Best treatment for ADHD could be different for each child

When a young learner exhibits troubling behavior, parents encounter many perspectives on testing for ADHD — from teachers, learning specialists, pediatricians or other parents. Everyone’s got an opinion, some more helpful than others.

Making a diagnosis and coming up with a plan to modify the behavior is time-consuming and often a trial-and-error process.

First, do your homework. Websites like understood.org, http://www.chadd.org/ can have valuable resources. Many books also offer advice. Start with Taking Charge of ADHD, Smart but Scattered and Raising Boys with ADHD. Two, use any techniques from the child’s teacher or from your research that might be helpful in managing his behavior, such as:

Make sure the child is close to you during activities like reading aloud or playing games, to make it easier for them to pay attention.

•Give immediate and frequent consequences for negative or positive behaviors.

•Give tangible rewards like tokens or play money that can be redeemed for cool stuff.

•Break all tasks, especially projects, into smaller chunks. Describe concrete steps to him (e.g., how to tidy a room).

•Use prompts and reminders, especially for rules and time intervals.

Three, prepare the child for possible testing. An ADHD test usually involves observation forms completed by parents and the teacher and a visit to a pediatrician, who does an assessment and makes a diagnosis.

Many parents think ADHD means medication. Not necessarily. Attentional problems should always be addressed first through behavioral and environmental modifications. The doctor may make a recommendation for medication, but the decision to act on it always rests with the parents.

Before you consider any testing, document your child’s behavioral patterns in various settings with a range of people; note differences where there may be different expectations or different stimuli. Observe the child in restaurants, shopping malls, after-school activities or friends’ houses. Can the child read social cues from peers in these settings? Such difficulties can be signals for learning differences besides ADHD.

Parents must know their child well enough in different contexts and advocate for what the child needs to do their best, says Susan Henry, a National Board Certified primary teacher in Massachusetts.

“Your goal, once you learn what factors help the child pay attention and what sets the child off, is to find ways to modify the child’s activities, put in place counseling and other supports and reinforce appropriate behavior. This could include drug therapy.”

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