Children with ADHD often feel defeated and want to give up trying. Adults can sometimes unknowingly contribute to these feelings; parents, teachers, coaches, and counselors, may focus on the child's weaknesses more than highlighting their strengths.
Recently an article was published in KQED News, Mind/Shift, Five Ways to Help Children with ADHD Develop Their Strengths. The article discusses ways to put the focus back on developing and encouraging strengths. Dr. Sharon Saline the author of, What Your ADHD Child Wishes You Knew, writes that ADHD children want to feel normal. They want to be like other children. She goes on to state that, “An informed empathy for ADHD children -- for what they experience on a daily basis -- can inspire parents and teachers to work with these children in ways that will help them grow into responsible and happy adults.”
Dr. Saline advocates for the Five C’s method for reducing family stress and equipping children with the skills they need to thrive:
- Self-control - for children and their parents includes managing emotions in the face of distress as well as increasing self-regulation.
- Compassion - help children develop self-compassion this starts with seeing children’s wins and not always pointing out their deficiencies; because ADHD children often see themselves as inherently deficient.
- Collaboration - this method becomes easier once parents/teachers can project self-confidence and compassion, then we are able to collaborate with children on practical strategies that will help them grow.
- Consistency - ADHD children respond well to a predictable routine that helps them organize their day. Dr. Saline reminds us, however, that you are working towards steady effort, not perfection.
- Celebration - Dr. Saline estimates that the ratio of positive to negative feedback ADHD children receive is 1:15 and kids often indicate they feel as if adults only notice when they “mess up” not when they try. This is because their strengths are rarely the focus. Focus on the process more than the product. Working on their progress and processes helps them develop the executive function that is necessary for a productive adulthood.
Finally, Dr. Saline says teachers can help children with ADHD by overtly teaching executive function skills and integrating this language into their lessons. This can be done by discussing the skills that need to be used for that lesson, i.e. when introducing a task such as writing a story, ask students what executive functioning skills they will need to use -- e.g. shifting from listening to thinking, planning and organizing -- and offer help if they find themselves struggling with one of these steps in the process.
Dr. Saline gives great tools for parents and teachers to use to help children with ADHD celebrate their strengths as well as improve executive function.
Play Attention can support these methods as well. Play Attention reinforces and praises the student for paying attention, reaching mini goals, and controlling behaviors. Play Attention's immediate feedback and reinforcement helps the child change his/her self-image from one who "can't do" to one who CAN.
Saline describes compassion as “meeting your child where they are, not where you expect them to be. When you accept the brain that your child has and who your child is, it makes all the difference for them.”