ADD/ADHD – Attention Deficit Disorder

You’ve always considered your son to be an active child; even as a toddler he was always on the go. He gets bored quickly if there isn’t structure or if he doesn’t like the activity (like homework!) and he prefers to do several things at once. He often interrupts people when they speak, but you’re confident that he can outgrow the behavior. However, his inability to sit still during dinnertime is increasingly annoying and of even more concern is the trouble he’s been getting into in school for calling out answers and leaving his seat without permission. You’re wondering – could he have ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)?

Most children are first considered for formal assessment when their school performance is suffering. However, ADD/ADHD can occur in children of every intellectual level (from intellectually challenged all the way to intellectually gifted). The brighter the child, the longer it may take for teachers and parents to become concerned, since the child’s academic performance may not be as quickly or as severely affected by his disorder. Nonetheless, a child who has to work extra hard in order to counteract the effects of ADD/ADHD is usually feeling stressed, exhausted and irritable. These behavioral symptoms should be taken seriously – not just the child’s grades. In fact, no matter what the child’s grades are like, behavioral disturbances at home should also be taken seriously. Sometimes these are a result of parenting style, but sometimes they are caused by conditions inside the child. A proper assessment may lead to a diagnosis of ADD/ADHD or some other developmental condition or simply stress that the child has not been able to express to his parents. Parents should also seek assessment when their child seems to have trouble following instructions, remembering to do what he is told, taking turns, waiting patiently, organizing his schedule and belongings or sitting for age appropriate lengths of time. Don’t assume that a child doesn’t have ADD/ADHD just because he can spend hours sitting quietly in front of the T.V. or computer screen. The disorder only interferes with “boring” activities, not activities that stimulate the child. That is because ADD/ADHD is a brain condition that is essentially understimulated. In fact, medicinal treatment consists of stimulant drugs. Although normal people can tolerate boredom fairly well, those with ADD/ADHD have zero tolerance for boredom because their brains are stimulant hungry – boredom is actually painful for them. This is also why kids with ADD/ADHD tend to get into trouble when left in unstructured situations. They will create activity by getting into mischief. Highly structured programs help prevent this problem.

What is Attention Deficit Disorder?
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD, are behavioral conditions characterized by an inability to maintain focus for a long time and/ or an inability to keep still. These difficulties in managing attention and activity are more than what is expected developmentally from kids of the same age. The symptoms tend to also persist across all situations, thus a child with ADD or ADHD tends to be inattentive or disruptive, not just at school but at home as well.

ADHD affects somewhere between 5 and 10% of schoolchildren, depending on measurements utilized. Symptoms of ADD or ADHD are never the same with any two people. People with attention deficit disorder may not be able to sit still, plan ahead, finish things, or pay attention to what’s going on around them. Symptoms for ADD may include: having difficulty remaining in one place, difficulty waiting one’s turn in groups, blurting out answers before the question is complete, poor organizational skills, losing things, shifting from one uncompleted task to another, talking excessively, not listening to what is being said, being easily distracted, entering situations without thinking, having difficulty following instructions, fidgeting with hands and feet, squirming while seated, interrupting people often and forgetting things that are necessary for a task or activity.

Kids with ADD/ADHD may also have additional symptoms such as problems with anger, poor social skills, poor fine or gross motor skills, anxiety, sleep disturbances and mood issues. Sometimes ADD/ADHD occurs alongside other disorders such as Tic Disorders, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, depression and social phobia. Attention Deficit Disorder has an early onset, and usually manifests itself before a child turns 7 years old.

Symptoms for attention deficit disorder are broken down into three groups: Type 1: Inattentive. This group of ADD sufferer have symptoms of attention deficit – i.e. being easily distracted, daydreaming, losing focus. Type 2:  Hyperactive/Impulsive. This group of people with ADHD show symptoms of overactivity (fidgeting, running or pacing where inappropriate, always “on the go”) and impulsivity (acting without thought, interrupting others, calling out). Type 3 is Mixed Inattentive and Hyperactive/Impulsive, where the person has a mixture of symptoms across both categories – that is, a mix of ADD and ADHD symptoms. Diagnosis is generally not made until the person concerned has eight or more of the above symptoms, and the symptoms have remained the same for at least six months.

