Parents Universal Resource Experts – Sue Scheff: How to help your ADHD child cope with the stigma

bookunderstandingADHDDuring my years as a parent of an ADHD child through Elementary and Middle School, I know firsthand the struggles that some of these kids can have. One of the hardest days was when my son was “labeled” as a shrimp by his peers, or worse when he had to go down to the nurses office for his noon medication. I am not quite sure parents realize just how difficult this is for young children.
As a Parent Advocate, I make it my job to find information and educational material for parents raising kids today.
In my networking, I was introduced to Kara Tamanini, Therapist and Author, specializing with ADD/ADHD children. She created a website with a wealth of information that is user friendly and easy to understand. I find many websites about ADD/ADHD are a bit over-overwhelming; however Kids Awareness Series has easy to understand articles and advice.
With Kara Tamanini’s  permission, I am sharing her latest tips on how to help your child cope with an ADHD stigma as school is opening.  Be an educated parent.
1.) As a parent, the first thing you need to do to reduce the stigma of ADHD, is to not make a big deal about it. Watch and control your reaction about the symptoms of ADHD when they rear their ugly head. You making a big deal about having ADHD or that they have to take medications or an alternative treatment (natural vitamins or therapy) will only increase the challenge that they are already fighting.
2.) Don’t tell your child not to tell anyone! This definitely sends the message that having ADHD is something to be embarrassed or ashamed of.
3.) If your child is embarrassed to take medications for ADHD at school then work with your child’s pediatrician or psychiatrist on finding a way for your child to take medicines before or right after school. Many children and especially older children and teenagers are embarrassed in front of their friends no matter what you say to them about taking medication.
4.) Remind your child regularly that ADHD is merely a different way of thinking about things and that their brain works differently. Don’t treat ADHD as something awful, I have found that ADHD has many positive aspects and treat it as a gift. Do not treat your child differently because they have ADHD and expect less of them, they will act accordingly and will lower their own expectations of themselves.
5.) Determine as a parent whether or not you plan to share a diagnosis of ADHD with your child or teen’s school. Parents often differ in this regard on whether or not they want their child’s teacher and school to know of an ADHD diagnosis. I highly recommend to parents that they share their child’s diagnosis of ADHD with the school and discuss strategies that need to be implemented for your child in the classroom. Your teacher should also not lower his/her expectations for your child. Yes, the ADHD child may have to have a modified curriculum, but it does not mean that they cannot learn like everyone else.
6.) Talk openly with your child about an ADHD diagnosis in order to take away the stigma of the diagnosis. Boost their self-confidence and explain how those around them may perceive their ADHD behaviors. Unfortunately, many children at your child’s school will discriminate against a child that has ADHD and often because ADHD children struggle socially, they have difficulty making and keeping friends. Encourage your child to participate in activities that will raise their self-esteem and emphasize their positive attributes. When you see your child doing something good or helpful, point it out.
7.) Encourage your child to be around other children that have similar strengths and weaknesses. ADHD is a common problem and your child may benefit from attending a social skills or an ADHD group with children that are experiencing similar struggles. Psychological treatment is also another option, where your child can learn self-confidence, coping skills, social skills, and parents can learn about how to manage negative behaviors associated with ADHD.
8.) Children and parents need to surround themselves with individuals that are positive and supportive of ADHD. The last thing a child needs to hear is that, “ADHD is not a real diagnosis, it’s just an excuse to misbehave.” This a very common misconception among the general public and many parents will experience this very thing as will their children.
9.) Lastly, use the resources that are available to you. Discuss with other parents, teachers, family members, or a local or national support group about your child’s ADHD. Information for parents and educating those around you about what ADHD is and how it affects your child and adults is the best weapon against the stigma of ADHD. Get your child the help they need at school so that they are NOT discriminated against.
Let’s start off this school year the right way and give your child every opportunity to learn and be successful!

For more info: Kids Awareness Series, Understanding My ADHD.

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