Many kids have trouble sitting still or paying attention for long periods of time. But when required, they are able to focus and complete tasks such as chores and homework. A small percentage of children have difficulty focusing at all and are considered to have ADHD. ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. People with ADHD have difficulty performing tasks like organizing, following rules, and holding interest.
ADHD starts in early childhood as the brain is developing, although sometimes it is not diagnosed until adulthood. Up to five percent of children are affected.
There is no cure for ADHD, but luckily there are ways to control it. The aim of ADHD treatment is to create a long-term plan that helps a child control their behavior. This is done through not only medication, but the use of psychosocial counseling.
Psychosocial counseling is a nonmedical approach to treating ADHD. In fact, it is the only nonmedical ADHD treatment supported by significant scientific evidence. Psychosocial counseling involves modifying a person’s behavior so they can manage the symptoms of ADHD properly, particularly in social situations. Psychosocial counseling includes behavioral modification, behavioral intervention, and social-skills training. Its goal is to improve three areas of a child’s life: giving their parents the right tools for parenting, improving their personal relationships with other children, and improving their school performance.
Most people with ADHD have symptoms that affect not only social situations, but personal relationships and success in academics and work. Behavior modification is not only for people with ADHD, but also for the parents and teachers who interact with them. Authority figures in the child’s life are taught skills to help guide them towards change. There are three keys to behavior modification: antecedents, behaviors, and consequences. Antecedents are triggers that cause ADHD symptoms. Behaviors are the specific action of the child that needs to change, and consequences are what happens after the behavior. For behavior modification, parents and teachers look to change both the antecedents and the consequences in hopes that the child will alter their behavior. This is known as behavior intervention.
Changing antecedents, behaviors, and consequences requires guidelines to be followed. The first is to begin small. Giving a child easily accomplished goals with few steps can prepare them for bigger challenges. The second guideline is to be consistent with antecedents and consequences. This will give the child a rigid formula to follow. Third, the behavior modification must be long-term. And finally, parents need to have patience. Changing behavior is not something that happens overnight.
Behavior modification begins by identifying target behaviors. These target behaviors are what the modification process will try to alter. Target behaviors are not necessarily symptoms of ADHD. For instance, if a child is inattentive and it results in unfinished homework, behavior modification will focus on getting them to complete their homework.
Behavioral intervention requires parents, teachers, and the ADHD child to be trained in proper techniques. Treating an ADHD child requires a different set of skills in addition to regular parenting and teaching skills.
Parents are taught behavioral intervention such as:
• Establishing structure: house rules, routines, and chores are implemented
• Children are praised for good behavior much more frequently than punished for bad behavior
• Appropriate commands to gain the child’s attention and using specific language to be as clear as possible
• Creating a reward system to help a child learn the benefits of accomplishing goals
• Preparing a child before going out in public, explaining appropriate behavior
• Proper punishment when the child disobeys or acts inappropriately
• Daily charts that prominently feature rewards and consequences of actions
Teachers are given a different set of interventions to help children with ADHD. They include:
• Clearly established structure and rules to the classroom; this includes being respectful, remaining seated when necessary, not speaking out of turn, and working quietly
• Using praise more often than criticism
• Speaking clearly and directly and avoiding publicly reprimanding the child
• Giving the student the tools to succeed by tailoring their school experience to their needs
• Improve academic performance: by helping the child stay focused and complete tasks, it can help them improve their grades
• Daily report card: this is a way of interacting with the parents and letting them know how the child is progressing
• Creating a reward system
• Reward system for the entire class, not just the individual
• Proper punishment system such as time out.
Finally, children are taught the importance of relationships with other children. These steps can help them adjust to social situations.
• Social skills: being taught how to play well with others, participating without interrupting or disrupting, giving compliments and being healthy
• Problem solving: a child must learn how to identify a problem, decide the best course of action to solve it, and then solve it
• Learning rules and regulations: sports and games can provide rigid rules that are easy to follow
• Recognizing antisocial behavior and correcting it with a reward system
• Making friends: a friendship can help a child work on all of these skills while also learning to value a real relationship.
Social skills training is a training course for children that helps teach them proper behavior in social situations. For ADHD, a specific training known as coaching has proven to be popular. A coach works with the child on a weekly basis to help them better manage relationships and time. These coaches are different from sports coaches. ADHD coaches provide support but also make children responsible for their actions. Techniques are designed to highlight a child’s strengths and teach them to improve on their weaknesses. The overall goal is to help a person reach their fullest potential. At this time, coaching does not have any established, long-term research to show the effectiveness of this technique.