Children are typically more active, distractible, and impulsive than adults, however, we should not be too quick to dismiss these challenges as normal development if these behaviours are impacting a child’s day-to-day functioning. It is easy to see how a child who has significant problems with attention and/or overactivity, and impulsivity will have problems in a learning environment. For example, a child who is not able to sit for any length of time in his desk and is constantly interrupting will have difficulties learning in a classroom. This child may also be disturbing other children in the classroom with his behaviour. Children can also have more subtle presentations in the classroom, such as the child who remains seated but silently 'zones out' during key instructional times. These children are more difficult to identify as having ADHD, but the effects can be just as damaging.
Many parents of children with ADHD know that the consequences of this disorder extend far beyond the classroom. For example, parents may recall instances of their child impulsively grabbing toys from other children, pushing or shoving peers, or having difficulty waiting their turn in games. These behaviours often have devastating effects for a child’s ability to make and keep friends. At home, ADHD can present in a variety of ways. For example, a child who is distractible or inattentive may require constant reminders to finish basic, routine, daily activities. Mornings can become unbearable when a child requires continual prompting to complete morning self-care routines.
Challenges with attention, distractibility and impulsivity may reach diagnostic severity if: 1) these challenges are more than what would be expected based on your child’s level of development and 2) if they significantly impact your child’s functioning in multiple contexts (e.g., home, school, social). Effective ADHD treatment relies on an understanding of the underlying impairments associated with this disorder (e.g., challenges delaying gratification, challenges with regulating attention depending on the environment, challenges with emotional regulation).
Treatment plans are tailored to the needs of your child and may include individualized classroom strategies that are made in consultation with your child’s classroom teacher. They may also include Organizational Skills Training, as well as tailored and prescribed guidelines for using rewards and consequences to increase desired behaviours. Treatment goals will be set with the family and will include some check-in times to monitor progress and goals and re-adjust strategies as needed.