Strategies to change ADD into a blessing instead of curse

by Dwight Bain, Nationally Certified Counselor

Is ADD a blessing or a curse? The answer is probably going to be different depending on who you ask. For some teachers and school systems, it may be a curse because of the difficulty motivating highly creative and over stimulated kids. However, for the parents of these high energy children, I believe ADD can be a great blessing when the parents or guardians learn what to do to guide the steps of these supercharged kids toward greater success, instead of feeling greater frustration and stress.

ADD is the common acronym for a medical condition called Attention Deficit Disorder, (ADHD is the acronym for Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, which is similar to ADD, but with considerably more difficulties in controlling physical impulses.) According to a recent study from the National Institutes of Health, and published in the September 2007 issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. An estimated 2.4 million children between the ages of 8 and 15 in the U.S. have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but fewer than half of them have been diagnosed or are receiving appropriate treatments, researchers report. Previous estimates from the American Academy of Pediatrics suggest that ADHD afflicts as few as 4% and as many as 12% of school-aged children in the U.S. The new assessment places the figure at 8.7%.

This new figure indicates that almost 10% of school age children may be negatively impacted by undiagnosed and untreated ADD. While researchers, teachers and parents differ widely on the factors that may cause ADD, (from too much caffeine, sugar and food additives in junk food, to genetics, or addiction to high energy video games or even a lack of parental structure and discipline), there are three things that all researchers in this field agree on and they are the three basic symptoms of ADD, which are clear and unmistakable. These three primary symptoms are used to track and identify ADD, so if you are reading and thinking of a specific child, or adult, here are the factors to consider. And remember, the more serious the symptom, the more serious the ADD is negatively affecting the life of the individual and their family and likely causing more pain than releasing the potential available in a child with elevated levels of creativity and energy.

The 3 major symptoms of ADD include:

1) Impulsiveness – which involves reacting without thinking. This can commonly be seen by individuals who blurt out answers, talk when it's not appropriate, make rapid decisions without considering any consequences or find themselves doing and saying unhealthy things that show no forethought or planning, (like spending money on things that don't really matter, or watching a movie on TV when a major school project is due).
Symptoms of inattention, according to the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic Manuel include:
often blurts out answers before questions have been completed;
often has difficulty awaiting turn;
often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games).
associated features depend on the child's age and developmental stage, may include low frustration tolerance, temper outburts, bossiness, difficulty in following rules, disorganization, social rejection, poor self-esteem, academic underachievement, and inadequate self-application (American Psychiatric Association, 1994).

2) Inattention – which is the difficulty of focusing on any one subject for any extended period of time. Another common factor in this category is that individuals with inattention or high levels of distractability may swing back and forth from lack of focus to an incredible ability to super focus on topics or activities that are of extreme importance to them, (remember that ADD is diagnosed in boys 75% more often than with girls). Many counselors believe that this ability to super focus isn't inattention or distractability at all, rather it's a filtering problem because many people with ADD have difficulty concentrating on some topics at specific times because they are paying attention to dozens of other topics or situations in their environment happening at the same time. This might explain why creative minds like Thomas Edison or Albert Einstein were kicked out of school and labeled 'too stupid to learn' when in fact, they were more than likely bored with the lack of mental challenge in relation to their ability to think really fast
Symptoms of inattention, according to the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic Manuel include:
often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities;
often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities;
often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly;
often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand instructions);
often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities;
often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (such as schoolwork or homework);
often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g., toys, school assignments,pencils, books, or tools);
is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli;
is often forgetful in daily activities. (American Psychiatric Association, 1994).

3) Hyperactivity – which is the inability to sit still. People with this hyper kinetic ability are often restless and frequently moving something physically. This could be as simple as taping their fingers on a desk top to pacing the room like a caged tiger.
Symptoms of inattention, according to the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic Manuel include:
often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat;
often leaves seat in classroom or in other situations in which remaining seated is expected;
often runs about or climbs excessively in situations in which it is inappropriate (in adolescents or adults, may be limited to subjective feelings of restlessness);
often has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly;
is often "on the go" or often act as if "driven by a motor;"
often talks excessively. (American Psychiatric Association, 1994).
Remember, ADD can only be diagnosed by a licensed professional, however a wise parent can track these symptoms to better work in partnership with their counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist to achieve better results for the child. Once you and your healthcare provider have determined that your child may have the major symptoms of ADD, then here are some behavioral factors to consider in stabilizing and calming the moods so that the child or adult with ADD can move forward with a stronger motivation to experience positive change as they use their high energy to accomplish more, instead of only creating frustration and aggravation for themselves and others.

1) Structure - Keeping kids on a regular and predictable schedule is one of the simplest and yet most powerful ways to protect against impulsive behavior, because almost anything can be placed onto a scheduled routine at home, or at school. Creating positive and predictable habits, including adquate sleep will help your child excel in any school or sports environment.

2) Safe People- Keeping kids around healthy adults, (like coaches, teachers and clergy), who reach out to support and encourage that child, in spite of their high energy and sometimes annoying habits. These healthy adults become a safety net to provide additional guidance, love and support to move a high energy child forward toward their potential instead of staying stuck in frustration of fear.

3) Strength - Finding the best 'fit' of natural talent and strength in a child will allow you to then
focus time, energy and other resources onto developing those strengths into self-discipline and skills that can be trusted, regardless of the circumstances and stimuli surrounding the child. If your child is dramatic, musical, athletic or shows leadership potential, then getting them involved in scouting, the Girls and Boys Clubs, your local YMCA or church can provide multiple ways to further develop your child's natural strengths and draw out their gifts and strengths for good, instead of leaving the entire family trapped in the grief of a household filled with chaos instead of the growing confidence of a child growing strong because of growing on their strengths.
Whatever signs or symptoms you and your child are facing, know that you are not facing them alone. There are positive resources available at our website, as well as from the web links below. Knowledge is power so if you know you are facing and know what to do about it, you can turn the letters ADD from being a curse in your son or daughters life into ADD becoming a great blessing.
For further study on ADD, check out these sites:
www.Family.org
www.NewLife.com
www.AACC.net
http://www.add.org/
http://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/default.htm
http://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/news/20070904/many-kids-with-ADHD-arent-diagnosed
http://www.add-adhd.org/ADHD_attention-deficit.html

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About the Author: Dwight Bain is a Nationally Certified Counselor & Certified Family Law Mediator in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change. Critical Incident Stress Management expert with the Orange County Sheriffs Office, founder of StormStress.com and trainer for over 1,000 business groups on the topic of making strategic change to overcome major stress- both personally & professionally. He is a professional member of the National Speakers Association and partners with corporations and organizations to make a positive difference in our culture.Access more complimentary counseling and coaching resources from The LifeWorks Group by visiting their extensive posting of blog’s and special reports designed to save you time by strategically solving problems at www.LifeWorksGroup.org
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