ADHD effects all children different
Attention-deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can affect a child in many different ways. Most people know that ADHD can cause children to struggle with things like sitting still, being quiet, paying attention, and staying organized. But ADHD also can make it hard for children to make friends.
In a classroom of 30 children, it is likely that at least 2 students are affected by ADHD. Exactly how ADHD adds to social problems is not understood fully, but children with ADHD often have trouble with simple social interactions and struggle to follow social cues. Children with ADHD are half as likely to have many good friends and are less likely to play with a group of friends, compared to children without ADHD.
Having good friends adds to children's happiness and impacts their mental health and development. In some cases, children with peer problems may be at higher risk for anxiety, behavioural and mood disorders, substance abuse, and delinquency as teenagers.
Having ADHD does not mean children always have poor relationships with their peers. Parents and caring adults often can help children with ADHD to make friends. Here are a few ways to help:
Keep in regular contact with the adults who are involved in the lives of children with ADHD. These adults include teachers, school counsellors, after-school activity leaders, health care providers, and faith leaders.
Keep them informed about your child's treatments and, when possible, ask them to help your child improve his peer relationships.
For example, ask the adult leaders to make sure that they avoid belittling him in front of his peers. If the adult in charge belittles the child, other children may think it's okay for them to belittle the child as well.
Involve your child in activities with her peers. Many children with ADHD do well with structure in their daily routines, so look for a class or program that interests your child and that meets consistently. Find your child's interest and build on it!
Many children with ADHD also do better in small groups of people rather than large groups.
For example, an art class of 8 students that meets every Wednesday at 3 p.m. may suit a child with ADHD better than a soccer team of 20 people that practices on both Tuesday at 6 p.m. and Friday at 3 p.m. and holds games on random weekends. Find an activity the child really likes and support her efforts.
Coach your child about the social settings he might face, and help him come up with ideas about what to do. For example, if he finds himself sitting alone on the bus, help him practice asking, 'May I sit here?' Even though it may feel uncomfortable, roleplay these scenes so that your child starts to feel more confident in social settings.
Also talk about how to handle positive and negative outcomes. It's not easy to prepare your child to respond to rejection, but learning to cope when things don't go his way is an important social skill.
Help build your child's self-esteem. It's easy for kids with ADHD to feel like they're always in trouble and that no one - not even Mom or Dad - likes them. Let your child know that - in addition to loving her - you like her. That will help her feel likeable and may make it easier to share her wonderful traits with others.
Look for a social skills group geared toward children with ADHD. These classes are being offered in more and more communities, and they can help your child learn how to act in social settings.
Regular, everyday activities can be challenging for children with ADHD - and this includes making friends. Parents often want children with ADHD to direct their energy toward getting good grades and staying out of trouble, but helping kids with ADHD make friends is important, too.
With help from their parents and other caring adults, children with ADHD can build lasting friendships, and in doing so, they will build their own health and happiness.
How much is enough?
Parents of teens with disabilities may wonder about the best way to help these youth through adolescence. Sticking points may include what to expect, when to do more, when to back off, and how to balance the needs of other family members. Keeping these issues in mind and taking a positive approach are the keys to success as children with disabilities enter the teen years.
A 'disability' means one or more permanent, major, life-altering conditions, which may be progressive or sudden and which may result from disease or injury. Disabilities include such a wide range of conditions and severity that each case must be handled individually.
Yet, for all but the most severely disabled teens, a few tips can help parents deal with the challenge of a child's disability along with the rapid changes that affect all adolescents.
Putting It All Together
A teen with a disability is still a teen. Teen life is complex - a time when children experience physical and emotional changes, an urge for independence, a new and expanded social scene, and sexual awareness. A child with a disability probably has the same interests and feelings as other youth in her age group.
You can welcome teen traits as a sign of normal growth. However, disability carries added physical and emotional hurdles involving the ability to participate, acceptance by peers, and self-image.
Teens with disabilities may become stressed, depressed, frustrated, or angry with their circumstances. They may resent being ignored one minute, and then be angry if someone tries to help them the next.
It's easy to be overprotective - after all, you're a parent. To avoid being too controlling, talk with your teen about his experiences and feelings and how much help he would like as you work together to address problems.
You also can find advice and personal stories at the library or on the Web. You may be angry or even feel guilty about your child's disability.
These feelings are normal, but they will not help you or your child work through a challenging and crucial time of life. If you can't set those feelings aside, talk with someone who can help you - a friend, relative, or counselor.
Aim for as much of a typical teen life as your child's disability will permit. You may have to overcome qualms about what your teen can do or should try. Give your approval to social activities and be ready to tackle dating issues.
Help a teen with a disability to project an upbeat image - open and confident. Build on a teen's strengths - encourage her to develop her interests and to join activities that draw on her talents. Help her excel, but don't limit her activities only to special classes for kids with disabilities.
Be ready to step in on your teen's behalf. Ensure that teachers, youth group leaders, and caregivers treat a teen with a disability as a normal person. Promote self-advocacy. Coach a disabled teen to stand up for her rights. Start by having her talk directly with doctors, caregivers, and counselors. Being Watchful
Guiding your teen with a disability toward a normal, active life is great, but use the same caution that applies to other youth.
Make sure your teen isn't 'trying too hard' socially or being taken advantage of. Don't ignore sex and substance abuse as important issues for a teen with a disability. Be a good listener, but also ask questions, get to know his friends, and let him know what you expect of him.
As with all teens, be attuned to the mental health of a teen with a disability. Talking with a caring relative or with a faith or youth group leader can help a teen work through issues and feelings stemming from a disability. However, be prepared to enlist professional help.
Keep in mind the needs of the brothers and sisters of a teen with a disability - they can feel ignored, jealous, or stressed. Involve them in helping and caring for a teen with a disability, but try not to overdo it. Limit siblings' tasks and give them a break. Provide one-on-one time with them - that's important!
What do you like best about yourself?
What do you think is your greatest ability?
What would you like people to know about you?
What would you like to try to do that you haven't had a chance to try?
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Out of Darkness & Into the Light
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