Dr. Cindy Taylor

Clinical Psychologist

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Tips for Parents

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Some hints for managing ADD-related behaviors in the classroom have been gathered from various resources.  Many are from the Pre-Referral Intervention Manual (1993), while the internet was another source.  We hope you will find these suggestions helpful and would love to hear of others that have worked for you.


1.  Fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes.

Ø  Assign specific duties to your child, e.g. “Empty the trash in the bathroom and kitchen”, rather than “Take out the trash”.

Ø  Look for opportunities to gradually give your child more freedom in return for demonstrating responsibility. Try breaking goal behavior into small units and shaping each behavior, moving on to the next step after your child has demonstrated responsibility on the last step.

Ø  Your child is more likely to stay on task when given immediate positive feedback contingent upon performance of a task, coupled with mild negative consequences for shifting off task.  Punishments given long after the misbehavior was committed are ineffective.


2.  Has difficulty sustaining attention.

Ø  Plan activities that your family can do together that will not be more difficult for your child. For example, play the shortened version of a long board game that requires sustained attention.

Ø  Help your child make flash cards of information to be learned for a test.

Ø  For younger children, try taking pictures of each step of a routine. For example, getting ready for school involves multiple steps and instructions. Take a picture of your child at each activity — getting dressed, eating breakfast, brushing teeth, preparing his/her backpack — and then place these pictures in order so your child has a visual reminder of the daily morning routine.


3.  Appears to not listen when spoken to directly.

Ø  First, say your child’s name to make sure you have his/her attention. Then tell your child exactly what you want him/her to do.

Ø  Try relaying your instructions in a visual format so you won't always have to tell your child what to do.

Ø  Use the same basic sentence structure for each command.  For example, “Justin, you need to turn off the television” or “Justin, you need to put your shoes in your closet.” When you do this consistently, your child will soon realize that anytime he hears his name followed by “you need to,” he must comply.


4.  Does not follow through on instructions and fails to complete tasks.

Ø  Avoid giving additional chores as a punishment for not completing tasks.

Ø  When he or she gives an excuse, set a deadline for completion of the task. Don't let the child walk away "free."

Ø  Prepare a plan or contract with your child and allow the opportunity for the plan to succeed. Let your child know your expectations and make it clear that repeated excuses will not be accepted.

Ø  Assign special tasks to help him/her develop a sense of responsibility.

Ø  Break down large jobs with multiple tasks into smaller, single steps. Creating check lists can be useful, as well as using a reward system.

Ø  One effective system for encouraging your child to comply with your commands involves a jar and a supply of marbles. Each time your child does what you ask, put a marble in the jar. Each time he/she doesn’t, take two marbles out of the jar. At the end of the day, your child earns a small reward based on the number of marbles that remain in the jar, and then starts over again the next day.

Ø  Set up routines to help your child get through daily tasks associated with schoolwork and family life. For example, establish and enforce - calmly but firmly - regular study times.


5.  Has difficulties with organization.

Ø  Help your child organize priorities. Make out a daily or weekly calendar or chart, and list clearly and simply for your child everything that has to be done and when.

Ø  Help your child organize his or her homework and chores.  Help him or her learn where to begin by outlining the specific steps to be taken before beginning a task and recommending materials to be used.

Ø  Show positive reinforcement for any results achieved. Show how disorganization can affect his or her success at school and in other activities.

Ø  Ask your child frequently to evaluate his/her own progress.

Ø  Assign only one task at a time.

Ø  Meet with your child’s teacher and make a concentrated effort to work together.


6.  Avoids or does not enjoy tasks that require sustained mental effort.

Ø  Organize the day for your child so that he or she can work on one thing at a time, clearly and directly.

Ø  Give your child as much positive reinforcement as possible.

Ø  Find your child’s personal interests and use them as a catalyst to create self-motivation.

Ø  Build in breaks from the hard work of paying attention and focusing.  Use a kitchen timer to tell your child when the next break is; provide time to play freely outdoors; plan time with the family for fun activities.

Ø  Teach and practice deep breathing and relaxation techniques with your child to help him/her deal with stressful feelings.


7.  Loses things necessary for tasks.

Ø  Slow down and make sure instructions are clearly heard.

Ø  Show patience and tolerance.

Ø  Set up your home in a way that encourages organization and responsibility.  For example, have a special place by the front door where your child places completed school assignments and school books each night before bed so that these items are not missing in the morning.


8.  Is easily distracted.

Ø  Give this child tasks suitable to his or her attention span; gradually increase the amount of work involved in each assignment.

Ø  Setup a behavioral contract with your child, detailing the behavior required, and offer rewards for appropriate behavior.

