We at Totto Learning, have a vision of empowering parents with the knowledge, awareness, and tools to effectively engage children at home. ‘Ask Totto Anything’ is a series of sessions hosted by Totto Learning where parents post their questions to us and we get the answers from an expert in the field and post them...
We at Totto Learning, have a vision of empowering parents with the knowledge, awareness, and tools to effectively engage children at home. ‘Ask Totto Anything’ is a series of sessions hosted by Totto Learning where parents post their questions to us and we get the answers from an expert in the field and post them back in the community. In this blog we have Dr. Sharon Saline with us to share about “ADHD in Children: Symptoms and Treatment’.
Dr. Sharon Saline is an author and child psychologist. Sharon Saline specializes in an integrative approach to managing ADHD, anxiety, executive functioning skills, learning differences & mental health in neurodiverse children, teens, young adults, and families.With over 25 years of clinical experience, she brings a positive strength-based approach to improving challenges related to attention, learning, and behavior.
Symptoms of ADHD in Children
ADHD is quite challenging to diagnose in young children aged two to six. Some parents speculate their children have ADHD when they see their children active all the time as if they were running on a motor. Children are rarely diagnosed with ADHD until they are in school. Children with ADHD struggle to push themselves through difficult tasks or tasks they are not familiar with.
The usual symptoms that you could look out for are:
- Hyperactivity-impulsivity, when the child is restless and fidgety while doing all quiet activities, interrupts and “bugs” other people, and gets into trouble frequently. This is more visible in boys compared to girls. Thus, boys are often diagnosed earlier than girls. Most girls have inattentive ADHD, which doesn’t show up until later years like twelve to fourteen. Mostly when they are in school and have to be responsible for a lot of things.
- Struggle in communication with other kids.
- Even after knowing the rules of a game, they don’t pay attention to them or they can’t follow them.
- Miss social cues – Slow talk or express their feelings as they are moving through various experiences very quickly.
- Kids are dreamy and slow processing, going at their own pace.
“I think the best thing that you can do as a parent or young child is to educate yourself so you’re informed and then you can speak about your child’s behaviors in a relationship to let you know that.”
5 C’s of ADHD
Let us understand the 5 C’s of ADHD.
- Self-Control – The first C is self-control. To help our kids manage themselves, we as parents have to first manage ourselves. A challenge of raising a child who has ADHD or learning disabilities or is on level one of the autism spectrum or has anxiety is that parents get triggered. We need to keep calm to help our child deal with ADHD.
- Compassion – Meet our children where they are, not where we expect them to be. When kids struggle, they show that they don’t understand how to be a certain way or they may not have the tools to do what you’re asking them to do.“It’s not necessarily willful. It’s that they don’t have the resources. And for young children, they may just not be developed yet.” So we need to get to their level and figure out to be empathetic to their stance than be a critique.
- Collaboration – Collaborate and work with your kids. Ask them questions. You need to guide your child with choices and not direct them with instructions. Do not tell them to do this or that, instead give them options to choose from. “This helps kids sort of understand the spectrum of what their options are.” This helps the kids with attention issues, as there is so much information storming into their brains at the same time. So narrowing down the options will be helpful for them.
Another way to do this is to offer incentives. Reward them with their favorite tv show only after they finish picking up their toys. If they don’t like that or want to watch the tv show first, never allow that. Stay firm, even if they have a meltdown for that.
- Consistency – Showing consistency daily, sends a message to your kids of predictability and routine. This helps the kids to learn how to be in the world. How to set patterns, what should be done first and then next. All these learnings come with following consistent routines. “Consistency isn’t about perfection, it’s about steadiness.”
- Celebration – It is about celebrating the right actions of your kids. And about noticing and acknowledging the right behavior or deeds of your kids. It doesn’t mean you reward them every time with treats like chocolates, ice-creams, etc. Try to bring into notice to your children that you are looking out and appreciating their behavior or actions, and is likely to give positive constructive feedback. For example, I like that you cleared your plate from the table after dinner. Or it is fantastic you picked up your toys after playing. The positive feedback counters all the negativity that the kid experiences especially kids who are wired a little differently.“The ideal positivity ratio should be three positives for every negative.”
The Ideal Environment for Children With ADHD
“Every child learns differently. So it’s important to have your child in a learning environment that understands different types of thinking and doesn’t put that down, but honors it.”
Let us understand the ideal environment for children with ADHD:
- Let’s first understand what a non-ideal environment is. The school environment is the worst place for children with attention problems, as their attention issues or learning disabilities get noticed, and are negatively labeled.
- A secure learning environment understands and honors different types of thinking and doesn’t put that down.
- In school, predictable routines can be helpful. A proper structure to follow can be easier for kids to feel safe and not get anxious with unpredictable moments.
- For children with attention issues, physical movement is crucial. They should get enough gaps or breaks to move their body before, during, and after school hours.
- Should be considerate towards children with a shorter concentration span. They can concentrate for some time and maybe be allowed to take a break to drink water. So that they can concentrate again and do a little more work.
“We have to work with the brains that kids have instead of forcing those brains to be that they’re just not.”
ADHD and Anxiety in Children
Parents of kids with ADHD and anxiety tend to treat ADHD first. Anxiety is most often attributable to various ADHD-related questions and problems. Like, “What did I miss? How can I kind of slow down enough to actually listen to what people are saying or sit at my desk and concentrate a little bit more effectively? Getting these questions answered itself will help reduce anxiety in kids.
It also depends on how severe the anxiety is. When anxiety is more severe, people address it first. There is a possibility that some medications used for ADHD will stimulate and cause them to feel more anxious or agitated. Although most medications are well-researched and have been used for a long time. Most parents do not prefer to medicate their children, especially young children, and we might save that only for extreme cases.
The most essential thing is to teach the right skills.“Pills don’t teach skills. Pills make you more available to learn those skills.” Says Dr. Sharon Saline. At home, we should continue to teach executive functioning skills and collaborate with the school to focus on the same skills. A consistent message across home and school helps to reduce anxiety.
Another mistake parents tend to make is to reassure their children saying it’s going to be fine. That is not the right thing to do. We should empathize with their feelings.
The parents also tend to minimize the situation and portray it to be not a big deal. That also won’t help the children in anxiety. Getting angry with children for feeling anxious will worsen the scenario for the children.
As an alternative, we should help children recall a time when they were scared, anxious, or worried and what they did to overcome it. This is called building resilience.You can join the Totto Parents community to get more parenting tips and tricks to make your parenting journey, better.
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