How a Parent Can Help Their Child Showing Signs of ADHD

Introduction:

Whilst Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a common neurodevelopmental condition and is often diagnosed in childhood. Parents play a pivotal role in supporting and managing their child’s needs. This article delves into how parents can effectively help their children navigate the challenges posed by ADHD with understanding and care.

Understanding ADHD:

ADHD is characterised by patterns of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.

There are often stereo-typical attitudes towards this condition and how an individual behaves.

Since neurodivergent conditions like ADHD manifest differently in each individual, the symptoms and behaviours displayed by a child with ADHD can vary. These variations are influenced by factors such as a child’s age, socio-economic conditions, and the presence of co-occurring conditions like Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC). Therefore, it’s essential to recognise that ADHD is unique in every child.

So, it’s time to dispel some common misconceptions about ADHD.

Myth #1: All children will grow out of their ADHD condition.

One of the most common misconceptions about ADHD is the assumption that it primarily involves hyperactive behaviors, such as an inability to sit still or constantly climbing on things. However, this perception does a disservice to those diagnosed with the condition and perpetuates a very narrow understanding of ADHD’s complexities.

While the hyperactive symptoms of ADHD may diminish as a child reaches adolescence, leading to the historical belief that “it’s just a phase” and the child will “grow out of it,” research shows that for most individuals, ADHD does not resolve after adolescence. Although some may experience a reduction in certain symptoms, the condition often persists into adulthood for the majority of those diagnosed.

For many individuals with ADHD, the hyperactive symptoms tend to decrease with age and maturity. Instead of displaying excessive physical restlessness or “manic energy,” the condition may manifest more prominently through inattentive behaviours such as:

  • Struggles with sustaining focus on tasks
  • Lack of motivation for activities perceived as unstimulating
  • Challenges with working memory
  • Impairments in executive functions, such as planning, organising, and structuring tasks and information

This is not an exhaustive list.

Consequently, these inattentive symptoms may create the misconception that the individual has outgrown their ADHD condition.

ADHD

Depiction of multiple TV channels representing distractions and focused attention with ADHD.

Myth #2: Only boys are diagnosed with ADHD.

From the most recent figures from NICE (Source: National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) dated April 2024:

“ADHD is more commonly diagnosed in boys than girls. Prevalence ratios are generally estimated at 2–5:1, while clinic populations show a ratio as high as 10:1.”

Research indicates that gender differences in ADHD diagnosis among children are primarily due to variations in symptom presentation. Boys often display more noticeable hyperactivity-related behaviours, such as disruptive actions and emotional instability. These prominent symptoms frequently lead to referrals and prompt assessments.

Conversely, girls with ADHD typically internalise their symptoms, a process known as “masking.” Instead of showing hyperactive behaviours, they usually experience inattentive symptoms, including challenges with focus, motivation, and other executive functions. These subtler signs are less disruptive and often overlooked, resulting in girls with ADHD being undiagnosed or diagnosed later than boys.

Source: NICE>

Girls are often described as ‘dreamy’ or ‘in their own world.’ While having a vivid imagination is beneficial for children, it can extend beyond this, leading many girls to ‘zone out’ in class or around friends. This can affect their emotional well-being and relationships in the long term.

Consequently, it is the lack of awareness and missed early warning signs in girls, more so than in boys, that perpetuates the perception that ADHD is primarily a condition affecting boys.

Teenage girl daydreaming in class

Teenage girl daydreaming in class. Zoning out!

Myth #3: ADHD is a result of poor parenting or lack of discipline.

ADHD, similar to Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC), is a neurodevelopmental condition rooted in brain biology, not parenting style. Just as the harmful “refrigerator mother” theory in autism has been debunked, we must also dispel any notions that blame parents for their children’s ADHD.

In public, a child’s hyperactivity often attracts harsh judgments. Onlookers may label the child as “naughty” and the parents as “weak,” misinterpreting ADHD symptoms as a lack of discipline. This confusion arises from mistaking a neurological condition for willful misbehaviour. In reality, children with ADHD have differently wired brains that affect impulse control and attention.

By educating others, we can transform these moments of scrutiny into opportunities for empathy and understanding.

