WHAT IS ADHD?
Simply put, Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, ADHD, is associated with a severe lack of focus in children. It is a type of neurodevelopmental disorder affecting children and adults. It’s inclusive of 3 broad symptoms -
Inattentiveness - not being able to focus on a single task, poor concentration
Hyperactivity - always indulging in some movements, not being able to keep still, they often fidget or squirm around
Impulsivity - spontaneous actions done without any thinking
HELPING CHILDREN WITH ADHD
ADHD cannot be prevented or completely cured. But tt can be managed and treated with the aid of a Multi-modal approach comprising of - an educational plan, parental & familial support, therapies & therapists and psychologist, a combination of these can help a child cope better with ADHD. Behaviour therapy is widely used for strengthening desired behaviours and eliminating undesired behaviour from affected children.
Medication involves the intake of drugs that will help the child concentrate, sit still, and be calm. However, this is valid only for short term changes and doesn’t help in the long run. Therefore, this is not a viable option because medicines have proven side effects like insomnia, irritability, and loss of appetite, which adversely affect the Child’s neural development.
ADHD TREATMENT STARTS AT HOME
A parent is a first & foremost individual who could possibly have a formidable influence on the child’s treatment. Playing the role of a primary caregiver, they must ensure quality sleep, exercise, wholesome nutrition and quality interactions with the child. So far, parenting therapy, as corroborated by research, has been the most impactful and fruitful treatment for such children. Some of the measures that can be adopted by parents for their children include -
Encourage exercising by Inculcating it into the daily routine of the child. It reaps multiple benefits such as maintaining good physical health, boosting blood circulation throughout the body, instilling vitality. This, in turn, benefits our brain and its functioning. Focusing energy on performing specific activities prevents the mind from wandering to other places. Gymnastics, Badminton, tennis, dance & skateboarding require us to engage our attention at particular body parts, which helps subside hyperactivity to some degree. Team sports is also a choice to look out for. However, the exercise by itself is not a full-fledged solution. It has to be incorporated with other ministrations.
According to research, Spending time outdoors in the midst of nature has soothing effects on the child’s psyche. Plan to spend 30 min or 40 min every day with nature.
Since many children diagnosed with ADHD have trouble sleeping and relaxing, good sound sleep ameliorates brain health. Children using stimulants or drugs might face additional and sometimes serious issues with sleep. In such situations, it is advisable to reduce the medication intake or stop taking it altogether after discussing it with your concerned doctor. Start by implanting these simple habits into every day of your child -
Regular sleep timing
Don’t allow using any electronics like TV, mobiles or gaming consoles
Reducing screen time
Rewarding if they sleep on time
Mental health is not solely about what you feed your mind but also what goes to your stomach. Studies mention the following essential nutrients & vitamins that must be added to your child’s diet -
Consuming adequate zinc, magnesium, and iron levels- ADHD affected children crucially lack these nutrients. Increasing its intake contributes to controlling certain ADHD symptoms. One research observed that having ample iron supplements for affected children improved conditions equal the capacity of stimulant medication.
Little protein and complex carbohydrates - induces alertness in the child while reducing hyperactivity. It’ll allow your child to feel whole and relaxed.
Omega 3 fatty acid - apart from its usual benefits, studies prove that it reduces impulsivity and enhances concentration in children (& adults) with ADHD. Omega 3 is naturally found primarily in sea fishes like salmon, mackerels, tuna, pamphlets etc. it can also be consumed in easily available fish oil supplements.
Meals routine - space out your child’s meal with 3-hour breaks in between, and strictly avoid snacking on processed oily packaged food products. They unnecessarily spike the glucose level in the blood, inducing irritability.
BOOSTING ATTENTION SPAN
As guardians, it can be extremely stressful to see their children struggling with tasks other children can do quite effortlessly. But it only implies that your child requires a little more attention from you, and your help surely makes a huge difference to their condition. Below are some of the ways to build on their concentration skills and widen their attention span-
1. Relaxation & positive imagery
Deep Breathing techniques Yoga is a boon for children; it helps calm the body and mind while relaxing the tensed muscles. Imagining positive scenarios positively affects our mental condition, for e.g.; picturing that you are reading with full attention without any distractions actually makes the brain record it as real, thus changing their behaviour when they engage in such activities.
2. Mind-Body Integration
A profound technique leads to the assimilation of the psyche with the tangible. The person lays down on a chair, with quiet surroundings, eyes closed, and stays like this for some time without moving. The parent can check for how long the child remains in this position. The body synchronises in line with the mind during the process, achieving composure and relaxation. Continuous practise slowly instils calmness, reducing hyperactivity and constant movements of the child.
3. Crosswords, puzzles and picture puzzles
It sounds simple, but it’s a very effective and fun activity to engage in with your child. Solving puzzles finding the correct solution to the riddle assist in developing sequential ability, developing attention and concentration.
There are games like Perplexus (available on Amazon), which involves manoeuvring a ball inside a transparent glass shield. It is great for focusing attention. Also, check out cognitive exercises provided by lumosity.com
4. Memory and Maze games
Challenging mazes, appropriate to your child’s age, can be easily found online on various websites. Begin with a simple one moving progressively towards difficult ones. Mazes are rewarding in their advantages, like visual-motor coordination, sequencing, memory, focusing, and processing speed. And never forget to reward, praise and cuddle your child after every exercise. Love is a medicine to the soul.
Memory games stimulate neural connections across your brain, helping you to understand and solve the problem. Constantly remembering new information, brain circuits are exercised and re-arranged every now & then, strengthening neural connectivity.
5. Story narration & dancing games
A good story induces great imagination. You simply have to read interesting stories and then follow up with trivia quizzes on the story. Or you can read the beginning of the story and ask your child what could happen next, and engage them with the story’s flow. It helps memorisation, logic and feeding your child’s imaginations.
Dancing games helps in implanting a sense of sequence in the child. Practising aerobics, Zumba, and others help in physical fitness and processing speed, movements and improving attention.
ELIMINATE THE THINGS THAT DISTRACT YOUR CHILD
Distractions come easy for ADHD children, it’s vital to manage & regulate them before they take a toll on the affected person. Some techniques employed for improving focus can be going outside, playing and exercising, active learning and self-monitoring.
For related academic learning, encourage active learning in your child, don’t let the assignments or homework intimidate your child, make it fun and easy going by.
Using colourful flashcards for memorising facts & spellings
Underlining & highlighting text to make it seem less monotonous
Employing hands-on-experience learning, using Abacus for maths, and simple science models can go a long way to uplift the child from the condition.
You can also push your child into writing & reflecting on their thoughts. Being open and accepting to all they write and giving them comfort while writing down their thoughts makes them open better and more effective. Provides you with an insight into their thinking, problems, confusions and anxieties. Engage in a fruitful conversation discussing their thoughts.
'Don’t lose hope'. If the appropriate techniques are used in the right ways and at the correct time, it will fetch wonderful results. The crucial step in the diagnosis of ADHD, early diagnosis, help in combating the issue better and more effectively. Therefore, it is advised that if your child shows symptoms or behaviours that are quite away from normal, then a visit to a psychologist will surely do good. Don’t get overwhelmed or lash out. It only aggravates the situation. Rather, it also understands the child’s suffering. Don’t be negative; you’re the parent - ultimate caregiver of the child. If you give out negativity, the child is sure to absorb it, worsening their condition.