Dr. Doug Berger is actively treating children and adults with ADD/ADHD and has written about this kind of treatment before. Here we ask Dr. Berger to elaborate on some questions.
1. What should parents of children with ADD/ADHD know about the way they learn?
Parents should first be educated on whether their child is predominantly inattentive, predominantly hyperactive, or combined type. It is not necessary to be hyper to have ADD, and it is not necessary to be inattentive to have ADHD.
The inattentive children generally need longer times to study and take tests. They do not have an intelligence problem, they only need to be given enough time to focus on the study and test materials.
Hyperactive children should be given frequent breaks in their study or test times because they do not have the patience to sit still for long periods of time.
For either type, including the combined type, it is probably better to have them study in shorter modules where they can focus on targeted material they need to learn and reply on, and where they do not get completely discouraged with study altogether and drop-out which is not an infrequent consequence of serious inattention and/or hyperactivity.
2. What can parents do to promote learning in a fun way?
Topics should have interesting dialog to them. For example, math can be numbers and dry, or it can be used as an exciting adventure to explain how rockets travel thru air and space, and how time is warped near massive objects. Age-appropriate study material can be tailored to a student’s needs. Perhaps most importantly, children with ADD/ADHD need to be given praise that they will succeed even if they need to go at a slower pace than their peers.
3. What should parents tell teachers or the school?
If a student is obviously impaired, then teachers may need to know the child has specific learning needs and for teachers to try to flexibly teach them using some of the principals I described above.
Regarding giving a teacher or school a diagnostic name that a mental health worker labeled their child as is another story because that diagnostic name, true or not, may follow that child’s educational record up through college. Diagnoses in psychiatry are unproven entities, and at the end of the day only a provisional way to steer the directionality of what the problem may be and what to do about it.
Questionnaires, symptom checklists, and psychological testing, only provide data to help solidify the provisional diagnosis which is usually determined in a psychiatric interview that focuses on symptoms and history. “Tests” in mental health do not have the same reliability as a blood test or chest x-ray etc., that can basically prove the existence of a medical illness (i.e., diabetes, heart attack, stroke, etc.) in many instances, so that giving labels to schools etc. may not be necessary to promote a child’s special educational needs.
4. What about extracurricular activities?
Extracurricular activities are generally a good thing for everyone including ADD/ADHD children. These activities should probably be physical activities rather than any kind of book or computer activities that can just be another kind of activity that stresses the child’s trouble focusing and/or ability to sit quietly.
5. If the child gets frustrated, what are some tips parents can deploy?
There are usually common patterns of what frustrates these children. Inattentive children often “zone-into” activities they like but don’t to activities they do not like, i.e., the internet, video games etc. If a parent tries to move them away from this activity the child may get very frustrated. Better to try to distract them with a reward like a sweet treat or other activity they really like and move from there.
Hyperactive children are frequently impatient and easily upset with small things. These children need a mixture of agreement and understanding, distraction to other less aggressive high-action activities like sports, and loving soothing. Depending on the child’s age and symptom severity psychopharmacology-integrated behavioral therapy may be indicated and effective.
Feel free to read more about Dr. Doug Berger‘s comments on this topic here: http://www.megurocounseling.com/TF/2013/Jan_2013.pdf