ADHD can’t be “fixed” through simple correction or traditional behavioural training, much like one wouldn’t expect such methods to cure diabetes or epilepsy. It is a neurological condition, not a discipline issue.

A core trait of ADHD is impaired impulse control and emotional regulation. Children with ADHD often react intensely to triggers without the neurological ability to pause, reflect, or gauge their impact on others. Their responses are not acts of defiance but rather result from neurobiological differences in self-regulation.

What is needed is greater public understanding of neurodiversity and genuine empathy for parents whose children experience ADHD meltdowns. Their challenges are visible, but their struggles often remain unseen.

understanding ADHD

Greater understanding of ADHD

So, there you have the three main ‘myths’ surrounding ADHD. By all means, there are other “belief systems” at work, but they are the main 3 in my experience of talking to people.

Now let’s cover some of the other aspects.

Early Signs and Diagnosis

Early recognition of ADHD signs—difficulty concentrating, hyperactivity, impulsivity—is crucial but nuanced. Not all energetic boys who struggle in traditional classrooms have ADHD, and not everyone with ADHD fits this profile.

Distinguishing typical high energy from ADHD involves looking beyond surface behaviours. It’s about assessing persistence, context, and impact, rather than just a child’s fit with an outdated educational model.

Girls’ daydreaming or vivid imaginations aren’t always signs of ADHD. While inattentiveness can manifest as “zoning out,” an active fantasy life is also a normal and creative trait in many children.

For concerned parents, keeping a behaviour diary can help clarify patterns. However, it’s important to remember that stress or anxiety can mimic ADHD symptoms, leading to forgetfulness, outbursts, and even physical complaints. Context is key.

These behaviours may be associated with tests or exams, changes in the school year, or other disruptions to usual routines, but they often settle down after the event or situation has passed.

However, if they persist, maintaining a detailed record of these behaviours can be helpful. This documentation can support a request for a thorough evaluation by the child’s GP or an Educational Psychologist at their school for a full assessment and accurate diagnosis.

Due to the steep rise in demand for neurodivergence assessments in children and teenagers, CAMHS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service) is becoming increasingly overstretched with waiting times in some regions now exceeding 3 years and that’s before even getting to the point of initial assessment!

Given CAMHS’s alarming backlogs, many parents opt for private assessments, a route that requires careful consideration.

Here’s a list of considerations:

  • The professional should be a UK registered psychiatrist or educational psychologist.
  • The professional or organisation should be part of the GMC (General Medical Council) or other relevant body appropriate to the neurodivergent assessment being carried out.
  • Assessments should be in-person (face-to-face) at a professional clinic or office and may include a full physical examination, developmental, medical, mental health, and/or psychiatric history. There may also be a series of interviews with the parent and/or the child as well as supporting evidence obtained through a teacher or other associated professionals involved in the child’s care.
  • After any diagnosis has been established, whilst medication may be an appropriate option, it should not be offered as the ONLY choice for the child’s support and long-term care. Learn more about Neurodiversity Coaching with CHAMPS Academy>
ADHD coaching

ADHD Coaching with Annette Du Bois

ADHD Post Diagnosis Treatment

After receiving a diagnosis, many parents may feel overwhelmed with navigating the day-to-day challenges of their child’s ADHD and finding suitable support options. Parents need to have access to resources and guidance to effectively help their child thrive despite the condition.

Here’s some helpful guidance to navigate the uncertain and challenging times ahead:

Empowering Through Communication

Engaging in open discussions about ADHD with your child, tailored to their developmental stage, is crucial. Explain ADHD as a brain difference rather than a deficit, likening it to a racing car engine that needs fine-tuning. Highlight their unique strengths such as creativity and passion while also acknowledging the challenges they face. This balanced perspective helps foster self-acceptance and encourages a problem-solving mindset.

Engineering a Brain-Friendly Home

Create an environment at home that is optimised for a child with ADHD:

  • Consistent Routines: Implement daily schedules and make them visible with charts.
  • Clear, Positive Rules: Use affirmations like “Walk indoors” instead of prohibitions like “Don’t run.”
  • Distraction-Free Zones: Set up clutter-free study areas to minimise distractions.
  • Sensory-Smart Design: Incorporate elements like soft lighting and noise-cancelling headphones to cater to their sensory needs.

