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
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.
www.StarTutoringCenters.com | (214) 444-3431
For more great tips, check out this CHADD podcast on managing behavior
with ADHD in young children!