ADHD or Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder later
develops into Learning Disability in children. Some of the problems children with ADHD face
include poor academic performance, delay in motor milestone development and low
self-esteem. Children with ADHD usually become introverts and lonely
given the lack of peer-interaction. Jamuna Rani, Occupational Therapist at
Pebbles Rehabilitation Centre for Children, Chennai, explains to
Medindia how to identify, seek help and make sure children with ADHD cope with
academics and society.
What are the signs of ADHD in Children?
If teachers are complaining that your child is not listening in class or is constantly distracted, comes home with his notes incomplete because he finds it difficult to copy from the board and his handwriting is poor, then, consider these signs as red flags that require immediate attention. Usually such children are ignored by teachers; other children don't want to be seen spending time with them, making children with ADHD lonely. To make things worse parents add to the existing trouble by pushing for better academic performance, all resulting in the child's low self-esteem and sometimes even instigate suicidal tendencies in children. Occupational Therapists observe physical problems such as weak proximal stability which result in bad handwriting. Proximal stability includes co-ordination of upper joints and hip joints which help in holding a pencil, the pencil grip and the posture while writing. Behavioural Issues include temper tantrums, restlessness and adamancy which are some of the ways for children with ADHD to draw attention because they can't cope with the rest of the clan.
The psychology of children with ADHD must first be understood in order to deal with them. Getting them to mingle with other children is induced through group therapy. This way social interaction develops, a child is motivated to do an activity. For example if an introvert child is in a group with a hyperactive and or extrovert child, then the introvert child imitates the other. This boosts the child's confidence enabling the child to initiate similar responses in class when a teacher asks a question. Hence with positive reinforcement such as applauding with claps or giving stars with each improving act, the child will eventually volunteer in school with, 'I will answer'.
Since children with ADHD have poor reading skills and lack co-ordination, visual memory is also poor. An Occupational Therapist will address one issue at a time where the initial component to be treated will be to increase sitting tolerance. After identifying the child's interest concentration will revolve more on those activities which begins with simple ones that get done in a matter of 2 seconds and then gradually move to complex activities such as puzzles and word formation. These activities are age specific and cater to the IQ level of the child.
The foremost step is to calm the child because at an early age most do not know that they are undergoing treatment whereas students belonging to the 5-7 age group are aware that they are finding it difficult to cope with studies and even copying notes. Time that ADHD children spend with Occupational Therapists is not like being in a tuition class where the rest of the children belong to the same age group, same IQ level and with same grasping ability.
Handwriting improves with physical exercises to increase proximal stability like bilateral coordination activity that aids children to copy notes from the board. For children who cannot copy notes after the midline leaving their sentences incomplete, the attention span will also be limited. In such cases midline crossing activities helps children in increasing the visual memory.
What happens if the condition is left Untreated?
Occupational Therapists warn that if children with ADHD are not treated the number of failures will be more resulting in more depression and even suicides in children. Unmotivated, they will not be able to predict what would follow and would start lacking thinking ability. They will soon be convinced that they are bound to see only failures in life. Children in high school know about their poor performance but parents are ignorant that some of their children's problems such as poor memory and reading disability have been ignored in early stages in life. The inability to cope will degrade the morale of the child, especially when parents shut areas that are of interest to the child and focus only on academics. Children with psychological problems do not all the time have learning disability but children with Learning Disability will have psychological problems.
How can Parent's / Guardian's contribute and help?
If someone is supportive then a child can be rescued. If at early stages a child has problem with identifying alphabets or writes inverted characters or mixes up letters then the child has to be taken to a specialist who can identify the child's basic problem and advise a course of education that will support the child's development and not undermine it. Only a strong foundation, attention to details, encouragement and support from parents and carers and the society at large will ensure a smooth progression from childhood to adulthood for children with learning disabilities.