Raising Children with Attention Deficit Disorder: A Test of Patience
Shehzad, engrossed in the beauty of the rainbow shadowed on the pond puddled by the footsteps of the passerby’s, hears being called out with a shrill voice that sounded quite familiar to him. But the view felt so soothing that he ignored the voice twice as he watched the frog hopping on the pond,splashing tiny droplets of water. The last call he heard of his name sounded stern and he finally thought of turning away his face from the imaginative world he was engrossed in as he watched his English literature teacher frowning in dismay. This wasn’t the only time he was caught mesmerizing the world outside his classroom. His worried parents had taken him to a psychiatrist who had diagnosed Shehzad as being an ‘attention deficit disorder’ patient.
ADD is a clinical condition of inattention and distraction,with or without accompanying hyperactivity. It is found to be more common in boys than girls. The diagnosis of ADD requires an onset of symptoms before the age of 7 years. Several studies have been done to identify the cause of this growing disease.
In one study conducted in April 2004, reported in the Journal of Pediatrics in Seattle concluded that early television exposure by the age of 1 and 3 results in increased chances of ADD by the age of 7. ADD is a known familial and heritable disorder. Apart from genetics, head injury and delay in brain maturity on an average age of 3 years also leads to the disease. A study conducted at Child and Adolescent Psychology Department in European Pediatric Hospital, Paris, France, concluded that a low iron intake by the child results in an abnormal dopaminergic neurotransmission and thus ADD.
In 2004 the Journal of Child Psychology published that increased rates of divorce among the parents leads to this disease.Violence has also been identified as the cause of ADD. It may be due to poor socioeconomic conditions, sexual violence or domestic violence. Cigarette smoking and alcohol intake during pregnancy increases the chance of ADD in the child.However, a study conducted across UK and Boston on 15 Oct 2009 concluded that there is no association of cigarette smoking and alcohol intake. The incidence might be due to an inherited effect.
Children suffering from ADD experience great difficulty in sitting stationary at one place,they want to keep walking, jumping and they find it very hard to give attention to a specific object or subject. Children of ADD experience problems in remembering tasks they are assigned to do and thus are unable to do them most of the time; be it their homework or any other chore. They are usually disobedient and don’t listen to what is being told to them which becomes quite frustrating for the teacher or a parent. A child of ADD is known to be very talkative and listens less to other people.
Diana Olney Bell, a 6th grader shares her experience as an ADD diagnosed child, ‘Whenever the science teacher talked about plants, I used to think about my garden and what to plant next year which made me think of chili pepper that I am going to try for my dad because he likes spicy things which made me think of hot dishes when we lived in Singapore. Eventually I used to forget the discussion my teacher had started a while ago’.
Kelly Maclean says, ‘As a child I considered having to sit still the highest form of torture. At times my dad would just scoop me and lock his arms around me for 60 seconds but like a windup toy held in the air, the second he put me down I would start again at the very same speed.’
Patrick Mckenna, a comedian says,’ I spent most of my life trying to hide what I suspected was ADD. As a child I was chastised for doing badly at school. I didn’t feel good about myself. Still I’m one of the fortunate ones who came through tough times. I have a very happy and successful life – my career as an actor’.
‘Most of Alley’s struggles were related to school. For a while, I was worried that she was going to flunk out of eight grade because she couldn’t juggle assignments. Getting organized was a problem for her.Finding important papers or her assignment pad became an almost impossible task for her.She wasn’t finishing her work on time. Many times I’d find out Alley had a big project due the next day and that she’d never mentioned to me or started it’, a distressed mother of an ADD child shares her past experiences.
Parents play a very pivotal role in helping to understand an attention deficit child. The social and environmental trauma that the child has been through should be dealt with. The rising divorce rates and violence has led to this increase. Apart from the medications like methylpenidate, dexamfetamine and atomoxetine given, the child has to be counseled and talked to about his disease and how it is affecting his life.
A child of ADD wants to keep things in order and organized but doesn’t know how to do it. Having ADD is as frustrating for them as it is to deal with a child of ADD. It requires plenty of support, patience and compassion to manage a child with this condition. The child may be disobedient which can lead to frustration, so it is important to be consistent and compassionate.
Parents should be told to keep a positive attitude and stop expecting the child to complete the task given, as even one chore done a day is an achievement. Children with ADD should be encouraged to have adequate sleep as insufficient sleep can make any person inattentive. As these children are extremely energetic it is advisable to get their energy out in a sport and help them take part in as many physical activities as possible.
Improper, missed and disordered eating should be discouraged and parents should make sure that their child is on a healthy diet. It is also advisable to switch off the TV set during the meals. A child of ADD talks too much and listens less for which he is socially deprived. Parents should choose playmates for them who have similar language and physical skills as them and there should be zero tolerance on the parent’s part if there is pushing or hurting during play as the child may take out his energy on the playmate.
Finding creative ways to do chores and setting prizes helps the child accomplish the tasks with a feeling of achievement. Paper planners, organizing checklists can be used to make the child remember his homework. At the end it is the will power of a child and the hard work of the parents that may result in a healthy outcome. Compassion and patience are the key features that can lead to a happy home with a child of ADD. As it is rightly quoted; ‘You will either profit by or pay for what your children become, raise them properly’ -Darnell Lamont.
About the Author: Alina Fatima is a student of 4th year MBBS who plans to specialize in Pediatrics in future. She can be reached at [email protected]
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