The ADHD Child, Part II

In order to maximize a child’s potential, a parent needs to work with the child’s teacher and empathize with her position. Teachers often say, “I have 29 other children in the class. I can’t put all my focus on Shloimy.” Or: “I can’t have a special positive-reinforcement chart for Shloimy. I’ll need to create another 29 charts, one for each of his classmates.”

Most teachers are overwhelmed with the multiple needs of their individual students. A parent needs to create a system to help structure and motivate her ADHD child without placing a great burden of responsibility on an already overloaded teacher.

One simple idea is for a parent to ask permission to call a child’s teacher once at the end of each week, for several consecutive weeks, for a progress report. This can be either right before the teacher leaves the school building or at a specific time, for five minutes, after school hours.

This concept is a practical alternative to a chart that a child would hand his teacher at the end of a given day. A child (or teacher) can forget to have such a chart signed or can change the message written on the chart, and a teacher may resent having to be accountable and involved in this project. When asked, a teacher may feel uncomfortable refusing to participate, and give lip-service to your efforts. Though not as thorough and specific as a planned-out behavior-modification system, it is more likely to be successful for a teacher of 30 students. Such a chart has two goals: 1) Decreasing impulsive behavior and 2) increasing focusing in the classroom.

At the end of the week, when the child will receive a generally positive report, an immediate reward should be offered. This reward should preferably consist of time spent with a parent, “celebrating” his great achievements. A parent who finds it difficult to set aside those 45 minutes on a Thursday should think of other parents who take their children for weekly allergy shot appointments. This is just another type of preventive medicine, one which allows a child to remain in a mainstream classroom and develop his potential.

In general, ADHD children are often not attuned to social cues, which is obviously no fault of their own. Being easily distracted makes it difficult to know which human interactions are most important to respond to. Thus, teachers do not necessarily forge a great emotional attachment to these children, as they may feel slighted that the child “never listens to me.”

Another helpful idea for teachers is the often-used seating the child in front of the teacher — allowing for less distraction on the part of the child. It is often helpful to give ADHD children more active jobs in the classroom, such as being board monitor or going to the school office on errands. In general, the reward system that one uses at home can be similarly implemented at school. A child can be rewarded for properly being part of a class, and then use segments of time in school (as in a chart created for a one-hour task performance) to work on a more individual level.

If, however, a child misbehaves, a teacher doesn’t need to remark or write a zero on a star chart, or write a berating report about the child’s lack of attention. A child needs to receive a consequence for his action, but what he was able to achieve until now still belongs to him. ADHD children give up too easily once they hear intensive criticism.

Counseling can be very beneficial for helping the child acclimate to his world, aside from the family’s need for him to function better within the family unit. Maintaining a positive relationship with your child’s teacher can only be beneficial for all those involved.