Wigglers and Daydreamers: Options for the Child with ADHD

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Finding focus can be difficult for anyone these days no matter what age you are. Even adults working or playing online are likely have numerous tabs open at all times, hopping among them like flipping TV show channels between commercials.

Our children are also affected by our over-stimulated and technology-based world. What was once labeled as naughtiness has now become a nationally recognized crisis in our young learners. Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is a mental disorder that most often occurs in children. The symptoms include difficulty concentrating, paying attention, staying organized and remembering details. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studies indicate that 6.4 million children between the ages of 4 and 17 are diagnosed with ADHD. Attention deficit disorder, or ADD, and ADHD are often lumped together even though ADD sufferers typically don’t have issues with hyperactivity or disruptiveness.

While some parents choose to attribute their child’s constant movement or lack of focus to simply being a kid, many take a proactive approach to assuring their offspring get help and support. Here are some options worth discussing when attempting to navigate the sometimes slippery slopes of an ADHD or ADD diagnosis.

Medication can help control and limit the symptoms of ADHD and is often the most common treatment option. However, medication affects everyone differently; while a certain type may seem to work in one case, it doesn’t always mean it will work for someone else. Working with a doctor is imperative when trying medicine to help monitor doses and side effects.

The most frequently prescribed ADHD medications are stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall. They’ve proven to help decrease the visibility of symptoms by making it possible for a child to sit still for longer periods of time. They also help with concentration and may make social situations such as school or work easier to manage.

While medication is the most common form of treatment, it’s far from being the only one. Students with this disorder find it extremely challenging to complete their work and pay attention in a classroom setting. It’s important that teachers are aware and can adapt their teaching style accordingly. On-site professionals are now available at most schools to address the needs of students who struggle with focus and hyperactivity.

An individualized educational plan, or IEP, is a plan or program developed by schools to ensure that a diagnosed child receives specialized instruction and related services. This plan creates open communication among teachers, parents and school counselors or behavioral specialists.

For those who aren’t willing to risk the side effects associated with medications, there are alternatives. As with many conditions and disorders, symptoms can be affected by diet. Avoiding preservatives such as sodium benzoate and food colorings such as FD&C Red 40 or FD&C Yellow 5 can help curb forgetfulness or organizational issues. Restriction of possible allergens such as dairy or gluten may help improve less-desirable behavior.

Experts also agree that nature is an excellent tool for reducing some attention and hyperactivity problems in kids and adults alike. Author and child advocacy expert Richard Louv directly links the lack of nature in the lives of today’s wired generation to some of the most disturbing childhood trends, including ADHD and depression, in his book Last Child in the Woods. Another benefit to implementing more outdoor time for kids with ADD/ADHD is that nature and fresh air are free and readily available.

Gadgets and Aids
Some teachers love them, some don’t, but within the last few years a plethora of ADHD-friendly gadgets have become available for educators, parents and kids. Wildly popular among kids are fidget spinners and fidget cubes, items designed to keep restless little hands busy while increasing focus. Be aware that some schools and teachers are barring the gadgets from campus, so check on policies in your child’s schools.

The fidget cube is a small, six-sided device that students can hold in their hand and click, roll and spin their way to better focus. The fidget spinner is a triangular spinner with a bearing in the center that allows it to spin and glide quietly. Similar to stress balls for adults, these two effective tools are finding their way into more classrooms and schools with positive results.

An increasing number of educators are adding wobble chairs or bouncy ball chairs, known as flexible seating, to their classrooms to let students wiggle while they work. Teachers who have implemented these new seating items note that students on the ADHD/ADD spectrum learn and focus better when they can move their bodies in a way that doesn’t disrupt the whole class.

Having ADHD is hard, and so is living with it. Parents need to be their child’s advocate by talking to teachers and doctors to keep the lines of communication open. The main thing parents need to remember is that helping their child find focus might be difficult, but it doesn’t mean they’re lost. Luckily, finding help for kids with ADHD/ADD has never been easier. ■

Sources: cdc.gov, dallasnews.com, healthline.com, helpguide.org and the experience of the author.