Coping with a child having ADHD.

ADHD- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

What is ADHD?

ADHD is the short for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. This is a neurological symptom found in children as well as adults. It is also more common in boys than in girls.

It is the dysfunction of the Central Nervous System, more specific the Reticular Activating System, the centre of consciousness that co-ordinates learning and memory and which supplies the appropriate neural connections necessary for smooth information processing and clear attention. The demand for further connectivity can not be fulfilled because of the lack of these neutral building materials. This then interferes with the processing of information. These children or adults therefore have a problem maintaining concentration and attention.


To explain this in easier terms. The neural (the white lego building blocks) that are in limited production and not enough off, supply cannot keep up with the demand, meaning all the different lego colours for this building blocks for new neural connections within the Central Nervous System. This demand being new learning, memory or managing information that can not keep up. These insufficient connections result in pathways constantly getting overworked and stressed and then complete shutdown where nothing gets processed.

A person with ADHD has difficulty functioning in normal life due to the fact that they can not sit still, pay attention or control their impulsive behaviour. They are easily distracted, have low tolerance for frustration of boredom and they say or do whatever comes to mind. They have difficulty following and organising instructions, forgetfulness and it will appear as if they do not listen. They have a problem giving attention to detail and because of that make careless mistakes. The reason for this is the inability to process incoming information from both the objective, meaning the outer world and the subjective, the inner world.

ADHD children have a problem controlling their attitude, therefore it is important to remember that this attitude is not the result of bad parenting, or you not knowing how to control your child.

 An easy way to remember what ADHD is.

A= The inattention and distraction aspect.

H= The hyperactivity and impulsivity aspect.

If your child has ADHD, you can recognize it if your child does the following:

  • Has trouble sitting down for long or short periods of time, are constantly moving, squirming in seat, fidgeting and hyperactivity.
  • Acts as if something is chasing them, all the time.
  • Talks excessively, without intervals, sometimes not making any sense.
  • Have other learning disabilities.
  • Fail to meet normal intellectual deadlines.
  • Have problems sleeping.
  • Has trouble with activity such as reading.
  • Impulsive behaviour and Inattentiveness. Cannot play quietly when required in a group, finds it difficult waiting and taking turns and interrupts and intrudes upon others.
  • Anger rage, unexplained rage towards others for no apparent reason.
  • Moodiness and tremendous frustration.

To correctly diagnose ADHD and not jump to conclusions to soon, the following conditions should be met:

  • Some of the abovementioned symptoms must appear by the age of 7 years.
  • At least 6 of these symptoms must be present and must persist for at least 6 months.
  • Symptoms must take place in at least 2 different environments, for example the school and at home.
  • The symptoms must cause impairment of social end academic functioning.

It is always important to remember that such a child can be endangering themselves and others because of their impulsive behaviour and the disregard they have for their own safety.

If you believe that your child might have ADHD, how can you be sure?

There is no test for example a blood test that can diagnose ADHD, instead your child would have to go for a comprehensive evaluation. This evaluation should include a clinical assessment of your child’s social, emotional and academic functioning. You can ask your local practitioner and psychologist to be involved in this assessment.

Bear in mind that all other medically-based conditions for example allergies and epilepsy need to be excluded before an ADHD diagnosis should be made.

Children with ADHD are still special!

This statement I truly believe, and you should too. Even if your child has ADHD it is very important to know that except for your child’s condition, your child still has positive unique characteristics.

Your child can be:

v      Interesting to others, to talk to and to be with.

v      Spontaneous, creative and keen to try new things.

v      Intelligent, imaginative, inquisitive and open minded to new experiences.

v      Loving and caring.

Remember that a child with ADHD is often surprised by their own behaviour and do not intentionally act out inappropriately. These children are also frightened and confused by their inability to control their behaviour.

Medication for ADHD?

I do not have a child with ADHD, but my niece’s son has ADHD. He visits us frequently.

I therefore know the positive and negative affects of ADHD medication. I am not a doctor to judge or to tell you what to do or not. I can just comment on my personal experience.

Listening to conversations and looking at documentaries on TV, there has been and always will be a dispute on whether ADHD medication is the correct root for a child with ADHD.

There is a saying amongst parents with ADHD children. “The medication is given not to only help the child, but to make it easier for the teacher or parent to cope with a child with ADHD”.

There is no denying the fact that a child with ADHD are very exhausting individuals.

Let’s look at ADHD medication.

For most children and adults with ADHD, medication plays a very important part in treatment. The using of this medication will improve the symptoms of ADHD positively, but it will not control the behaviour.

Stats show that 70-80 percent of children with ADHD respond positively to medication.

Responding positive means that their behaviour and impulsivity improves positively and their attention span increases. Even a simple thing like handwriting improves, meaning the fine-motor control and visual-motor-co-ordination improves.

Medications like:

Stimulants – Methylphenidate

Non-stimulants- Atomoxetine and Tricyclics


Stimulants – Methylphenidate:

Also known as MPH acts on the dopamine levels in the executive function involved in the frontal areas of the brain. There is an inhibition in the breakdown of the neurotransmitter, therefore increasing the levels of dopamine, causing the improvement in the core symptoms of the child with ADHD.

This medication works immediately and the effects disappear when the serum levels drop.

Types of methyphenidate are Ritalin and Concerta. The specific dosage is determined for each child. It normally starts with a low dosage and gradually increases until the clinical benefits are achieved.

Is this medication safe?

Any treatment is better than no treatment at all, but you as a parent or individual using this type of medication should be fully aware of the evidence regarding the efficiency of this medication, the side-effects and any alternative treatments available. The implications if this disorder not being treated, should also be considered.

As the case with any other medication taken for illness, some children might experience no problems, others have mild effects and there will be those who can not tolerate the medication with the effects at all.

