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Essential Facts about ADD Children

written by: Genevieve Van Wyden • edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick • updated: 3/23/2011

ADD children need lots of support, intervention, and attention. They also need lots of love, reassurance and positive feedback, which you and your spouse or partner should be able to provide.

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    Overview

    Children with ADD have a condition that affects several different areas of their lives. Not all children have identical symptoms. In sharp contrast to the behavior, level of physical activity and “refusal” to listen, the child wants to cooperate and gain your praise. The constellation of ADD symptoms get in the way.

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    The Child Wants to Behave

    All ADD children have one thing in common -- they want to behave, cooperate, and sit quietly during math and spelling classes. They want to keep track of what is happening, and they want to earn your praise and a smile, states the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

    Instead, they find themselves in situation after situation, where the teacher snaps at them for forgetting their homework “again,” or where their parents upbraid them for doing something dangerous. If these children could just find some “magic switch” inside themselves and turn off what gets in the way, they could easily achieve what they want to do. [1]

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    These Children Have Good Qualities

    Children with ADD have good qualities. When they are able to control the inattentiveness, impulsivity and distractibility, they do well at home and in school. They hear you instructing them to feed the dog; make their bed; finish and put their homework away.

    In school, when they are able to maintain their attention on their teachers and assignments, they learn quickly, keep up with assignments and hand them in.

    It is only when the ADD is not well controlled with medication or therapy that the symptoms mask the child’s good qualities.

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    Behaviors are More Extreme

    All children are distractible, impulsive, inattentive and hyperactive from time to time. It comes with the territory of being a child, learning what is expected and learning to control behaviors and impulses.

    Children diagnosed with ADD display these behaviors to a higher extreme; in addition, they are displayed more frequently. As soon as parents learn and understand this, they are better equipped to help their children and interact with them in an emotionally healthy way.[1]

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    The Child May Have Appetite Problems

    Children with ADD may not have the best appetites. Because of activity levels, they may find it hard to sit still during mealtimes, getting up frequently to run around and expel some of the excess energy.

    In addition, these children might be taking a medication to address their symptoms; these medications suppress appetite. For this reason, parents and caregivers must ensure the child has access to regular meals and plenty of healthy, delicious snacks, advises the University of Michigan Health Systems.[2]

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    Children with ADD Need More Feedback than Other Children

    ADD children need much more feedback than children who don’t have ADD. Because the child with ADD lives “in the moment,” it is important that feedback is constructive and just as “in the moment” as the child is. Rather than providing this feedback in one long session, it should take place as events happen during the day.

    Parents should catch their child with ADD in good behavior and praise them. The description of the good behavior should be behaviorally specific -- “Betsy, I like how you fed the cat without my asking you! Thank you!” Children with ADD need behaviorally specific descriptors of what you want them to do: “Shawn, put the milk on the bottom shelf in the refrigerator,” rather than, “Shawn put the milk away.” [2]

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    References

    [1] Children Who Can’t Pay Attention/Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. May 2008, retrieved at http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/children_who_cant_pay_attention/attention_deficit_hyperactivity_disorder

    [2] Kyla Boyse, R.N. ADHD: What Parents Need to Know. University of Michigan Health Systems. July 2009, retrieved athttp://www.med.umich.edu/yourchild/topics/adhd.htm