Parenting

A Pushy Kid

LS in Arizona says:

When my 8-year-old ADHD son gets angry with classmates in an unstructured environment (playground), he will immediately push someone. What steps can I suggest as an alternative? (I have offered just walking away or putting his hands in his pockets and taking a deep breath.)

Michele Novotni answers:

Unstructured situations can be a challenge for many with AD/HD. Your suggestions for alternative behaviors sound great. In addition you may want to help him learn to internalize better control and be better able to go on “automatic pilot” when a difficult situation pops up in such an unstructured setting.

It may be helpful to write down what it is that he gets angry about each time on a chart to see if you can restructure or resolve any of the issues.

You may also want to practice in advance through role-play or visualization so that appropriate responses can become more automatic. When you do something repeatedly in practice it is more likely to occur when the situation pops up. Perhaps you could also use cue cards with him before playing to serve as a prompt to help him remember to control his anger.

He may also find an appropriate anger venting strategy helpful when he comes home such as punching a punching bag or pillow or hitting tennis balls.

Another strategy would be to help structure those unstructured situations as much as possible or at least minimize the amount of time he spends in those situations for now.

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Playmates and Friends

DA in Alabama says:

I have a son with ADHD who is 9 years old. He prefers to play with girls instead of boys. He seems to fight with boys and act as a caretaker for girls. Is this another symptom of his condition?

Michele Novotni answers:

AD/HD does not in itself cause children to be drawn to interact with the opposite sex. However, it could be that your son has found more acceptance and nurturing with girls than he finds with boys. There are often gender differences in the way children react to differences with boys often turning to aggression and girls more often being more nurturing. This is not true in all cases. Perhaps he has just found people he likes who like him AND they happen to be girls. For many with AD/HD finding anyone who likes them is a wonderful gift!

This article is published by permission from ADDitude Magazine ©2004. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited. Subscribe to ADDitude online or via toll-free phone 888-762-8475.

Son Acts Withdrawn

CP in Alabama says:

My 10 year-old son is very withdrawn and acts depressed in social situations. When an adult speaks to him or asks his name he just mumbles and won’t look them in the face. His Dad and I have told him how this embarrasses us and have practiced social skills with him. He seems so sad at times and we want to help him. Any suggestions?

Michele Novotni answers:

Many people with AD/HD also struggle with depression. AD/HD wears people out and can sometimes take on toll on one’s self esteem. This combination often can lead to depression, which can make many reluctant to engage in social interactions.

I recommend having your son evaluated by a psychologist or psychiatrist for depression. It will be important to understand the reasons for his sadness and withdrawn behavior before effective social strategies can be developed to help him. Given your description of his behavior it does not appear to be a skill deficit problem.

As you anticipated, it is best to avoid putting pressure on him by emphasizing how his behavior embarrasses you. It is important to realize that this is not a personal reflection on you or your competence as a parent. It sounds like he needs love and acceptance as you all work through whatever emotional issues he may be feeling. I wish you well.

This article is published by permission from ADDitude Magazine ©2004. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited. Subscribe to ADDitude online or via toll-free phone 888-762-8475.

Conversational Skills in Children

A parent asks:

Is it normal for children with ADD to prefer a small group of friends because it is too difficult to interact in a large group because of the chaos and quick pace of activity?

Michele Novotni answers:

At times it can be very overwhelming for both children and adults with ADD to participate in a group situation. The number of distractions increases as the number of people increase. Many people with ADD have difficulty filtering out distractions even in a one-to-one setting. Also, transitions in conversation can move at a fast pace in group settings and many with ADD have difficulty keeping track of conversations. Another difficulty can be the need to wait longer for a turn to speak. Some suggestions for group situations:

  • Work on moving the conversation along by asking questions related to what someone was saying.
  • Rather than thinking about what you want to say in a large group, learn to just listen, relax and enjoy all the energy and chaos of a group.
  • Practice conversation skills in a very small group first (2-3 people) and gradually expand the size of the group.
  • If you do like to talk in a large group setting, be careful not to dominate the conversation.
This article is published by permission from ADDitude Magazine ©2004. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited. Subscribe to ADDitude online or via toll-free phone 888-762-8475.

On The Move

A mother asks:

We will be moving to the states after two years of living abroad. My son, since age four, has been in a very small school setting. He will be 10 this summer and entering the fourth grade. How do I prepare him for the public school setting in his new school? How do I explain the resource class to him? How can I help him react positively to other kids in case some were to ridicule him? We have the option of a small private school, but I think it is time to move him into the real world to prepare him for middle school in two years (Does this make sense?)

Michele Novotni answers:

Transitions are difficult for people with ADD. I’m wondering if both the move to the States and a move to a large public school setting is the best timing.

I suggest that you talk with your child’s current teachers and seek their recommendation for the best placement and timing since they would know your child’s academic and social readiness best. Were they looking to move him into a regular class if you were not moving? If so why? If not, why not?

Regarding teasing, kids can be terribly cruel — especially to those who may be a little different. It is always helpful to work with your child in establishing five responses to someone who is teasing them in advance. Together you can role-play or practice responding to ridicule.

You can even make your practice sessions more fun by coming up with some outrageous responses so that it won’t seem so much like work. Perhaps you can even identify five responses to NEVER make when someone is teasing you. He could write down his favorite responses on an index card and review them each day. This way, an appropriate response should easily be at hand when/if needed.

This article is published by permission from ADDitude Magazine ©2004. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited. Subscribe to ADDitude online or via toll-free phone 888-762-8475.

What is Normal Adolescent Behavior?

