My child was just diagnosed with ADHD: What should I do?
Receiving a diagnosis of ADHD can be a challenging experience for both the child and the parents. As a complex neurodevelopmental disorder, ADHD can affect many aspects of life, including academic performance, social interactions, and daily activities. The good news is that there are many ways to manage the symptoms of ADHD and support your child's development. In fact, there are many strengths associated with ADHD, and when managed appropriately, these "super powers" may shine brighter than ever. Here are some suggestions for what to do after your child has been diagnosed with ADHD.
1.Learn about ADHD
It is essential to educate yourself about ADHD. Learn about the symptoms, causes, and available treatments. We often recommend starting with online resources such as CHADD or ADDitude Magazine. Additionally, there are many online support groups that parents can access through those sites or other social media platforms like Facebook. Understanding your child's condition will help you to feel more compassionate and less frustrated at times, and you will be better able to support them and advocate for their needs.
2. Build a Support Team
Building a team of professionals who can provide guidance, resources, and support for your child is essential. This team may include doctors, psychologists/therapists, occupational therapists, teachers, special education professionals, and/or educational consultants. These professionals can help develop an individualized plan for your child that addresses their unique needs across settings.
3. Work with Your Child's School
We all know that ADHD can make school extremely difficult. This is because the attentional, executive functioning, social, and behavioral demands of a traditional school setting often are overwhelming for children with ADHD. However, with the right academic support, children with and ADHD are able to perform at their true potential and succeed. Many parents are unsure about informing their child's school about an ADHD diagnosis. While it is every parents' right to keep that information private, we typically recommend informing schools about a diagnosis, especially if there have been concerns raised about their academic performance. Many schools (and all public schools) offer accommodations such as extra time on tests or assignments, preferential seating, or modifications to assignments. These accommodations are often enough to help a child with ADHD demonstrate their true academic potential. Ongoing collaboration with the school is also important and can help ensure that your child is receiving the necessary support to succeed in their academic environment.
4. Develop and Maintain Routines
Children with ADHD often benefit from structured routines that provide predictability and consistency. Work with your child to create a daily routine that includes regular times for homework, meals, and sleep. A routine can help your child develop good habits, reduce anxiety, and improve confidence.
5. Encourage Physical Activity and Social Engagement
Physical and social activities can be help children with ADHD to feel more regulated, connected, and confident. Encourage your child to engage in regular physical activity, or better yet, join them! Many parents tell us that they notice a drastic difference in their child's regulation before and after playing sports or engaging in structured social activities (e.g., teams, clubs, etc).
6. Consider Medication
In some cases, medication may be recommended to manage the symptoms of ADHD. We typically recommend a medication consultation when children are missing out on developmentally healthy activities due to ADHD symptoms (e.g., not being invited to friends' houses, being kicked off of a team, etc). Discussions about medication can be started with your child's pediatrician.
7. Use Positive Reinforcement
Children with ADHD often experience a lot of negative feedback from the world around them. Peers may become annoyed, and parents and teachers also sometimes express frustration around behavioral expectations. For these reasons, many children with ADHD struggle with low self-esteem and can be hard on themselves. It's essential to use positive reinforcement and celebrate your child's successes, no matter how small they may seem. This can help build their self-confidence and motivate them to continue working towards their goals.
Receiving a diagnosis of ADHD can be overwhelming for parents and children. However, by taking action and implementing these suggestions, parents and other adults can support children's development and success. In fact, with appropriate guidance and support, the strengths associated with ADHD, including creativity, focus on certain activities, and social/emotional intelligence, will be more apparent.