Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that affects a child's ability to focus and control their behaviour. ADHD has particularly deleterious effects in early childhood as it not only affects a child’s ability to learn, but it may also have negative effects on their self-esteem which, if not addressed immediately, may later progress into full-blown psychiatric disorders.
Compared to other developmental disorders, ADHD affects a high percentage of children across all ethnic backgrounds, with estimates putting the proportion of affected children to be as high as 12%. In Singapore, better diagnostics and an increasingly positive attitude towards mental health have increased the number of children diagnosed with ADHD in recent years. The high incidence of the disorder has led to changes in mainstream education policies to better address the needs of children with ADHD as well as those of other special needs children.
The multiple options for ADHD assessment Singapore has to offer have made it easier for parents to seek help for their children. However, even with Singapore’s widening support network, raising a child with ADHD remains challenging for many families. Thankfully, with the right knowledge and support, parents and other caretakers can help children thrive and overcome their condition. Here are 7 things you should know about raising a child with ADHD:
1) ADHD Is Not Caused by Poor Parenting or Lack of Discipline
Even today, a knee-jerk reaction of many people to children with ADHD is to assume a failure on the part of the parents. While poor parenting can certainly exacerbate ADHD, it is emphatically not the root cause of the condition. There is strong scientific evidence for genetic causes of ADHD and little evidence supporting environmental causes. As such, ADHD can occur in almost any child, which some having a much higher chance of having it due to their genetics.
2) ADHD Cannot Be Cured with Current Medical Technology
ADHD’s genetic causes mean that it is, unfortunately, a lifelong condition. Current medical research is, at the very least, decades away from a workable cure, if one is at all possible. However, that does not mean children with ADHD cannot grow up to be well-adjusted, high-achieving individuals. With the right support and a well-tailored combination of treatments, children with ADHD can lead successful and self-actualised lives.
3) ADHD Can Seriously Affect Early Education
Children with ADHD may have difficulty with impulse control, time management, and organization—all of which are critical for their early learning and development. Without proper intervention, children with ADHD can fall behind their peers in their academics, and they may also have difficulty grasping some important soft skills as well. This makes it highly important for parents and educators to know the possible signs of ADHD so that proper diagnostics can be done and appropriate interventions can be implemented.
To help children with ADHD better cope with these early education challenges, parents can set up routines and schedules to provide a framework where their children can be productive. Additionally, they can break tasks down into smaller, more manageable steps that their children can better focus on.
4) ADHD Affects Lifetime Relationships
One less-discussed aspect of ADHD is that it makes it difficult for children to build and maintain relationships. Their impulsiveness and lack of focus can make it difficult for them to appreciate the needs of others and may make them less popular with other children. Additionally, children with ADHD may frequently interrupt others or engage in disruptive behaviour that isolates them from their peers.
However, children with ADHD can develop well-formed social lives, particularly if they are diagnosed and treated early. Parents can help by encouraging social activities and providing safe opportunities for their child to practice their social skills.
5) Medication Is Not the Only Answer
Medication is a common treatment for ADHD, particularly in countries where ADHD medications like Ritalin are readily available. However, pharmacological options are not the only solution. It’s worth understanding that ADHD symptoms lie on a spectrum, with some children displaying more severe symptoms than others. For milder cases, therapy, exercise, and dietary changes may be enough to help a child manage their condition. Even in severe cases, most children tend to do best with a combination of behavioural therapy and medication rather than medication alone.
6) Parents Need Support As Well
The high energy and impulsiveness of children with ADHD can take a huge toll on the mental and emotional well-being of parents and educators. Parents, in particular, will often find raising a child with ADHD to be a uniquely stressful experience, especially if they are also caring for other children at the same time.
Because a parent’s mental state can directly affect everyone else in the family, they need to take care of their own physical and emotional well-being. Finding help from other family members and support groups can also ensure that both parents and their affected children can manage the trials of ADHD.
7) Positive Reinforcement Is Critical for Children with ADHD
Punishing children with ADHD may bring parents and teachers temporary reprieve, but it fails to give children lasting benefits and it may come at a significant cost to their self-esteem and social skills. In most cases, positive reinforcement is a much more effective, not to mention more sustainable, strategy for moulding long-term behaviour.
Given this, parents and educators should celebrate the strengths and successes of children with ADHD. Because of their intense focus on specific subjects, children with ADHD often have unique talents and abilities. Encouraging them to focus on these rather than just their challenges can not only help with their long-term development but may be key to personal and professional successes later in life.
Raising a child with ADHD is almost certainly going to be challenging for most parents, regardless of the external support they may have. However, being armed with the right knowledge can empower parents to quickly arrive at the solutions that are most likely to help their child thrive. By knowing the facts and misconceptions surrounding ADHD, parents and other adults in charge of caring for special needs children can better address problems associated with ADHD. Furthermore, they can help contribute to a constructive environment that will better enable affected children to integrate into society.