A diagnosis of ADHD can be helpful, but what happens next? Kate King has answers.
Every child’s experience of ADHD is different, and every child will benefit from tailored support. The core symptoms of hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention present differently by gender, and for different age groups, different stages of education, and different personalities and environments. There is no flowchart to understand how a child’s ADHD needs to be supported, so we must understand the individual and ask what challenges they are facing. What support or skills do they need now, or will they need in the future? There are some practical steps to can take at an early stage, which can be tailored to the individual child:
Celebrate their superpowers
Too often we talk about ADHD as something which holds children back. This can have a negative effect on self-esteem, especially if young people struggle with the awareness that they aren’t able to complete certain tasks as easily as classmates. ADHD brings its own strengths and ‘superpowers’, from the ability to hyper-focus to enhanced creativity. Successful famous figures from Emma Watson to Simone Biles and Michael Phelps all have been diagnosed with ADHD and working with your child to help them celebrate their ADHD strengths can have a hugely positive impact on how they see themselves.
Be patient and break down information
Many children with ADHD struggle with breaking down information and focusing on what’s most important in a set of tasks. Parents with a child with ADHD will know that expecting children to ‘try harder’ will not work. Their brain works differently.
Just as a child with poor eyesight will need glasses to see the board, young people with ADHD will need different help to maximise their potential when it comes to learning. This often starts with sitting down with your child to work through tasks together, clearly breaking down information into manageable chunks, celebrating small wins with immediate positive feedback and rewards, and setting tasks with clear and achievable goals.
Ensure everyone in your child’s life is collaborating
To truly make an impact, everyone in your child’s life, at home and at school, needs to stay aligned and work together towards the same goal. When parents, family, teachers, tutors and any health professionals all share information with each other, you will benefit from much richer insight and your child will be better supported. There’s no use in a teacher identifying a useful strategy and not passing it on to a parent to try with homework, or a parent creating the perfect learning environment at home but not passing on insights to a child’s school.
Embrace their individuality
Every child with ADHD is different, and more than anything, we must focus on what individual challenges and needs are at this time. Where does your child struggle with their learning? What kind of environments do they excel in? The most effective intervention will have the flexibility to respond to the individual child, and will likely have multiple areas of focus. Working closely with families to explain diagnoses and unpick reports from clinicians, can inform practical and personalised strategies for success. When we get this right, it can be transformational not only for children, but for their whole families too.
Kate King is a specialist teacher and SEN co-ordinator. As Enjoy Education’s Head of Learning Development, she works closely with families to help them unpack and move beyond a diagnosis, Educational Psychology report or Occupational Therapy report, and develop personalised strategies for success for every member of the family.