Interesting research  hit the news this morning  dealing with ADHD and kids. I know that’s a big parenting concern for many of you. Here are the findings:

The National Institute of Mental Health reported the most detailed study ever of the brains of ADHD. Brain images clearly show that crucial parts of the brains of children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder develop more slowly than other kids’ brains. The brain that puts the breaks on their inappropriate actions, focus attention, and remember things from moment to moment is just slower to mature. The development lag can be as much as three years. 

That’s critical information for parenting. It means we need to really tailor our strategies so that our children can process.

Here are five take aways I used as a special education teacher that might help if you have a child with a short attention span

• Use the Rewind Method.  Say what you want your child to do. Then stop. Ask your child to rewind (or repeat) what you just said.

• Limit requests. Start by asking your child to do just one thing (“Pick up your toys”). When he can successfully comply with one request then add two.–then three.HINT: If you can’t say your request in under 10 seconds you’re saying too much to an ADHD request. Sometimes 5 seconds is to long. Tailor everything to your child.

• Reduce distractions. I taught attention disorder kids for years and quickly recognized that sounds and sights are distracting. It seemed to help if I put my students in their own little “cubbies.”. I just put plain bulletin boards on three sides of their desks so they had private study carrels.

• Chunk the tasks. Kids with shorter attention spans get overwhelmed with ALL the assignment and often give up. So fold the assignment into thirds or fourths so your child sees only one part at a time. Then tell him “Start with this.”. Add each part after the first is successfully completed.

• Use timers (Sanddials. Stop watches. Minute hands). any child with a short attention span is going to have trouble sticking to any task for a long while. You’re better off to ask your child to work for the average length for his attention span plus one minute. (So if he can only concentrate for five minutes aim for six). Gradually add time as your child’s attention increases. The sanddial (or whatever device) works like a charm. “Work until the sand runs out. Then take a break for two miniutes then work again until the sand runs out.”. It increases attention and actually helps mastery.

REALITY CHECK: The University of Buffalo studied 600 children for three years and found that the kids not growing as much as other kids in terms of height and weight if they were on Ritalin. But even more significant was that Ritalin was only effective in the short term for kids with behavior issues. The top three out of five drugs prescribed for children under 18 are for ADHD (the other two are for asthma). We spend almost $13000 million a year on medication for ADHD.

Just food for thought. I know this is a tough issue for those of you with a child diagnosed with ADHD.

Best to you and your family!

Michele Borba