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Dealing with ADHD: Information for parents, caregivers

August 1, 2016
By Jen Zbozny - Mirror Moms , Mirror Moms

Concerned that your child might have Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity disorder?

Kathy Hockenberry, Licensed Clinical Social Worker with UPMC Altoona, offers important information to parents.

"There are different components. You have attention deficit, you have hyperactivity, you have the impulsivity, and then you have the combined type where children show different aspects of those three components," Hockenberry said.

She added that with ADHD, children have a tough time paying attention, but they also can't keep still.

"They're always moving or they can't stop talking. That's the hyperactivity. It makes it more difficult to pay attention," she said.

What about just attention deficit?

"That's where instead of paying attention, they daydream," Hockenberry said. "They start down a path and loose track very quickly. Poor time managment falls under this category."

But children are naturally active, and want to keep moving and asking questions, so how is it possible to know when a child might have ADHD instead of just being a child?

"The symptoms have to be recurring repeatedly and in a way that is severe enough to have an impact at home, at school or in social situations," she said.

Who can help with diagnosis?

According to Hockenberry, the disorder usually is diagnosed "between the ages of 6 and 12 years old. It's harder to diagnose in younger children, but between those ages if parents are seeing recurring symptoms, and teachers are informing the parents of possible problems, it may be a good idea to see the pediatrician. Doctors have a tool called the Connor scale that breaks down symptoms and helps evaluate the severity."

What can help parents and children cope?

For parents, it can help to think of ADHD differently.

"It's not defiance," said Hockenberry. "The childrens' brains just work a little differently. For children with ADHD, a combination of medication and cognitive behavioral therapy is a best practice," she said.

In her line of work, they employ a family systems approach. It treats the whole family in recognition of the idea that "we impact each other."

Treatment can include therapy, medication, interventions and even behavioral health therapists who can accompany a child to school to reinforce coping skills.

What can parents do?

"Have a routine. Kids need predictability," Hockenberry said. "Break tasks and requests down. Instead of giving a child a list of several to-do items, give one duty at a time, so a child can stay focused.

"Offer one out of two reasonable choices when there is a decision to be made, instead of something open ended or with too many options. Set behavior guidelines and expectations ahead of time."

And lastly, stay calm.

"If a parent can remain calm, it can help the child stay calm too."



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