Counseling and Education for Children with ADD or ADHD

The average age of children referred for evaluations for attention-deficit disorders is middle to late childhood, about ages seven to twelve. Children are usually referred because they are having behavior problems at home or at school or are underachieving academically. The primary area of difficulty – inconsistent control over attention and impulses – often results in failure experiences academically, socially, and within the family. As a result, children with ADD often begin to feel demoralized, and problems with self-esteem frequently emerge.

After struggling with their own inability to perform up to the expectations of their families and their teachers, children with ADD often develop “myths” to explain their difficulties for themselves. These “myths” often contain elements such as: “I am a bad person”; “I never know what kind of trouble I’m going to get into next”; “I’m bad at school work”; “I cause trouble for my family”; “There is something wrong with my mind”; or “I cannot be trusted”. Children with ADD become accustomed to hearing phrases such as: “If you would only try harder . . .” ; “Why don’t you calm down . . .”; and “You’re driving me crazy . . .. “

Children with ADD often report that they are unhappy. It may be hard for them to make friends. They may believe that they are causing trouble for their families as they often believe that it is their fault when something goes wrong. They tend to think that they do not have good ideas. They may worry a lot and feel left out of things. They may wish that they were different and believe that their families are disappointed in them.

These concerns cannot be addressed by a treatment plan that only includes medication. Medication, when effective, significantly improves control over behavior and increases attention. But medicatin does not erase the negative feelings which may have developed as a result of feeling like a failure. Education and counseling to rebuild self-esteem should be an essential component of treatment so that children with ADD can truly believe that they have control over their lives.

Current research shows that up to half of children with ADD will continue to have difficulties with inattention, distractability, and impulsivity for the rest of their lives. The best way to insure long-term success and compliance to treatment is to get ADD children personally involved in the process early. The components of “counseling” or “coaching” which are most suited for children with ADD are as follows:

Relationship: ADD children need an adult coach who listens to them, recognizes their strengths, and treats them with respect so that they feel unthreatened as they begin to re-evaluate their past experiences with new information about ADD. They need someone to take the pressure off them and give them a safe environment to try new ways of behaving.

Education: Therapists “demystify” ADD, letting children know what ADD is and what it isn’t. Children with ADD need to learn that their behaviors are not always in their own control, and they need to learn why this happens. This allows them to stop blaming and start learning to forgive themselves. Therapists use materials such as games, questionnaires, and stories to begin to educate children with ADD about their differences in an attempt to “de-mystify” their myths.

Children with ADD may also need to understand their own anger and disappointment in the adults in their lives. Often children wonder why no one ever “helped” them before. They may feel “picked on” at home and at school.

Strategies: Children with ADD may need to learn strategies for self-monitoring their attention, organizing school work, completing homework, dealing with parents and teachers, resolving conflict, and dealing with social situations. Children with ADD may also have concerns about medication and about what the diagnosis of ADD means for their futures.

A primary area of focus when “coaching” a child with ADD is social skills. Often children with ADD are viewed by other children as unfriendly, aloof, awkward, domineering, or too aggressive. An ADD coach might work with a child to analyze what specifically is contributing to his or her social difficulties and generate alternative ideas and behavioral strategies to improve social interractions.

Advocacy: Another key component of “coaching” for children with ADD is advocacy. Children with ADD often feel that they have been treated unfairly and have difficulty trusting their resolving conflict with their parents and teachers. The child has, in the therapist, an adult who can help them to present themselves to their parents and teachers.

What is ADD?
Classroom Modifications for ADD and ADHD
Counseling and Education for Children with ADD or ADHD
What Conditions Might Be Confused With ADD?
What Conditions Commonly Co-Exist With ADD?
How can you tell if a child is having trouble because of problems such as stress or family problems or if it’s really ADD?
How can you tell if a child with learning disabilities also has ADD?
National Resources for ADD and ADHD Information
Recommended Reading

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