Sarah Groves has seen how attention deficit hyperactivity disorder can wreak havoc on a child’s self-confidence and motivation.
A mental health therapist at Akron Children’s Hospital, Sarah tests kids for ADHD and treats them with behavioral therapy. Often, children with ADHD have difficulties with self-esteem due to the negative attention they receive for their behavior.
“Children with ADHD often struggle with internal motivation,” Sarah said. “It is common that they struggle to self-regulate during class, which often results in negative attention from teachers, poor relationships with peers, and negative feelings about school.”
Sarah helps children and families using The Executive Functioning Skills Building Program, which is designed to address areas in which children with ADHD struggle. Those areas include emotional regulation, inhibition, task management and planning and organization.
She also identifies appropriate supports. Though strategies differ child to child, here are some of her ideas that may help your child succeed in the classroom:
- Look at the seating arrangement. Kids with ADHD tend to do better near the front of the classroom, away from windows and seated in a row as opposed to in a cluster. Also consider who your child is sitting with; it may be best to move seats if your child is sitting next to his or her best friend or another child with ADHD.
- Allow for some fidgeting and movement. Movement-oriented tasks, sensory items such as chewable pencil toppers and chewable necklaces, and seats that wiggle may be helpful. A teacher can tape off a small area behind their seat and allow the child to move within it. Also, consider a ball chair, also referred to as an exercise ball or balance ball.
- Kids with ADHD need firm expectations, guidelines and structure. Visual schedules and reminders of rules help them stay on task and be mindful of what is expected of them.
- A positive reinforcement plan is vital. Praise kids for practicing self-control and for getting their work done. Praise and rewards are most effective when implemented immediately after the child has engaged in the desired behavior. Reward them with something they like, such as stickers or extra computer time.
- Understand that it is likely that your child will continue to need supports throughout his or her life. The goal is to identify supports that they find to be effective and can continue to utilize in adulthood.
“I compare accommodations for ADHD to glasses,” Sarah said. “If your child needs glasses you get them glasses. When they start to see better, you don’t take the glasses away. ADHD is similar; once you find an accommodation that is effective, you continue to provide that support and adjust it to fit your child’s needs as they grow and develop.”