A mother wonders:

My 14-year-old ADD son has recently become more agitate, argumentative and less tolerant – especially with me, his mother. Could this be part of normal adolescence or could he possible need adjustments or changes in his medication?

Michele Novotni answers:

One easy way to tell if your son’s behavior is medication related is to look at whether his behavior is better on or off medication. It is also possible that due to hormonal changes, his present medication is not sufficient. If the behaviors do not seem to be medication related, counseling may provide the help you are seeking.

This article is published by permission from ADDitude Magazine ©2004. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited. Subscribe to ADDitude online or via toll-free phone 888-762-8475.

My Son Thinks He’s Gay

A mother asks:

My 16-year-old son is severely lacking social skills. He has no friends, makes inappropriate, embarrassing comments and has no athletic interests. He has been chatting online to a teenager in the UK. (I hope he’s a teenager, that is.) The problem is that now my son thinks that he is gay like the UK teen. Should I let him continue this interchange or cut it off?

Michele Novotni answers:

Rather than emphasizing whether or not to try to cut off his interchange, an important, longer term question would be, “How can I help him improve his social skills.” Social competence is one of the primary determinants of adult success.

Social competence is one of the primary determinants of adult success.

Many people with poor social skills find the Internet a great source of social interaction because it provides access to a wide range of people and you have the ability to take your time to formulate responses. Some people also find comfort in the acceptance they find on the net.

I recommend that you try to identify the social skills that he is lacking and work with him on gaining the needed skills or obtain the help of a psychologist or coach to help him improve his social skills. He may also benefit from the help of a psychologist in sorting out his social difficulties and his questions regarding his sexual orientation.

By improving his social skills, he would be able to open a wider range of options for friends and he may not see homosexuality as his only form of social connection. This strategy would hopefully provide a long-term solution to the problem.

Oppositional Behavior in Young Adults

DWM in California wonders:

I am curious what possible issues the “oppositional defiance” component will produce in our son as he enters his twenties. His teenage years required SIGNIFICANT parental intervention.

Michele Novotni answers:

I’m not sure that this is the answer that you want, but you are probably in for more of the same.

It is often helpful for many parents to continuing providing some degree of reasonable emotional/problem solving support to their adult children with AD/HD, especially when additional psychologist issues are present. The encouraging part is that you made it this far and have probably developed some strategies that have worked.

I would however, encourage you to not do more than you feel comfortable with. As people with AD/HD get older, they can also be encouraged to obtain needed support through coaches, psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, etc. and become more independent and self reliant as they learn to take responsibility for managing their AD/HD. I wish you all well.

This article is published by permission from ADDitude Magazine ©2004. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited. Subscribe to ADDitude online or via toll-free phone 888-762-8475.

Improving Parent-Teacher Communication

As a teacher, you can defuse tensions, maximize the benefits and minimize stress at parent meetings by being flexible, empathetic, and up-to-date on AD/HD.

As a parent of a child with AD/HD, educational consultant, former school psychologist and teacher, I have sat on many sides of the educational planning table. I frequently attend IEP or 504 meetings on behalf of parents to help facilitate the process and have a great deal of experience as to what goes on behind the scenes for parents. Many parents of children with AD/HD approach IEP meetings with fear, frustration, and confusion. With each new school year often comes a new teacher – and with each new teacher, the same fears arise:

  1. You don’t really know and understand their child.
  2. You won’t select the most appropriate accommodation for their child.
  3. They will look stupid.
  4. You will think they are inadequate parents.

As a teacher, you can defuse tensions, maximize the benefits and minimize stress at parent meetings by being flexible, empathetic, and up-to-date on AD/HD and learning disabilities. Most of all, you need to assure them that you all have the same goal – to help their child have a successful year.

Set the Stage for Success

Begin the meeting by welcoming the parents and introducing the meeting participants along with their roles. Offer them something to drink. Use comfortable, adult-sized chairs. Preview the meeting for them so they know what to expect. Share an interesting story about their child so they know that you really do know their child. Help them feel part of the team by asking, “What can you share with us to help us be more effective teachers for your child in the classroom?”

Parents May Also Have AD/HD

Given the strong genetic link for AD/HD, it is likely that one of the parents you are dealing with may also have AD/HD. In many cases it may be very minor, but you may notice the behaviors such as not completing papers in a timely manner, needing reminders and/or an extra set of paperwork, missing pieces of information or getting distracted. You may need to gently bring them back to the topic at hand.

Watch Out for House Talk

Refrain from the use of educational jargon. Explain terminology. Even though this may be your 1,000th meeting for the year, this may be the first or one of only a handful of such meetings for the parents. Be patient. Parents become confused, and intimidated when you use common educational terms like 504 vs. IEP plans, resource room vs. instructional support and wraparound services. Make a guide to understanding special education terms to give to parents, or identify one person at the meeting to decipher educational jargon and explain the terms to parents. Even when the school has gone above and beyond expectations, some very intelligent parents leave meetings angry because they didn’t understand what was said.

Avoid discussing other school-related issues at these meeting amongst other teachers and co-workers. Parents often feel excluded, uncomfortable and less a part of the team as educators discuss other school-related issues.

A Little Knowledge…

Many parents are aware of their rights and accommodations to some extent. They often receive information through support groups, friends or neighbors, websites and sometimes books. Unfortunately, their information is not always entirely accurate or complete.

Allow adequate time for explanations and questions. Many schools have to schedule brief, back-to-back meetings due to time constraints, which hurries the process. In this case, contact the parents to check to see if they have any questions both prior to and subsequent to the meeting. This is often much less intimidating for them, and assures them that their concerns will be addressed.


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