The ADHD Paradigm Shift

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“Thank you for not throwing a rock at my car again,” said the police officer to my 5-year-old son. My jaw dropped as I was stunned at what I just heard. Why is my son throwing rocks at cars, especially a police car? His answer, “I was bored.” As I found out later, the belief behind the behavior was I’ll hurt others because I feel hurt. My 5-year-old and his older brother who is bigger than him had been fighting a lot the week before. OK, I need not make excuses. I was furious and in disbelief. After a stop at the police station with a cute home-made apology note from my son, I had hoped for no more destructive, impulsive behaviors.

ADHD Rating Scales

My son is not diagnosed with ADHD. Although, I am positive that if I filled out a rating scale with the thought he had ADHD, such as the Connors, my subjective opinion would sway the answers toward ADHD and, voila, he would have a diagnosis. It amazes me that one rating scale completed by a parent and an observation of a doctor can determine a diagnosis. ADHD should be diagnosed when symptoms are present in two settings, this should not include one doctor’s visit. Rather, a childcare center or another caretaker who actually sees your child on a regular basis should also provide input. A diagnosis can be helpful on many levels, don’t get me wrong, especially for treatment, therapy, accommodations, modifications, and medication if necessary. But let’s take a closer look at the symptoms.

Symptoms

According to the DSM-V, some of the symptoms of ADHD include:

Symptoms of Inattention

  1. Often fails to give close attention to detail or makes mistakes.
    • (You might even find several in this article, oops)
  2. Often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or activities.
    • (Really, is any adult out there sad that they don’t have to take physics?)
  3. Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
  4. Often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities.
    • (This is most adults I know)
  5. Often loses things necessary for tasks.
    • ( I lose my phone at least 5 times a day)
  6. Is often forgetful in daily activities.
    • ( Shoot, I forgot to put on deodorant again)

Symptoms of Hyperactivity and Impulsivity

  1. Often fidgets hands and feet or squirms in seat.
    • (Every night while reading stories)
  2. Often runs and climbs in situations where it is inappropriate.
    • (Climbs handrails and poles at the library. Seriously, there should be an indoor play area there)
  3. Often leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected
    • (at every meal)
  4. Often unable to play or engage in leisure activities quietly.
    • (anything involved after 7 PM)
  5. Often has difficulty waiting their turn.
    • (Fighting with siblings for toothbrush base every morning!)
  6. Often interrupts or intrudes on others
    • (Does your child fart in others faces? Ok maybe that’s just mine.)

These are just some of the symptoms. Does this sound like other 4 or 5-year-olds you might know? Could six of the above symptoms apply to one of your children? I can think of quite a few.

What Causes ADHD?

“The difficulty in determining objectively who actually has ADHD may be due in large part to the fact that scientists still don’t know what causes it. This may seem strange for a disorder that has had literally thousands of studies seeming to support it”, says Thomas Armstrong, The Myth of the ADHD Child.

Wonderful Attributes

Martha Denckla, a research scientist at Kennedy Krieger Institute, notes that “while ADHD identified kids may not excel in academic learning, these kids are good at paying attention to things they’re not supposed to be paying attention to, and often, it is precisely this manner that leads to discovering new things. These are our entrepreneurs. Our inventors!”

Maybe your child started doing backflips into the pool before he could swim, climbed rock climbing walls without thinking or looking down with hesitation, or swung a bat so hard without worrying about missing it. That is my son. There are so many beautiful traits that come along with a child that acts impulsively and takes risks.

According to Ross Greene, “The behavior is not the problem, the problem is the problem.” So, if you want the behavior to change, find out the lagging skills. What are some ways to support your child who may act impulsively and does not appear to listen?

Simple Ways to Support

  1. Fidget Toys.
    1. Bouncy bands for chairs, yoga balls to sit on, hokki stools, and pedal desks.
    2. According to research by UC Davis behavioral science professor Julie Schweitzer’s, children with ADHD perform better on tasks when they are fidgeting on cognitive tasks.
  2. Channel Creative Energies.
    1. Channel creative energies with arts, such as modeling clay, finger paints, blocks, drawing paper, cardboard boxes, dance, gymnastics, etc.
  3. Make Time for Nature.
    1. Even twenty minutes spent in a park can increase the attention span of kids diagnosed with ADHD, according to Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder.
  4. Hold Family Meetings.
    1. This is life changing. “These meetings are the backbone of a democratic family. It’s the venue where the whole family comes together to decide on matters that affect family life,” according to author Alyson Schafer, from “Honey, I Wrecked the Kids.” It is social equality, incorporates team building, and shows children how much they count.
  5. Give your child choices.
    1. “Which would you like? You decide.” Moving responsibility to our children is crucial to their development and also shows that we believe they are capable. The more choices we give, the more we empower our children.
  6. Mindfulness and Meditation.
    1. Children with ADHD have difficulty with executive function. Mindfulness assists in developing cognitive skills related to executive function. In one UCLA study, children who lagged behind their peers in executive function at the start of a mindfulness program experienced larger gains than their classmates.

Focus on Solutions

Lastly, embrace your child for who he or she is! Kids do well when they feel good about themselves and are encouraged. As Jane Nelson, founder of Positive Discipline asks, “Are you focusing on blame? Or are you focusing on solutions?” Don’t blame your child for his or her actions or the other adults who have contributed to the behavior. Ask your child, “What can you do the next time you and your brother are fighting?”  (Side note: Because throwing rocks at police cars is not an option.) 

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Morgan Metcalf has lived in Ohio her entire life. She grew up near Cleveland where she met her husband who serenaded her with 1980s Power Ballads. Fortunately, her husband convinced her to move to Columbus 12 years ago. She is often found chasing after her two rambunctious boys and determined little girl at playgrounds, at home, the grocery store… you get the idea. Because she loves chasing, in her free time you can often find Morgan running or working out to keep up with her active children and then falling asleep reading parenting books. She is humbled every day by the lessons her three children teach her. Morgan is passionate about encouraging and empowering parents and teachers in Positive Discipline. It has changed her relationships with her children in a positive direction. She is a licensed school psychologist and a certified Positive Discipline Educator with The Power of Positive Solutions. She facilitates trainings and classes for parents, teachers, and administrators.