Below is a summary of the common symptoms of ADD:

  • Short attention span, mind tends to wander
  • Frequent  forgetfulness
  • High rate of unfinished projects
  • Gets painfully bored when task isn’t interesting or when there is a lack of structure
  • Makes careless errors in schoolwork
  • Is easily distracted
  • Doesn’t follow through on chores or instructions, appears not to listen
  • Disorganized; loses and misplaces things frequently
  • Difficulty in concentrating on tasks, a high rate of unfinished projects
  • Excessive activeness or excessively high energy levels

Common symptoms of ADHD include:

  • Constantly being on-the-go
  • Frequent fidgeting and running about
  • Impulsive behavior like blurting out answers in class
  • Trouble waiting in-line or other slow-moving situations
  • Talks excessively and interrupts others

There are no laboratory tests that can measure ADHD; as a behavioral condition, psychologists and medical practitioners rely mainly on observation, interview and teacher reports to get a clear picture of the patient’s state. Diagnosis can be made by a paediatric specialist (a medical doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of ADD/ADHD or by a psychologist whose speciality is assessment and diagnosis). Sometimes the family doctor can make a diagnosis as well. Teachers cannot diagnose ADD/ADHD although they may suspect its presence and they are also a vital source of information for those who provide the assessment. Teachers can often refer parents to those who can diagnose. Finally, friends and relatives CANNOT diagnose ADD/ADHD – specialized tests and measurements are required in order to make a diagnosis in addition to behavioural data collected from parents, teachers and others.

What Causes ADHD?
The exact origins of ADHD are still under debate, and many controversies surround the different theories being pushed forward by various research groups and experts. The most accepted explanation so far is that ADHD is a neurological condition related to both the lack of specific chemicals in the brain, and brain structural issues that inhibit attention and self-control. This biological basis is most favored, as ADHD appears to be a genetic condition that begins as early as infancy. However, many researchers also believe that diet, lifestyle and environmental conditions have a lot to do with the symptoms of ADHD. They argue that ADHD is a fairly recent phenomenon, and the condition was rarely reported 50 years ago. ADHD is also rare in poor and developing countries, suggesting that there is something in the way we approach life today that promotes symptoms of inattention and inactivity. In particular, some scientists blame the high sugar content of the modern diet, as well as the rampant used of preservatives and artificial ingredients for ADHD. Excessive use of  technology, such as the television, computer and gaming consoles have also been considered as culprits. Additionally, poisonous chemicals in the air, water and food products are also believed to cause neurological impairment.

How is ADHD Treated?
Once a diagnosis is obtained, parents have a variety of treatment options that they can consider. Both behavioral and biological interventions are usually recommended.

Psychostimulants such as Ritalin have been found to be effective in increasing an ADHD child’s attention span and improving performance at school. Some parents prefer to try alternative treatments such as homeopathy, herbal medicine and nutritional supplements. Some parents will try the natural approach for some months and, if results are not satisfactory, then try psychotropic medication.

Cognitive-Behavioral techniques are used to help manage inattention and impulse control. Children and adult ADHD sufferers can be taught specific techniques to help reduce symptoms and enhance functioning.

When making a decision as to which form of treatment to employ, consultation with the following people is recommended: a behavioural optometrist for a developmental vision evaluation, an allergist regarding possible allergic reactions, a child psychologist who can devise a behaviour modification program, a medical doctor who can assess the need for and prescribe medication and an occupational speech therapist with expertise regarding sensory processing problems. Other professionals to consider are special education tutors who can provide specialized supplementary education when necessary and naturopaths who are experienced in the alternative treatment of this syndrome. Although the treatment team seems large, it is also comprehensive, helping to create the most thorough and effective intervention for those children who have ADD/ADHD.

Bringing Out the Best in the ADD/ADHD Child
Raising a child with ADD/ADHD requires superb parenting skills. Being “Average-Joe-Parent” just won’t do with this population. For a set of easy-to-acquire top parenting skills, see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe. While your doctor and other members of the professional team are addressing your child’s symptoms, you as a parent can keep the following points in mind:

  • The ADD/ADHD child is not purposely disobedient or unruly. He is dealing with inner compulsions and forces; he would like it if he could be easier going, more flexible, happier and relaxed, but he just can’t get there.  He needs your love, support, patience and understanding.
  • Keep expressions of anger to an absolute minimum with this population. They lack the ego-strength (self-confidence) to handle anger and often react with depression, withdrawal, aggressiveness, acting out and other forms of intense emotional turmoil and dysfunction. Learn how to discipline without using anger at all.
  • Your child might benefit from reading self-help books on ADD/ADHD – there are now many available, written for children and teenagers.
  • Consider experimenting with Bach Flower Therapy as a treatment for ADD/ADHD. Bach Therapy has no side-effects of any kind, yet can often effectively reduce many of the symptoms of ADD/ADHD such as impulsivity, immaturity, hostility, depression, anxiety, restlessness, lack of concentration/attention and more. (You can find more information on the Bach Flower Remedies online and throughout this site.) Your naturopath may also recommend other alternative and dietary interventions.
  • Consider enrolling your child in social skills or anger management programs providing sheltered group activities or individual activities that will build personal confidence and self-esteem such as karate lessons, drum lessons, art lessons, cooking classes etc. These needn’t be formal classes – if you can provide extracurricular activities yourself at home (like teaching your child to cook or sew) – that’s great! ADD/ADHD children often grow up to be adults with exceptional creativity and unique gifts. As long as their self-esteem remains intact and they develop ways of working around their deficits, they are capable of being highly successful professionally and personally.

