ADHD in children is what our society tends to hear most often, although more and more adults are getting diagnosed for the first time. This week I am going to address children with ADHD and how that looks. Following articles will address ADHD in teens and then in adults.
It can be difficult for a parent to notice something different about their child until after that child becomes a student. All children can be very energetic and seem to behave in ways that suggest they might be different, but you cannot conclude they have ADHD. Once a child is in school, the issues tend to stand out. When you have a room full of the same-aged people, the ones who behave much differently will get noticed. It is often a teacher who might bring some of these things to a parent’s attention. I know when this happened for me, it was a relief as it validated my suspicions that something was different with my child, and it was not just my imagination. So what do you do if you think your child may have a learning difference or ADHD?
If you have a child who is struggling beyond what others his or her age are experiencing and you see your child suffering, it’s probably wise to get an assessment. This is the first step when ADHD is suspected. Children with a learning disability, such as dyslexia, often struggle with basic learning. They may have auditory or visual processing difficulties or short-term memory challenges. It could be any number of issues in addition to or exclusive of ADHD. When you know what you are dealing with, it is far easier to get help with the issues.
Assessments are done by specialists who specifically test for these challenges. Many times parents steer away from having an assessment due to an unfounded fear. I have heard of those who avoided an assessment for fear that the diagnosis would be ADHD, and then they would be forced to put their child on one of the many drugs to help control it.
First, getting an assessment doesn’t automatically lead to any of these situations. What it does do is give the child some hope, and quite often relief. When there is an actual diagnosis, your child won’t feel like such an outcast or that he or she is “bad” or “wrong.” I have met so many children who are so happy to get a diagnosis because then they can be better understood. It’s the not knowing that is so very difficult for children to deal with. A diagnosis enables them to see that it isn’t “them,” but it is how they are wired.
When you know you have a child with ADHD, learn about it. Read books. Go to support sites, such as CHADD.org or ADDitude.com, and know what you are dealing with. Learn to appreciate the differences you are dealing with and that your child is living with, so you can make good choices. Making assumptions will not make the situation easier nor make it disappear. The more you know and the sooner you know it, the easier the journey will be.
When I coach parents with ADHD children, one of the first things I hear is, “My son is 13, and he should be doing XYZ on his own by now!” However, what many parents don’t realize is that children with ADHD behave several years younger than their peers without ADHD. So, when you feel that your child should be doing something on his or her own, you need to adjust your expectations. Dr. Russell Barkley, a leading authority on ADHD, recommends you use the 30 percent rule: Take 30 percent off their age — and that is the age you should expect them to act like. It is their “executive age,” so a 12-year-old will behave much more like an 8-year-old. If you shift your expectations, you and your child will be much happier.
Once you know what you are dealing with, engage professionals who can help. Parenting is hard enough, and when you have a child with a different way of getting things done (or not done, as you probably realize), the sooner you get some skills under your belt, the smoother your life will become, and the more successful your child’s life will be, too.