Kate King, Head of Learning Development at Enjoy Education shares practical advice on supporting children with ADHD.
When families are faced with an ADHD diagnosis, their first question is often ‘what now’?
No two ADHD experiences are exactly alike; every child (and adult) with ADHD will present differently and will benefit from a tailored approach to help them thrive. The core symptoms of hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention will also present differently in children of different ages, stages of education and gender. We must understand the individual child and ask: what are their particular challenges? What skills or support do they need now and for the future?
There are also some key practical steps parents and educators can take now, which they can tailor to their child’s individual needs.
1. Be patient and break down information
Expecting children to just ‘try harder’ will not work; we need to understand that their brain is working differently. A child with poor eyesight may need glasses to see the board, a child with ADHD may need specific help which supports their learning.
Often this starts with clearly breaking down information, setting tasks with clear and achievable goals and celebrating small wins with immediate positive feedback and rewards.
2. Celebrate their ADHD superpowers
Many children with ADHD struggle with self-esteem, especially if they feel self-aware that they can’t complete some tasks with the ease their classmates can. However, ADHD also brings incredible strengths which we need to celebrate and make children aware of – the ability to hyper-focus and intense creativity are their superpowers. It’s no wonder that famous figures from Emma Watson to Michael Phelps and Simone Biles, all of whom have been diagnosed with ADHD, have been so successful.
Don’t let children overlook their ADHD superpowers; instead, work with them to understand and build confidence in their strengths.
3. Focus on the individual
More than anything, we must ask what the individual child’s needs are. The most effective intervention will have multiple components and the flexibility to respond to the individual. In some cases, one-to-one tutoring and / or learning support to teach the student the best strategies for their way of learning can make a significant difference in the long term.
4. Don’t overlook the importance of collaboration
For a truly successful strategy, everyone in your child’s life needs to work together towards the same goal. When parents, teachers, tutors and health professionals share information with each other, your child will reap the immediate and ongoing benefits.
I work closely with families to understand each child’s different ADHD presentation, explain diagnoses and unpick reports from clinicians such as Educational Psychologists (EPs) to inform intervention and how this relates to daily life.
I find that every child benefits from a personalised set of practical tips – and when we get this right, it has an overwhelmingly positive impact on children and empowers parents.