How to Raise Your Child’s Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence (E.Q.) refers to “people smarts.” A person with high emotional intelligence understands both himself and others. Not only does the person understand people, but he also knows how to make them feel comfortable – he knows how to bring out the best in others. As a result, the person with high E.Q. experiences more success in relationships and at work. Kids with high E.Q. have better relationships at home and at school, with kids and with adults. Moreover, high E.Q.in children and teens is associated with better academic performance, better physical health, better emotional health and better behavior. In adults, high E.Q. is associated with better performance in every area of life.

What can you do to help foster your child’s emotional intelligence? In this article we will discuss ways one can boost their child’s emotional intelligence.

Adapt an Authoritative, Not an Autocratic Parenting Style
Parenting style has a huge influence on children’s emotional intelligence. When parents can guide their children while still being sensitive to their feelings, children have higher E.Q. Authorative parents are warm, but consistent in setting appropriate limits and boundaries. They will use discipline, but not at the expense of respectful communication and care. Their children will learn how to be sensitive to others and they will also learn how to “talk to themselves” compassionately, modelling after their parents. This gentle self-talk becomes a major aspect of their emotional intelligence, a tool they can use to reduce their stress in a healthy way.

Autocratic parents, on the other hand, don’t care that much about the child’s feelings. Instead, they focus on the rules of the household, what is allowed and what is prohibited, what the child may and may not do. Sensitivity to the child’s inner world is missing. In this case, children fail to experience parental empathy and as a result, fail to learn how to soothe their own upset emotions. They may attempt to relieve their discomfort by becoming aggressive, acting out their feelings. Eventually they may turn to comforts outside of themselves such as addictions (to food, alcohol, drugs, etc.). Acting out and addictive behavior reflects lower E.Q.

The more feeling words used by parents and educators, the more sensitive a child becomes to his inner reality. Most of us tend to use few emotion words in our dealings with children, and when we do, we often use the same few tired ones over and over.  It is important that we move beyond “mad,” “sad,” “glad,” and “scared.”  Shades of feeling are most helpful and can be used when describing our own feelings or the child’s feelings. Words like irritated, annoyed, frustrated, anxious, worried, terrified, alarmed, disappointed, hurt, insulted, embarrassed, uncomfortable, unsure, curious, interested, hopeful, concerned, shocked, elated, excited, enthusiastic, let down, abandoned, deserted, mellow, calm, peaceful, relaxed, bored, withdrawn, furious, enraged, frightened, panicked, and proud can be used DAILY to help provide an emotional education in the home or classroom. These are the regular feelings that children have in facing life, stimulated by everyday experiences, dreams, movies and even novels. Identifying a youngster’s emotional reaction and feeding it back to him, helps him to become aware of his inner processing. This information then forms the core of his emotional intelligence, providing an accurate barometer of his response to his world. From this place of inner certainty, a child is well-equipped to navigate life, knowing what he feels, what he is searching for and when he has attained it. His familiarity with the world of feelings allows him to connect accurately and sensitively with others. This prevents him from hurting other people’s feelings with words and further, permits him to achieve great kindness and sensitivity in his interpersonal transactions.

Here are some practical steps you can take to bring feelings into focus:

