Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a biological condition that comes in the way of children paying attention to tasks. ADHD is a lifelong condition. A complete cure of ADHD may not be possible but there are many effective strategies and treatment for ADHD. Here you will find a brief introduction to ADHD.
What are the symptoms of ADHD?
There are three types of ADHD – inattentive, hyperactive- impulsive and a combination of both. Some of the symptoms of ADHD in children are:
- Fidgety and restless; Finds it hard to sit still.
- Moves from place to place quickly and frequently.
- Unable to play or engage in quiet activities; distracts other students.
- Very short concentration span; easily distracted; gets easily bored.
- Inability to follow instructions.
- Unable to complete tasks; Difficulty in time management.
- Talks excessively. Blurts out answers;
- Impulsive actions; Difficulty in controlling themselves; Do things without thinking.
How to help children with ADHD?
Children with ADHD are unable to follow instructions and many of them are not organised. They do not note down the homework or other activities to be done at home. They often forget to take what are required to school.
Prepare easy to fill checklists so that children can fill up these. Checklists can be of great help for children with ADHD. Help the child to prepare ‘to do lists.’ Write down the activities to be done in the order of their importance. These checklists can make them more organised and self-reliant.
Have children use checklists for keeping things in the school bag- textbooks, notebooks, pencil box (pen, pencil, erasers, scale etc), projects, water bottle, lunch box etc. For better time management, a time-table can be prepared. Continue to help children to get organized. Teach them self-management skills.
Activities which help children to improve concentration
Using beads to improve concentration
Many activities can be done at home to improve concentration of a child. These activities also make them sit for some time engrossed in work. Sorting beads of different colours, sorting beads by size etc. are good for improving concentration.
Making necklaces with beads is a good activity. Children can be shown patterns to make necklaces. Example of a pattern is: three beads of green followed by two beads of red and then one bead of blue. Repeat this sequence four to five times. Many patterns can be had.
Other activities with beads or similar objects would be to make shapes, designs etc. Activities can be done using a variety of objects.
Search the internet: Art and outdoor activities for children with ADHD.
Collage is a work of art made by pasting things on chart paper or cardboard. Anything that can be pasted can be used- paper cuttings, cloth, small objects etc. Children can have great fun making collages. This activity would fire their imagination. Parents too would find it engrossing to do a collage. Still better, it can be a group activity involving all members of the family. Such group activities are very good for children to develop strong emotional bonds with parents and siblings and the other members of the family.
Search the net to know more about collage.
A variety of puzzles are available in magazines for children. Search the internet for suitable puzzles. Start with easy to do puzzles. Doing puzzles not only make children concentrate for sometime on an activity but it also develops their thinking and learning skills. Solving puzzles may improve their academic performance as well.
Related activities in this website: Do the many activities under the head, Problem Solving.
Play regularly with children
There are many board games such as chess, Chinese checkers, monopoly, scrabbles etc which interest children. Many games can be had with playing cards. Carroms is another option. All members of the family can sit together and play. Playing together would help in developing strong emotional bonds. Moreover, children learn to play in a group.
Yoga & meditation
Yoga and meditation help to calm the nerves. Concentration and memory power also get a boost. Deep breathing is beneficial.
Encourage children to participate in extracurricular activities. In addition to this, children can join karate, drawing, music or some other activities in which they are interested. These would provide outlets for releasing their energy. Care should be taken to limit the activities so that children have enough time left for studying.
Swimming is a good activity for children with attention disorder.
Improving academic performance
Strategies to improve the academic performance of children with attention disorder are given below.
Where and when to study?
The best place to study is at the study table. Locate the study table away from a window or door to avoid distractions. Sit facing an empty wall. Even a clock can distract. Remove everything from the table and start a study session by having only what are required for the session- text book and notebooks, two-three sharpened pencils, one or two pens, an eraser. Drink water before sitting to study because water improves concentration. Keep the mobile phone away from the study table. Some children are kinesthetic learners and they like to move about while learning. Allow them to do so.
Studying at the same place and at the same time improve concentration. A quiet place promotes learning. But some children like to listen to music while studying because it shuts off distractions. Some children are early risers and they focus better in the mornings. Some others like to stay up late to study. Allow children to choose the time to study.
How to teach?
