Dealing with children who have attention deficit disorder, or ADD, requires patience, and you will have to raise your frustration tolerance a notch or two. Behavior modification techniques can help with children with ADD, also known as ADHD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Basic tactics can provide a calmer environment, prevent meltdowns and defuse situations.
Develop morning, after-school and bedtime routines if you are a parent and follow a classroom schedule if you are a teacher. Keep the child on task so the day ahead seems less of a jumble of activity and daily activities become predictable and manageable.
Give warnings before changing gears, giving the child a chance to respond better and be less resistant. Provide them a five-minute warning before leaving grandma’s house or having to get ready for bed. In the classroom, provide a five-minute warning before the lesson ends. Announce a change to the classroom schedule well ahead of time, so children with ADD can process the upcoming change and mentally prepare.
Break down tasks into manageable sizes to avoid overwhelming the ADD child with a big job. Post a checklist the child can mark off as he complete the smaller tasks required for the larger job. “Clean your room” can become “make your bed,” “put your toys away” and “toss your dirty clothes in the hamper.”
Divide up school assignments, suggests the U.S. Board of Education to teachers of ADD children. Allow the children to complete five math problems before assigning them five more. Have them write the first part of an essay before lunch and the remainder after recess.
Avoid power struggles by offering ADD children a choice that is acceptable to you but will let them feel empowered. Ask if the child would rather empty the dishwasher before the TV show or afterward or if she’d like to finish her work at morning recess or afternoon recess. Choose your battles: coloring a map with colored pencils versus crayons is not as important as enforcing a rule not to run with scissors.
Use a reward system, such as charts with stickers or points to encourage positive behavior. At home, allow an extra half-hour of TV for earning five stickers a day. At school, permit extra time in a favorite center points for positive behavior.
Avoid promising rewards when you can’t follow through; ADD children often have a harder time handling frustration and disappointment and will likely exhibit a strong negative response when a proffered reward is not forthcoming.
Give yourself a break, suggests pediatrician Joanne M. Weigel of the California Department of Education. Dealing with children with ADD is challenging and takes its toll on parents and teachers. Whether it’s a quick breather in another room or a few hours to decompress, tending to your mental well-being is equally as important as tending to the well-being of ADD children.