One child cannot sit still in school and is often disruptive. Teachers brand him as the wild child or the hyperactive, others would instantly label him as the one with ADHD [Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder]. What tips can you give his teachers to help him cope in school? Should one consider medication to calm him down? Would that be risky?
All children deal with behavioral problems at some point. But children with ADHD have frequent, severe problems that interfere with the ability to live normal lives. Symptoms are classified in an of 3 categories: 1) Inattention (easily distracted, loses things, daydreams all the time, disorganized), 2) Hyperactivity (talks too much, squirms, cannot stay seated), or 3) Impulsivity (acts or speaks without thinking, interrupts others, unable to wait). These should be observed in more than one setting (home, school, social environment or community).
The child with ADHD often has difficulty in school. He has trouble starting an activity and staying on task, remembering details, managing time, transitioning from one class to the next, talking too much, or working independently.
Parents and teachers may get frustrated but should keep in mind that children with ADHD require higher levels of consistency and help than average children. They need more stimulation in doing tasks in specific settings and time periods. They prefer to make choices rather than be directed by an adult. They get bored easily but seem to do well in competitive activities. They also enjoy provoking emotional reactions from others. Social interactions are often an important source of stimulation. An attentive teacher can provide this.
Guidelines for his teachers
The child should be aware of what exactly is expected of him. Directions should be clear and concise to be well understood. Have the child repeat the instructions aloud.
Do not give too many tasks at one time. Break down tasks into smaller activities. One-step directions are ideal.
Set up regular routines and follow through. Predictability is important.
Alternate physical and mental tasks.
Limit distractions in the classroom (unnecessary noise or activity).
Help students organize their things in the classroom.
Use hand signals to indicate when the child ma talk or should stop talking.
Positive reinforcement through reward and praise can motivate the child to do better or to succeed.
Be supportive and non-critical when pointing out errors.
Teachers should reprimand in private, and in a calm, non-emotional way.
Adjust your expectations of the child. Focus on the effort and not just the grades.
Be available to help when needed.
The Role of Medications
Many children improve remarkably once started on stimulants. Hyperactivity is reduced and they can focus on working and learning. But parents should be aware of common side effects. One concern is that the child becomes very irritable when the medicine starts wearing off. Adjust the dosing schedule so that symptoms do not start to reappear at a time when the child needs to do school work. Natural “downtime” activities like listening to music, taking a bath or reading are good remedies to try. Let your child engage in physical activities to “burn off or release” the extra energy.
Another side effect is weight loss. Monitor the food intake and provide healthy and nutritious snacks or meals. Other known side effects include: headaches, stomach ache, insomnia, fast heart rates, vomiting, and certain tics. As with all medication, your doctor should be aware if the child has allergies, other illnesses, or other medicines taken at the same time.