Children with attention disorder cannot concentrate for a long time. Short sessions of 15-20 minutes are more effective. Allow the child a break of 5 to 10 minutes. Let her walk around or do some exercises. But do not allow her to watch TV or use the mobile. Before starting the next session, recall what was learnt in the previous session. Do a quick revision. Don’t study the same subject for a long time. Change the subjects. Use a board to write down key points.
Look at your child’s eye while teaching. Her eyes will tell when her mind is wandering. Bring her back to the topic by asking: What are we doing? We are learning this topic. Okay, let us get back to studies. Or give her a short writing assignment. This works better than asking her to concentrate or getting angry with her.
Ask questions and make her talk about the topic. Find out whether she has something to say about the topic. This would force children to think and understand the concepts.
Remember: Teaching is the best form of learning. Let the child teach you what she has learnt. She can use a board to teach you.
Understand the learning style of your child
Understand the learning style of your child to make learning more effective. Use methods suitable to her. The three learning styles are visual (learning by seeing), auditory (learning by listening), and tactile-kinesthetic (learning by touch and movement). We usually combine all forms of learning but most of us have a dominant style of learning.
Visual learners like colours and diagrams. Mind maps and graphic organizers work well with them. Let them make their own notes.
Auditory learners learn by listening. Encourage them to read aloud. They may not like to read much. Explain to them the concepts. Record the lessons and allow them to listen to the recordings. Smart phones can be used to record key words. Even questions and answers can be recorded. These can be used for a quick revision of a topic.
Tactile and kinesthetic learners cannot sit still and learn. They like to learn by doing. Allow them to do experiment and find out activities which help them to learn. Kinesthetic learners like movements. They may like to close their eyes and write in air what they have learnt. They may remember better through movements of arms. Writing notes and drawing diagrams on a board may help them to recall what they had learnt.
How to do well in tests?
Teaching to gain knowledge and teaching to score better in tests are two different things. Many parents teach children the subject and they expect their children to do well in tests. This does not happen because the children are not equipped to answer the questions. Before you teach, understand the patterns of questions that are used by the school. Keep these in mind while teaching.
Children with attention disorder are in a hurry to answer the questions in a test. They do things impulsively and make careless mistakes. They skip questions which they could answer easily. Mock tests are a must for children with attention disorder. Doing these tests regularly would help them to overcome the tendency to write impulsively. They also learn how to answer questions. Some children may have difficulty in understanding questions. Mock tests would help parents to know the difficulties faced by their children and their strong and weak points. They become better equipped to teach their children.
Parents should somehow or other squeeze in 15-20 minutes to make children undergo a mock test daily.
The importance of asking questions
Children with attention disorder blurt out answers without thinking. They do not pause to think. Ask your child lots of questions. These oral exercises play an important role in controlling impulsivity. Prepare a long list of questions. The questions can be of everyday occurrence. Example: Name three flowers, Name three rivers in India, Name an animal which has no legs, Tell three differences between a horse and an elephant, What will happen if there are heavy rains for many days, Name three objects made of steel, How many tyres a truck has, Does an aeroplane have tyres, Whom should we call if a person is trapped in a well, Is lightning dangerous, Why do we boil milk? , How many legs does a butterfly have?
Set apart some time every day for asking your child questions. Prepare a question bank. Having this kind of oral tests would train your child to pause to think and not to blurt out the answers.
Frequent revision and over learning
All children require revision to cement what is learnt but children with learning difficulty require more revision. Over learning, practising more and more is a good strategy to overcome impulsivity and carelessness. Children with learning issues are slow to complete tasks and they need too many breaks. Though finding time for over learning is difficult, parents should fit in some time for this so that what is learnt is not lost.
Improve your child’s self confidence
Children with attention disorder have a poor opinion of themselves. They require sympathetic handling. Parents should accept and understand them fully. Avoid using harsh words. Control anger and give her space to grow. Encourage the child and give her responsibilities.Praise her as often as possible.
Children with attention disorder should cut down consumption of sugar. Avoid high calorie drinks containing sugar or artificial sweeteners. Chemicals in preservatives also aggravate the disorder. Sweets and junk food are best avoided.
They are better off having a balanced diet. Give your child balanced meals containing proteins, complex carbohydrates (whole grains), lots of vegetables, fruits and yoghurt. Drink plenty of water.
If possible get the services of a nutritionist.
Get the help of a special educator
Children with attention disorder may also have learning difficulties. Parents can get their child assessed by an expert and if there are any learning difficulties, seek the help of a special educator and get to know about remedial measures that are suitable for your child.