Managing ADHD in Childhood

Self-regulation is one of the major deficits that students with ADHD tend to

have. But, what is it? In short, it's your ability to control yourself - your

attentions and emotions. Can you wait for a reward? Can you follow rules?

Can you contain your happiness or your anger? These are all forms of self-

regulation, and this can be particularly frustrating for adults working with

younger children.


Executive Functioning is controlled by parts of the brain which can be delayed

(developmentally) as much as 30% in children with ADHD. So, it's not a

deliberate act of defiance - there is actual brain chemistry responsible for self-

regulation issues. A 10 year old may be able to do academics at a 5th grade

level, but their ability to self-regulate may be that of a 6 year old (1st grade

level). Teachers and adults who work with the student need to be aware of

this - they need to ensure that they communicate with the student at their level

of Executive Functioning (while also challenging them at their academic level).

For example, the adults may need to give more explicit direction and have

more patience when working with these students. They need to understand

that the student will not be able to follow the normal behavior of their

classroom peer group.


Having ADHD doesn't mean you can't focus or pay attention all of the time. In

fact, it's a very intermittent issue. Again, this can be very frustrating for adults

who work with children with ADHD. For example: "Why did Susan follow

directions yesterday, but she cannot follow directions today? She must be

acting out today!" This kind of thinking is very wrong. The lack of attention can

be intermittent. The context matters a lot as well! Is Susan hungry? Tried? Are

the tasks boring? Are we breaking a normal routine? All of these things matter

as to whether Susan will be able to follow directions.


What about emotional control? This falls under self-regulation as well. Parents can help students with emotional literacy. The most basic way to do this is to help students pause and identify their emotions. You can work on calming down, which is also referred to as down-regulating emotions. Young children may have to practice pausing and overcoming impulsivity, like the desire to run up to an adult and hug them. With young children (ages 3-6), you can

practice identifying emotions by using flashcards with pictures of adults

exhibiting different expressions.


Remember that Executive Functioning can be taught just like math or

language arts. We just have to be deliberate about that. Some kids will get it

faster than other kids. But you have to be cognoscente of the level of

Executive Functioning that the student is at, which (again) may be very

different than their age or academic grade level. And, kids learn from mirroring

behavior of adults and their peers. So, it's important to foster a classroom and

home environment where they can see what being well-organized and well-

planned looks like.


How can we work with kids? Be deliberate about practicing Executive

Functioning Skills! DO NOT just assume that students will be taught this in

school - very often, they are not. Vary the instructional style - use auditory,

visual, and kinesthetic learning. Build awareness and recognition to behavior

and emotions. Practice pausing, labeling and describing emotions. Use

positive reinforcement and be really descriptive in the words you use to

reinforce good behavior. Do yoga and practice mindfulness. Practice deep

breathing. Always remember: kids want praise and attention.


The other thing to remember is to get support when you need it! Star Tutoring

Centers can help students practice and build Executive Functioning Skills

such as self-regulation, working memory and time management, while also

reinforcing their math, reading, and writing skills. | (214) 444-3431


For more great tips, check out this CHADD podcast on managing behavior

with ADHD in young children!

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