good’ mean to you? When establishing expectations for a clean room, be specific. What are your expectations for a clean room- bed made and dirty clothes put away? Giving some thought about your expectations and communicating these clearly will improve likelihood that everyone is more successful.
5. Reward Good Performance
As much as we would like to believe that people will be motivated by a sheer internal motivation for self-improvement, this is not often the case, especially when it comes to kids and adolescents. Growing up, I was rewarded with $5 per “B” and $10 per “A” and remember how good it felt to meet goals. You don’t have to limit rewards to money though. Time for video gaming or a trip to a favorite restaurant is also a good motivator. Talk it over with you child and come to an agreement that works for your family. Sandbox Learning has some good ideas in this article.
6. Keep a Structured Routine
Routines are important for all kids, but especially for individuals with ADHD. Daily and weekly routines establish consistency and sets clear expectations. Check out this article on familyeducation.com for some more information on establishing routines.
 
8. Homework/Work Habits
Practicing good homework habits is so important to success as an individual with ADHD. I’ve listed a few tips below, but there are more good homework tips here.
  • Schedule regular breaks. Set a timer for every 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or 45 minutes, depending on the person.
  • Set short term goals, such as completing 10 out of 20 questions, then taking a break, and completing the next 10 questions.
  • Find an environment with little to no distractions. Even the desk space should be tidy, not cluttered.
  • Play background music. This goes against what many people believe to be non-distracting, but many people find that certain music actually enhances attention.
  • Have fidgeting items handy.
9. Find Appropriate Fidgeting Tasks
Fidgeting can actually be helpful to maintaining attention, but it’s important to find appropriate outlets.
  • Chewing gum while reading
  • Pacing back and forth while memorizing flashcards
  • Rubbing a smooth stone or doodling while in class

For more ideas on fidgeting activities, visit http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/5575.html and http://specialchildren.about.com/od/behavioranddiscipline/tp/seatingplans.htm!

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Boys And Aggression- When Is It Too Much?

Boys are known for being boisterous, active, and playful. They are also known for being more aggressive than girls.

How do you know if your boy is too aggressive? How can you tell when his rough and tumble behaviors cross the line?

“Cops and Robbers” Fantasy Play

Boys will often be found playing “cops and robbers” themed games, where they are the good guy taking on the bad guys and saving the world. I see this all the time in my play room. In fact, here is a picture of the most popular “bad guy” in my room. He has been kicked, beat, shot, burried, and thrown accross the room. Months ago, he lost his arm, but it did not hinder his popularity any. This week, he lost his leg, yet I’m sure he will go on playing his role as evil in the world. I’m actually very proud that these boys have mustered up courage to beat this bad guy and ensure that good resides over evil! 🙂

This type of play is normal for boys. PBS has a great article on this issue and a quote by teacher Jane Katch sums this up nicely:

 “If a boy is playing a game about super heroes, you might see it as violent.  But the way he sees it, he’s making the world safe from the bad guys. This is normal and doesn’t indicate that anything is wrong unless he repeatedly hurts or tries to dominate the friends he plays with.

When To Worry

I hear from quite a few parents that they, or the teachers, feel their son is aggressive. They are often coming to see me for concerns of hyperactivity, anger, or poor behaviors at school.

I don’t like to use words loosly when it comes to a person’s mental or behavioral health, so when I am told a child is being aggressive, I definitely want to investigate this further. I have a brief mental checklist I use to learn more.

If you have concerns about your son’s aggression, start by asking these 5 simple questions.

1. Is he intentionally causing harm to others?

If the answer to this question is yes, there is definite cause to address the issue immediately.

  • Empathy Training: It may be as simple as giving him some lessons on empathy to bring awareness of how it feels when they are hurtful towards others. For some exercises on empathy, check out this link.
  • Defensive Behaviors: Perhaps this child feels they must inflict harm as a defense towards physical or emotional bullying. Some adult intervention is needed asap. For some ideas on helping kids with bullies, visit this link.
  • Personal Gain or Pleasure: If the child is inflicting harm on others and feels pleasure from their pain, there are likely issues going on here that require help from a mental health professional. Talk to the child’s pediatrician regarding your concerns.

2. Is he aware that his behaviors are causing harm?

We often assume that kids or teens are aware of their surroundings, but it is quite often the opposite. Many times, I notice children flailing about, running wildly, without noticing they are in the way of other people or that their body is making contact with others. They run into others, step on their toys, etc. and adults often label this as “aggression.” I don’t consider this aggression. Behavioral training on self-awareness and impulsive control would be a good start to address the behaviors if this is the case.

3. Is this a hyperactive child?

The summary for this question is going to be similar to the one above. Hyperactive children are often energetic and impulsive. They may not be aware how their behaviors and energy affect others around them and come off as aggressive at times.

Children spend a lot of time indoors these days, but no matter how times change, they are still kids. They need to run, play, and be silly. Boys often need to be more physical than girls do. Make sure your child get time outdoors and is allowed time for physical activity every day! It’s important for their physical and emotional wellness and will provide an appropriate outlet for their energy.

4. Does this child have the ability or know the appropriate way to communicate his needs?

The ability to communicate needs and wants is a huge factor in assessing aggressive behaviors. If a person cannot communicate effectively, or their attempts are not noticed, they will become frustrated, angry, and feel there is a lack of options to get their needs met.

  • Speech or Language Issue: An inability to communicate may be an issue with their speech and language and an evaluation by a Speech Language Pathologist is recommended.
  • Education: The child may have the ability to communicate, but not the proper education. If children are not taught or modeled appropriate behavior, they will experiment. Sometimes they find they get their message across by using inappropriate means, but it works so they stick with it.

5. Does he have appropriate social skills?

I have found that boys are often aggressive towards others when they do not understand social cues or have poor social skills. For example, a boy in elementary school hit another little girl when he wanted her to play tag. Rather than asking first if she wanted to play, he hit her. Teaching him how to make friends would decrease these aggressive behaviors.

These 5 questions are a good place to start when assessing whether a boy is too aggressive. By the way, I googled “aggression” and here is the definition:

ag·gres·sion/əˈgreSHən/

Noun:
  1. Hostile or violent behavior or attitudes toward another; readiness to attack or confront.
  2. The action of attacking without provocation, esp. in beginning a quarrel or war:  “the dictator resorted to armed aggression”.

In summary, raising boys is an adventure, to say the least! They are full of adventure and curiosity. Try to find healthy outlets for your son’s energy and help him to channel this into good!

References:

PBS Parents: Understanding and Raising Boys

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