Friday, April 12, 2013

Help for ADHD: a team with 4 parts

It occurred to me today that kids diagnosed with ADHD need an active team consisting of 4 parts.

Part 1) Parents and family. All learning starts at home. Learning opportunities arise outside the home, but what has already been taught is the lens through which kids respond to those opportunities. Whatever you do at home, they will remember out in the world. So parents can hopefully find ways to reinforce outside rules in the home. This is also why I try to help Brady see his teachers in a different light, try and bring his grades up by working at home and try to help him see why the rules exist. Also try and make sure all family members involved in your child's care are on the same page as you are. If I chose not to reinforce school rules at home, it would make it that much harder for Brady.

Part 2) The child. Regardless of what your kids remember of what you have taught them, they are individuals who will make their own choice in a single moment, good or bad. I tell Brady often that the medicine he takes only helps him focus a little so he can think about his choices more. It can't make his choices for him. It only takes him part of the way, the rest is up to him. It's hard, really hard, as a parent to put the weight of that responsibility on him, but I think it is so essential for him to learn to take responsibility for his decisions even though it may be harder for him than other kids. And even though he is so young. If he has a prayer of ever being off the medication, he needs to learn the skills it takes to make choices on his own. I also try not to fight his battles for him, letting him handle the things he can, and teach him we can't change another person, but we can change how we respond.

Part 3) Teachers/coaches/bus drivers. If these people don't accept your child has a unique way of learning and responding to stimuli and direction, and that he or she is not acting up just for the heck of it, things will be tough for everyone. I'd encourage being in close contact with your child's teachers and caregivers. They would likely welcome ideas, and if not, I'd say keep suggesting them anyway. Perhaps give them information on ADHD, what it is, why it happens, what can be done about it, help them see it is a condition that requires a different way of approaching a child.

Part 4) Counseling, medication or IEP. A child diagnosed with ADHD will likely need something extra. Something more. Something formal. It can be an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) that brings a team within the school together to help a child with a learning disability. It can be a counselor that helps them through therapy. Or it can be a medication. Which of these it is, or which combination, depends on the child and education situation. In our case counseling so far has not helped, Brady does well at school so we have not sought an IEP.  He already feels different sometimes, so I don't want to make that more of an issue if there's not a strong need. 

So, for us, medication was the right choice. Finding a balance was very challenging, but I do think it was the right path, at least for now.

With a structured approach like this, I think a child can thrive, though not without bumps in the road. The hardest part is having a new teacher every year!

The challenge is getting everyone on the same page and working as a team. I also think parents should tell their kids about this kind of teamwork, so they understand their role in it and the role of any medication they are taking. I think it makes them feel more secure knowing there is a structure to their life and it gives the motivation to go that extra mile, even when things are hard.

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