HYPERACTIVE KIDS: Nurture them, gently

Hyperactive children have a different charm, a different style of thinking and behaving. They are not disordered

Boy playing with basket ballPicture this. Children who were, not long ago, seen as bundles of energy, daydreamers and/or fireballs, are now considered hyperactive, distractible, and impulsive - the three classical signs of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder [ADHD]!

Kids, who, in times past, might have just needed to blow off a little steam, or kick up a little dust, now have their medication dosages carefully measured and also monitored. All of this to control dysfunctional behaviour! Worse still, this "idea" is slowly gaining ground wherever you look, or turn. More so, in families where both parents are working and just don't have the time for their kids.

Forbes magazine reported, sometime ago, that many parents seek to get their children classified as having ADHD - especially in the West - to help them maintain a competitive edge in school, and life. The trend is slowly catching up with a host of societies elsewhere. This is a "plan," reports Forbes, which helps students qualify for more time to take SAT, and other examinations. It also enables individuals, as Forbes again highlights, to receive special protection at school and work under the Disabilities Act. To confront ADHD, therefore, is like swimming against the tide, all right. But, there is hope.

Tackle hyperactive kids gently

Some experts like Thomas Armstrong, a psychologist, strongly believe that behaviours labelled as ADHD are, in reality, a child's active response to complex social, emotional, and educational influences. He suggests that one has to tackle the root cause of these problems, not mask the symptoms with potentially harmful medication and behaviour-modification programmes, although medications may sometimes be not a bad thing for some ADHD kids.

Armstrong strongly believes that it would be better for parents to help their children experience positive changes in life. He also urges professionals to use practical non-medical strategies, such as counselling and spiritual guidance, so that every child with attention or behavioural difficulties may have an opportunity to reach his/her fullest potential.

Blame it on TV

Child specialist R Wattal, MD, says, "There is a link between the amount of time children spend watching TV, now the 'index' of learning disabilities, and ADHD."

"Add to this computer and video games, and you have a good case in hand, especially when our media-driven short-attention span society has formed a kind of cultural backdrop to the incidence of kids who have trouble paying attention to parental and/or teachers' instructions."

You need not, as parents, search the horizons to substantiate this viewpoint. As Matthew Dumont, a psychiatrist, observes: "I would like to suggest that the constant shifting of visual frames in television shows is related to hyperactivity syndrome. There are incessant changes of camera and focus, so that the viewer's reference point shifts every few seconds. This technique literally programmes a short-attention span. I suggest that the hyperactive child is attempting to recapture the dynamic quality of the television screen by rapidly changing his/her perceptual orientation."

Limit, don't eliminate

Is there a remedy? Experts suggest that you limit rather than eliminate your children's TV watching and video game play.

One hour a day during the school week, and not more than two hours on weekends, would be a reasonable goal for TV watching. In addition, you should, they suggest, eliminate violent programmes from your child's TV and computer and video games' schedule as much as possible.

If you want to watch them, or your child wants to do likewise, sit with him/her and watch TV together, and explain your feelings, while listening to your child's reasons for preferring this type of programme/s.

Nurture your child's interests

Alternatively, you'd also find out what interests your child and promote a strong objective programme. You need not be a psychologist to discover your child's personal learning style. The best way of doing it is by providing your child with an opportunity to learn what s/he does best. You could, with effect, use good background music to focus and help calm your hyperactive, or "hypersensitive," child. But, remember that the music you use is soft and soothing - not something that is too noisy, or loud.

Experts often recommend some of the great Western classical pieces for children: Mozart or Vivaldi, for example. May be, you could, with better purpose, add Indian classical or light, or popsical, music to the list.

Yet another time-tested idea is: ask your child to visualise by focusing on a special place in nature, favourite colour, toy, sport, movie hero, or a film. It will have a calming effect.

Also, don't you forget to remove allergens from your child's diet. Simple reason: what may be "eating" your child could be what your child is eating. Think. Have patience. Speak to your dietician/nutritionist to get a better grip on the subject.

You'd also add on - and, include the following for better results.

  • Enhance your child's self-esteem
  • Find your child's best times of alertness
  • Provide a variety of stimulating learning activities, like reading, drawing, painting etc.,
  • Teach your child positive aspirations
  • Provide positive role models
  • Provide hands-on activities
  • Help your child with organisational skills
  • Help your child to appreciate the value of personal effort
  • Teach your child focusing techniques: for example, simple breathing exercises and meditation
  • Give your child choices
  • Establish consistent rules, routines, and transitions
  • Hold family meetings
  • Hold a positive image of your child
  • Most importantly, always give reward/s after your child has finished doing a good job, not before.

If you, as parents, could achieve this "equation," or "balance,'" half of the battle could be won quite easily. The rest of the corrective effort will follow, for your good and your child's good.

ADHD Medication for Children

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Rajgopal Nidamboor
Rajgopal Nidamboor, a trained physician, is a writer, commentator, and author. In a career spanning 25 years, Nidamboor has published over 2,000 articles, on a variety of subjects, two coffee table books, an E-book, and a primer on therapeutics, aside from an encyclopaedic treatise on Indian philosophy.

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