This structured setup not only reduces chaos but also enhances focus, emotional regulation, and a sense of control.

Educational Support and Advocacy

Collaborate with educators to foster an ADHD-friendly learning environment. Provide a comprehensive view of your child’s neurological profile, emphasising both challenges and cognitive strengths such as divergent thinking and hyperfocus.

Together, design tailored strategies:

  • Movement Breaks: Incorporate options like a mini-trampoline or stress balls.
  • Teaching Styles: Utilise visual aids and gamification techniques (where possible).
  • Seating Arrangements: Position your child near the teacher and away from windows to minimise distractions.

If your child has an Education, Health, and Care Plan (EHCP), make sure to fully leverage its provisions:

  • Exam Accommodations: Provide extra time to account for processing speed differences.
  • Tech Tools: Use speech-to-text software and organisational apps to assist with learning.
  • Sensory Aids: Equip your child with noise-canceling headphones and fidget tools.
  • Subject-Specific Accommodations: For example, allow math formula sheets during tests.

These accommodations are not just nice to have; they are essential to ensure your child has a fair opportunity to receive a proper education.

what do you see ADHD

What do you see in this picture? Change your perspective and you change what you see.

Managing Behavior in a Positive Way

Instead of simply punishing undesirable behaviour, I would suggest using positive reinforcement techniques. Offering praise or small rewards when your child exhibits good behaviour can be highly effective. A straightforward reward system can significantly motivate children to maintain good behaviour. Additionally, maintaining consistency in discipline helps children understand and anticipate expectations.

Helping Build Social Skills

Children with ADHD often face challenges in social situations, such as making friends or engaging with peers. Modeling positive social behaviour and actively assisting them in developing and sustaining friendships can be incredibly beneficial. With a little support and guidance, these children can improve their social interactions significantly.

Living a Healthy Lifestyle

The food your child consumes, the amount of exercise they engage in, and their sleep patterns play a crucial role in managing ADHD symptoms. Monitoring their diet for potential triggers and ensuring they receive ample physical activity and quality sleep each night can significantly impact their well-being. Maintaining a healthy body and mind is essential for helping them stay focused and centered.

Seeking Professional Help

Engaging with professionals can significantly impact managing ADHD. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and medication, when necessary, have been shown to effectively help children manage their ADHD symptoms. Additionally, having a coach or mentor can be incredibly beneficial. These individuals can provide personalised strategies, helping your child build confidence and foster a positive self-image. The right support system can make a substantial difference.

This is why I created the S.P.E.C.T.R.M®️ Process, which is proving to be very successful for young people who are Neurodiverse. Learn more>

Support for Parents

Raising a child with ADHD can be challenging, so it’s crucial to take care of yourself as well. Connecting with other parents who understand your experiences can be invaluable. Local support groups and online communities offer plenty of practical advice and a safe space to express your feelings.

Make sure to block out some time for yourself whenever possible. Simple activities like enjoying a peaceful cup of tea, taking a short walk, or finding a few moments to relax can help you recharge. Prioritising your own mental health will better equip you to care for your child. In order for you to look after someone else, you’ve got to look after yourself!

ADHD and Long-Term Development

As your child grows, it’s crucial to continue fostering their independence and self-confidence. Navigating the teenage years and transitioning into adulthood can be particularly challenging for those with ADHD. Providing them with the necessary tools to manage these challenges is vital. Approach this journey step by step, as each small effort contributes to their long-term success.

Conclusion

Raising a child with ADHD can be quite challenging, but it’s also immensely rewarding. By consistently showing understanding, maintaining patience, and establishing practical support systems, you are setting your child or teen up for success. Although the journey can be tough at times, your efforts will help them thrive. Remember to take it one day at a time – chunk your thoughts into actionable steps to avoid the overwhelm of overthinking things.

Any other questions, please email me>

Thanks, Annette Du Bois

Here’s some of the most common ADHD FAQs

Firstly, it’s essential to observe your child’s behaviors and patterns closely. Take note of specific instances when they appear excessively inattentive, impulsive, or hyperactive compared to peers. Documenting these observations will provide clear evidence for discussions with professionals.

