Behavior Management for ADHD

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If you’re a parent or teacher, you are no doubt familiar with the term “ADHD,” or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. This neuropsychological and developmental disorder is a problem for thousands of children in the United States alone, not to mention their families.

In recent decades, the rate of ADHD has grown exponentially. In fact, there is some controversy about whether these are all true cases of ADHD. If so, why the rates have risen so dramatically? Or is the behavioral disorder being used to explain normal rambunctious behavior or a particular temperament?

At any rate, for parents of children with ADHD, it can be very challenging to handle the behavioral, emotional, social and academic obstacles that are the hallmarks of this disorder. Treatment can be frustrating, confusing and sometimes ineffective. However, many experts have developed tools that truly help kids with ADHD manage their symptoms, aid their parents in dealing with the condition, and even reduce the severity or presence of children’s symptoms themselves.

Multi-Pronged Treatment

Treatment of ADHD is typically multi-pronged, meaning that it includes numerous ways to target the various symptoms and problems involved. Many children benefit from medications that help them focus and calm down.

Some families choose to try dietary strategies for reducing ADHD symptoms.  Some theories state that the exclusion of certain foods, such as those that contain artificial colors, or that the addition of supplements like fish oil, can help with ADHD. Children with ADHD often participate in various school-based special education services to hone their social and academic skills. Another key component of most ADHD treatment programs is behavioral management.

What is Behavioral Management?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is largely a behavioral disorder. While its origins seem to be in the biology of the brain, ADHD manifests its symptoms in a child’s behavior: He cannot sit still, for example, or she has difficulty controlling her impulsive behaviors at school or in social situations. Therefore, behavioral management is a sensible component of treatment. But what is it?

Behavioral management is simply a method of helping children with ADHD learn to better control their symptoms. It utilizes rewards for good behavior and negative consequences for poor behavior, and it is combined with other treatment strategies such as medication and counseling. Behavioral management requires a team approach. It is implemented by the child’s parents, treating doctors and psychologists, teachers, and any other adult who plays a large role in the child’s growth and development.

What Does Behavioral Management Involve?

The specifics of a behavioral management plan will vary according to the child’s symptoms and behaviors. At its core, behavioral management involves simple strategies for decreasing inattentive or inappropriate behaviors and increasing attentive and appropriate behaviors.

Many times, some sort of reward chart is used. A child earns a sticker for each instance of a desired behavior – such as completing a homework task without getting up to do something else, or raising his hand before he asks a question in the classroom. The child then “cashes in” those stickers at an agreed-upon time for something of importance and value to him, such as the opportunity to play a particular game, a new toy, or special one-on-one time with a beloved adult.

The flip side of behavioral management involves discouraging inappropriate behavior through negative consequences. Most often, negative consequences are things like the loss of a certain privilege – not getting to play a video game that day, or having a “time-out.” Negative consequences should never be abusive or physically punishing.

Depending on the child, behavioral management may be very basic or very involved. It might include daily “prizes” or weekly privileges. The key to a solid behavioral management plan is good training for all adults implementing it, guidance from a health professional with expertise in ADHD, and the inclusion of other treatment methods along with the behavioral plan.

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