Ø  Initiate private discussions in order to clarify appropriate behavior. Your child must be told why this behavior is important for all involved.

Ø  Use a timer when your child is doing chores or working on homework. You might find that he/she likes "competing" against a clock.

Ø  Establish a daily homework routine, which can include a break between school and homework, or even multiple breaks during homework time.

Ø  Help your child set up a distraction-free environment and sit with them if necessary to help them stay focused. Some children find it helpful to have quiet music playing in the background. Experiment until you find the setting that works best.

Ø  Alert the teacher when your child does not have the skills to complete an assignment or if it takes an inordinately long time.


9.  Is forgetful.

Ø  First, make adjustments.  Provide guidance and materials when possible.  Second, follow up.  Sit down with your child to discuss the problem.

Ø  Set down definite rules for what will happen after a given period of time if your child continues to forget to do his or her chores or homework. Make the rules fair and reasonable, and then carry them out.

Ø  Remember to keep conversations clear and short, and you will likely receive a better response. Children not only will listen better, but also will be more likely to remember what is said.

Ø  Provide tangible reminders.  For example, be sure to have a clock in your child’s bedroom as well as throughout the house; hang a chart for chores; provide an assignment pad for recording homework.


10.  Fidgets.

Ø  Some children find it easier to focus when they fidget.  If this is your child, try encouraging doodling or squeezing a stress ball.


11.  Leaves his/her seat when remaining in seat is expected.

Ø  Anticipate your child’s movements and take action before he/she begins moving.  If you think your child is becoming restless and is about ready to move, go to him or her to see if help is needed, then return to your child's work area frequently during study time.

Ø  Remind your child to use the restroom before meals or study time.

Ø  Put your child’s activity to work.  Give him/her routine jobs that allow movement.


12.  Is restless or overly active.

Ø  Acknowledge your child's need to move.  To help your child get rid of excess energy, allow him/her to take a quick break at any setting that requires sitting for extended periods and rejoin the family when he/she is able (e.g. the dinner table, sporting events, religious services).

Ø  Encourage physical activity before school.  Have your child take the dog for an early morning run or ride his/her bike to school. In the case of inclement weather, jumping rope or bouncing a ball provides a great energy release.

Ø  Try getting a rocking chair - the rhythm can be calming. Place it in a quiet spot where your child can sit to read.

Ø  Give your child chores that involve activity (e.g. setting the table).

Ø  If your child is going on a social outing, rehearse what is expected of him.  Have your child repeat the rules and expectations back to you so you're sure that he fully understands them.  Prep your child the day before the actual event, as starting weeks before will only overexcite your child.


13.  Has difficulty engaging in activities quietly.

Ø  Never be loud with your child.  This will only convince your child that he/she is right; in other words, that the louder one is, the more one can dominate.  Instead, model the behavior you want by speaking softly and quietly.

Ø  Encourage your child repeatedly.  Always tell your child when he/she demonstrates mature behavior. This will give your child the attention and recognition he/she requires.


14.  Seems to be ‘driven by a motor’.

Ø  Too much unstructured time can cause acting-out behavior in your child. Sign up your child for some sports and recreation classes. Some children with ADD/ADHD respond well to martial arts or other non-team sports. Such activities impose structure on your child’s time and provide an outlet for a high energy level.


15.  Talks excessively, blurts out answers before questions have been completed, and/or interrupts others.

Ø  Provide supervised peer activities for your child.  You may need to take an active supervisory role to help things go well since a parent's presence can help keep conflict from occurring, or from escalating to the point that it disrupts the relationship.

Ø  Children with ADHD struggle with interpersonal and social situations because of an inability to monitor other's responses. Learn to wait before responding to what appears to be rudeness -- repeat to your child what he/she said, tell your child what you heard (including tone so as to help him/her learn how to monitor their tone, etc. better), and then ask your child what he/she meant to say. Often your child will not realize and may be embarrassed about how he/she came across and will want to correct the situation. An immediate reproof does not help your child learn how his/her bluntness, interruptions, or monologueing affects others and inhibits further attempts at communication.


16.  Is impatient.

Ø  Use daily interactions and errands as an opportunity to teach your child manners and appropriate behavior. It will be difficult, if not impossible, to teach your child to be patient and to take his or her time if he sees you rushing around or impatiently tapping your foot while waiting in line. Always remember that your child is watching you for cues about how to behave -- you are a role model for appropriate behavior.

Ø  Every interaction you have when they are emotionally charged is an opportunity for them to see you as an ally rather than as a judgmental adversary.  Ally with them by starting conversations with comments such as, "Let me hear what you think" or, "You look like you need to talk. Let's find a private place."

Last Updated on Tuesday, 26 August 2014 00:07  

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