The side-effects:

  • The most common effect will be nervousness and sleeplessness depending on the dosage taken.
  • Complaints of headache, dizziness, drowsiness, nausea.
  • A dry mouth or thirst can also occur.
  • Suffering from abdominal pain.
  • A not so nice side-effect is mood swings.
  • Special caution must be taken with children already suffering from pre-existing depression. hypertension, psychosis, tics and seizures.
  • One common concern is the abuse potential of this medication especially Ritalin. An untreated child having ADHD are at a much higher risk of drug abuse than those treated with this medication.

What to eat and not!

Having and keeping to a well balanced diet and eating habits, will play a very important role in normalising a child’s life suffering from ADHD.

v      Limit the intake of sugar and sweets. This is the main food trigger of hyperactivity.

v      Stick to fresh meat, chicken and fish, fresh fruits especially pawpaw and pears, vegetables and unrefined carbs like wholewheat bread, brown rice, lentils, peas, milk and other dairy products.

v      Limit fat intake.

v      Avoid food additives, no artificial colourants, preservatives and flavourants. Studies show that this colourants and preservatives like sodium benzoate increase the hyperactivity in children, even children without ADHD.

v      Try a Low-GI diet. Foods with a low glycaemic index with keep the blood sugar and insulin levels under control and constant.

v      Ensure correct eating habits. Children with ADHD develop a craving for certain foods. They also have a great need for liquids and will drink a lot of water every day. Try to accommodate your child, but make sure that he/she still gets in all the necessary nutrients.

v      Supplements are very important. A child with ADHD needs additional nutrients (magnesium, calcium, zinc, potassium, selenium, B vitamins, vitamin E and C, beta-carotene as well as omega 3 and 6). These added nutrients help them through the stress their body and nervous system are exposed to.

An ADHD child and the school environment.

For this child, school and coping in the class environment, can be a very difficult place to succeed. Because of the fact that this child can not pay attention and sit still in class, it is no wonder that this child feels discouraged and frustrated in school.

A child with ADHD encounters a lot of difficulty staying up to date with the normal class work and slips further and further behind. If care is not taken it will be impossible for this child to catch up. This will result in poor test results and homework not being up to standard. If this child does not keep up in primary school there is no doubt that he/she will not be able to cope in high school.

Except for the educational problems, there will also be social problems which a child with ADHD will not be able to cope with. The fact that this child interrupts the class room activities, the other fellow classmates will get upset and impatient. Keeping your ADHD child in the incorrect school is not only unfair to him/her, but also to the other children trying to get through a normal school day. There is also not enough time in a teachers schedule to take time in finding out why your child is feeling frustrated and behaving in a specific or inappropriate way to the normal.

Learning how to deal with a child that has ADHD will be very challenging for a teacher. Keeping control of the normal classroom activities, including a child with ADHD can be a very difficult task. Teachers, especially in a normal school environment, should have a good knowledge about the ADHD condition. It is always vital for a teacher to have an open and frequent relationship with the parents of children with ADHD. Problems and most importantly achievements should be discussed on a regular basis.

The ADHD child will develop a low self esteem, and in much older children lead to substance abuse or reckless behaviour. The child with ADHD will be labelled as a “difficult” child and this label may stay with them throughout their school years.

About half of children with ADHD can achieve success in a regular classroom. This is possible when the teacher understands the needs of these children and makes the necessary adjustments within the classroom environment.

I do not know whether it will be possible in some school environments for a parent to interfere in the school principles and routines, but here are a few suggestions for a teacher having a child with ADHD in the classroom.

  • Seat the child in front of the classroom, in a quiet area with few distractions.
  • Keep the work assignments brief with not to much information all at once.
  • Give immediate feedback to this child, whether it being a reward for correct behaviour or punishment for incorrect behaviour.
  • Allow this child to participate often, even if it takes a little bit longer. Allow this child a little extra time to answer a question or complete a test.
  • Schedule subjects that will need a lot of concentration in the mornings and other school activities that requires less attention in the afternoons. This will not only positively affect the child with ADHD, but also the other children in the classroom.
  • Mix the classroom lectures with periods of sport or physical activities for example going to the bathroom.

If your child has ADHD, how do you get involved in their school environment and how to make it easier for them?

       It is impossible for a child to cope in a school class with 30 children, asking the same attention and education all at the same time. Ensure therefore that your child is placed in a school system capable of handling ADHD children. A school with smaller class sizes, individual attention and extra time on tests. A school that understands your child’s needs.

       Educate your child about his/her condition. Make sure that your child knows that it is okay to be ADHD and that this is not an incurable decease that they will infect on others. Encourage them to socialize with other children and to take pride in the things that they do well, ever if it is not the same standard as another child.

       It is always easier to talk to others that have the same concerns with ADHD. Join a support group with your child. Your child will then also realize that there are a lot of others that have the same condition.

       Teach your child to get organized with a diary, notepad or agenda planning concerning homework and sport activities.

       Exercise is very important. Give your child every opportunity possible to exercise.

       Visit your child’s school frequently. Show them that you are interested in your child’s education and well being and that you are willing to help and assist when needed.

Tips for parents!

  • Always check, whether it is homework or a task given at home. Make sure that the task is done by the child.
  • Do not help them!, you can advise, but do not do it for them, even if it takes up a lot of time.
  • Time management: Teach the child to make a list of things to do and what to do when tasks are done. Packing away or taking with of toys and books. Teach them to do this at a specific time. This will make them feel in control and not disorganized.
  • Eating at regular times.
  • Give them an alarm clock, put up a calendar against the door. Teach them how to plan and remember for example sport venues or music lessons.
  • To make your child feel secure, make sure of a specific routine at home.