Updated: Jun 7
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is characterized by a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity and/or impulsivity behaviors, which interferes with the normal functioning of the child (according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-5).
ADHD is a Neurodevelopmental Disorder. Although its cause is unknown, several studies suggest that ADHD is the result of neurochemical alterations that, in turn, result in inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity behaviors.
Want to know more about the symptoms of this disorder? Then read our previous article: Hyperactivity and Attention Deficit – What are the symptoms?
How to intervene?
Firstly, it is important that the child is correctly diagnosed by professionals trained in this type of disorder. It is known that attention behaviors can be caused by an Anxiety Disorder and that hyperactivity/impulsivity behaviors can be the result of other conditions such as Hyperthyroidism. Thus, it is essential to exclude these hypotheses in order to be able to intervene properly to improve the child's well-being.
After a correct assessment it is possible to start the intervention. Below we present some intervention possibilities:
1) One of the possible treatments for hyperactivity involves the prescription of medication by a doctor, namely stimulants, which will act on the brain (neurotransmitters), helping to limit the child's impulsiveness and agitation. Pharmacological treatments can be important in the most severe cases.
2) In addition, it is essential to teach the child to control their impulses alone, which is possible through behavioral training. This training can be done in a psychotherapeutic context, in which the psychologist teaches the child how to self-regulate and calm down, using their energy and abilities in a positive way. It should also be reinforced at home and at school by parents and teachers. Behavioral training involves activities such as:
– Helping children to listen better, saying one thing at a time;
– Helping children to organize their material at home and at school (toys, clothes, notebooks, books, etc.), keeping a calm and peaceful environment (with few distractions);
– Taking breaks during a test or assessment and/or taking them in a separate room in order to reduce distractions;
– Taking breaks during a lesson, allowing the child to move for a few minutes;
– Helping the child to develop awareness and control of their body and movements, through physical activities such as yoga, gymnastics or martial arts;
– Establish structured and consistent rules and routines (with a visible calendar, specifying what they do from getting up to going to bed), helping the child to gradually gain control over what they do and how they do it;
– Teach the child to relax and calm down through breathing techniques, telling a story, or listening to music, etc.;
– Encourage and reinforce positive behaviors and ignore (or direct) negative behaviors.
3) Finally, it is important to create conditions so that the child does not develop other problems associated with ADHD, such as peer relationship problems, or anxiety and depression. It is essential for any child to learn to have and deal with their feelings, to be generous and affectionate with themselves and with others around them. It is important that children feel valued and loved so that, in the future, they can be mentally healthy adults, who can love themselves and others. In children diagnosed with ADHD who, due to their behavior, are easily punished by parents and teachers, the need to create caring, encouraging and supportive relationships is even more important. The following activities can start in a psychotherapeutic context and should be maintained by parents and teachers:
– Recognize that the child behaves this way because they cannot do it any other way (it is not their fault) – and convey this idea to the child;
– Teach the child that with some training and effort it is possible to control their inattention and impulsivity;
– Give love, care and support;
– Explain to the child what ADHD is, and how it changes their behavior;
– Teach the child to express and deal with their feelings;
– Reinforce and encourage the child;
– Find out with the child what their strengths are and how they can use their energy and abilities in a positive way.
There is no single treatment that is clearly more effective in helping a child with ADHD. The ideal will be to integrate several types of treatments, helping it in its entirety: on a physical, mental and emotional level. Furthermore, the intervention must be planned and structured individually, respecting the particularities of each child. What works for one child may not work for another.
In short, it is possible to help children with ADHD to improve their attention span and self-control skills. It is possible to educate children to love each other despite their limitations and to believe that, with effort, they can always improve and change.