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When you have a child with ADHD, you can feel very frustrated. Kids with ADHD often ignore you, will get up in the middle of an activity and do something else; they are easily-distracted and may leave you waiting to save dinner or go on an outing. Your child may put themselves in physical danger during a burst of hyperactivity.
It's exhausting. It's demanding. And, what can make it worse is that so many people doubt the existence of ADHD as a real and serious illness, chalking your child's hyperactivity, ignoring you and disorganisation up to "bad parenting".
In brief, what is ADHD?
Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is a behavioural disorder that affects 11% of school-aged children. In up to three-quarters of cases, ADHD continues in to adulthood. There are three primary types of ADHD. Children may experience symptoms of impulsivity, inattention, or hyperactivity. These symptoms must last for at least six months, and be judged to be disproportionate to other children on the same age, in order for a diagnosis of ADHD to be made.
- Symptoms of impulsivity: impatience; interrupting others; blurting inappropriate comments ("He's really smelly!"); acting without thinking of the consequences; difficulty waiting for anything
- Symptoms of inattention: being easily distracted; forgetting things; becoming bored with an activity after a few minutes; difficulty organising a task or learning something new; losing things; easily confused; difficulty following instructions
- Symptoms of hyperactivity: fidgeting in their seats (even during a quiet activity); talking at a rapid pace; constantly playing with everything; running from one thing to another
Advantages of ADHD
While ADHD causes a variety of symptoms, it's not all bad for children with ADHD. Before becoming exasperated with your child, remember the positive effects this disorder can have:
- Greater creativity: Children with ADHD think ten different thoughts at once. This can make them wonderfully imaginative. Through their daydreams, they can become marvellous problem-solvers. Einstein had ADHD.
- Spontaneity: Children with ADHD are lively and have many different interests. This makes them lots of fun to be around, even if they do have you pulling your hair out sometimes.
- Flexibility:Children with ADHD explore all the options at once and don't become fixed on one idea.
- Drive: Believe it or not, once a task really interests a child with ADHD, it's pretty impossible to distract them from it. This gives them real motivation and drive to succeed.
The first step to parenting a child with ADHD
The first step is to accept your child as they are. It can be hard to accept that your wonderful child has a behavioural disorder. You can feel negatively about the child's prospects. You can wonder how your child will ever succeed if they lack concentration. Your child will sense your pessimism and will develop a "who cares" attitude.
Look at all the gifts ADHD can bestow on a child: creativity, flexibility, spontaneity and drive to succeed. All these things can help a child make a success of their life. So look at those gifts, and love your child unconditionally. ADHD isn't a picnic, but your love will help your child make a success of their life. They have the skills they need. They just need you to help them.