Next, schedule an appointment with your GP. Be open about your concerns and present your notes on your child’s behaviours. The doctor will likely ask you to complete some screening questionnaires.

Following this initial consultation, the doctor may refer you to a child or educational psychologist for a more comprehensive ADHD evaluation. While obtaining an official diagnosis can be a lengthy process, it’s a crucial first step toward securing the right support and management plan for your child.

It’s important not to delay. If your parental instincts are signaling concerns, initiate the process by consulting professionals. The earlier you start, the sooner your child can receive the necessary assistance.

You know how sometimes it’s tough for you to sit still and focus, and how your mind jumps from one thought to the next? That’s because your brain works a bit differently than some other children’s brains. It’s called ADHD, which stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

But guess what? That’s not a bad thing at all. ADHD means you experience the world in a unique way. Your thoughts move quickly, and you have lots of energy and creativity.

The most important thing to remember is that you’re still you – an amazing child with incredible strengths. We just need to find the best ways to help calm your busy brain sometimes so you can shine even brighter.

I’ll always be here to guide you and make sure you get all the support you need. Having ADHD is just one part of what makes you special. Don’t ever see it as something negative, because you’re not defined by labels. You define you!

Using simple, positive language validates their experiences and builds confidence. Make it clear that ADHD is not a flaw, but just one aspect of their unique selves.

For a child with ADHD, it’s best to focus on a balanced, nutritious diet that provides steady energy.

Here’s a more conversational way to explain it:

The ideal diet is one packed with healthy whole foods – like whole grains, fresh fruits and veggies, lean proteins such as chicken or fish, and healthy fats like avocados, nuts, and olive oil. All that good stuff gives their growing bodies and brains a steady supply of nutrients and energy.

On the flip side, try to limit sugary processed foods as much as possible – things like sweets, fizzy drinks and sugary juices. The same goes for foods with artificial additives, dyes, and preservatives. Those seem to aggravate ADHD symptoms for a lot of kids.

You don’t have to cut it all out entirely. But making nutrient-dense whole foods the main part of their diet, while treating sugary processed stuff as an occasional treat, can really help level them out better throughout the day. Their brain functions best with a steady supply of energy rather than big sugar rushes and crashes.

The core idea is to give their body and mind high-quality fuel for more sustained focus and calm. A balanced diet helps avoid the erratic spikes and dips that can exacerbate hyperactivity and inattentiveness.

Absolutely, children with ADHD can succeed in school – let me explain why in a straightforward way:

The key is to provide them with the right support and accommodations. With a solid game plan, children with ADHD can excel academically just like any other student.

Some children might need extra time on tests or assignments to help them focus. Others may benefit from having instructions broken down into smaller, more manageable steps. Simple adjustments like preferential seating near the front of the class, taking breaks, or using technology for note-taking can make a huge difference.

The school should collaborate closely with you to determine which accommodations will help your child learn in the best way for their individual needs and learning style. ADHD brains just process information differently sometimes.

With the right support and strategies, there’s no reason a child with ADHD can’t perform academically at the same high level as their peers. It’s all about finding the right approaches and accommodations to unlock their full potential.

The main thing is not viewing ADHD as a barrier but addressing their unique needs with the appropriate resources.

To help your child with ADHD make friends, try these tips:

  1. Join Group Activities: Encourage them to participate in sports or clubs they enjoy, where they can interact with peers in a structured setting.
  2. Role-Play Social Situations: At home, practice scenarios like making introductions, joining conversations, and active listening to build their confidence.
  3. Model Good Social Behaviour: Demonstrate positive social interactions yourself.

Provide low-pressure opportunities for them to practice social skills at their own pace. It may take extra patience, but you’re giving them invaluable tools to form meaningful connections. Stay positive and celebrate their small wins!

Medication is not always necessary for managing ADHD. Each child’s needs are unique, so treatment should be tailored accordingly. For some, therapy, accommodations, and lifestyle changes may be sufficient to manage symptoms. For others with more severe ADHD, medication can be a crucial component of a comprehensive treatment plan alongside other strategies.

The key is to work closely with healthcare providers to find the right personalised approach for your child’s specific circumstances, rather than automatically defaulting to medication.

Annette Du Bois

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