  1. Respond to your child. From the time your child is a crying infant to the time she is a young adult, be sure to be responsive. This means that you take her communications seriously. If she cries, try to come (instead of making her cry it out.). If she asks for something, try to answer her promptly. If she talks, you listen and respond appropriately. All of this responsiveness builds emotional intelligence because you are giving your youngster valuable relationship feedback. In the opposite scenario, in which a parent either fails to respond or responds only after a long waiting period, the child learns that people tune each other out. This causes the child to shut down. She assumes that her feelings aren’t that important based on lack of parental responsiveness and from this concludes that people’s feelings aren’t that important – the very OPPOSITE of the conclusions made by emotionally intelligent people. Quick responsiveness gives the message that people’s feelings matter. This is a prerequisite concept for emotional intelligence.
  2. Use a FEELING vocabulary. Pepper your daily conversation with “feeling” words. You can name your own feelings. Let your child know that you feel excited or dismayed or discouraged or resentful or whatever. This gives your child the vital information that everyone – including parents – has feelings and an inner life. Some people do this naturally, of course, but many do not. For instance, when a child is making too much noise, a parent may just say something like, “Can you please quiet down?” However, the Emotional Coach would say something like, “I’m starting to feel overwhelmed with all this noise going on. Can you please quiet down?” Similarly, a regular parent might give positive feedback to a child in this way, “I like the way you waited patiently in line with me at the bank today.” An Emotional Coach, on the other hand, might say something like, “I felt very relaxed with you in the bank today because you were waiting so patiently.” In other words, the Emotional Coach looks for opportunities to describe his or her inner experience. It is this description that helps the child begin to build an emotional vocabularly that will open the doors to Emotional Intelligence.
  3. Name your child’s feelings. Children feel feelings all day long but not all parents comment on them. In fact, many parents are more practical, focusing on solutions to problems. For instance, if a child is upset because there are no more of his favorite cookies left in the jar, the typical parent might say, “I’ll pick up some more for you when I go shopping this week.” While that solves the problem, it doesn’t build emotional intelligence. An Emotional Coach might say, “Oh, that’s so disappointing! You really love those cookies! I’ll pick some up for you when I go shopping this week.” The extra few words acknowledging the child’s inner world (“Oh that’s so disappointing”) make all the difference when it comes to building Emotional Intelligence. Similarly, parents often try to get kids to STOP their feelings or at least SHRINK their feelings by saying things like, “Just calm down – it’s not such a big deal” or “There’s nothing to be afraid of,” of “Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.” The Emotional Coach, on the other hand, accepts all the child’s feelings, giving the child the name for what is going on inside. “I can see how upset you are,” or “You’re really scared about this,” or “It so important to you,” and so on. By accepting all feelings as they are, the Emotional Coach teaches kids not to be afraid of or overwhelmed by feelings. This is a very important part of becoming emotionally intelligent.
  4. Teach your child how to express emotions appropriately. While all feelings are acceptable, all BEHAVIORS are not. It is not O.K. to hit and scream just because you feel angry. It is not O.K. to cry for an hour at the top of your lungs just because you are disappointed. Parents must teach children – by their example and by their interventions – the appropriate behavioral expression of emotions. For instance, parents can teach children to express their anger in a respectful way by saying things like, “When you are mad at your brother for touching your puzzle, just tell him ‘I don’t want you to touch my puzzle. I’m working hard on it and it bothers me when you move the piece around.’ Don’t slap his hand!” Parents will have to use the normal techniques of positive attention, encouragement and discipline to get the lessons across. It is, of course, essential, that parents are respectful themselves in the way they express their upset, fear and disappointment. See “The Relationship Rule” in Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice for details on how to teach the proper way to express negative emotions.
  5. Let them experience failure and disappointment. It’s understandable that parents want to protect their children from disappointment. But know that rescuing children from pain, to the point that they never get to experience life, will backfire in the long run. Children need to know how to bounce back from adversity — resilience muscles need training too! And children won’t know how it is to rebound from disappointment if they aren’t allowed to experience it to begin with. When your child gets a poor mark on a project, don’t rush to the teacher to get the mark raised; instead, use emotional coaching with your child (that is, NAME her feelings). “This mark is so disappointing! You tried really hard and the teacher didn’t appreciate it. That is frustrating!” By naming feelings, you actually help shrink them down to size. Feeling words act as “containers” for feelings. It’s O.K. for the child to be upset, or even to cry. After awhile, she’ll calm down. And this is the important part – learning that calm follows a storm. Everything in life doesn’t need to be perfect. There is such a thing as recovery. “There will be more projects, more chances to get a good grade.” You want to show the child that you yourself aren’t afraid of negative experiences or emotions. This model that life is “survivable” can really help a child cope when the going gets rough.
  6. Expand their social network. Few parents think of other people as possible teaching instruments in promoting emotional intelligence. But kids can learn more from interesting personalities and other people’s life experiences than they can from a classroom lecture. Having to adapt well to different types of people — quiet, assertive, annoying, fun-loving — can teach a child how to regulate their behavior based on the demands of an interaction. The challenges other people go through can also provide insight on how to manage one’s own trials in life. Learning vicariously through the success and failure of other people is a good way to raise a child’s E.Q. So if you can, go ahead and enroll your child in various clubs or organizations. When they’re a bit older, encourage them to volunteer in community service. Send them on mission trips. Let them talk with grandpa or grandma. Every person has a lesson to impart to a child.

Helping Your Child Succeed at School

Ideally, learning should be a partnership between the home and the school. This is especially so when a child has special learning needs and requires more support. Teachers do the best they can to maximize a class’ learning, but they need to be made aware of special circumstances that can make studies more challenging for a particular child. Similarly, teachers’ efforts are best supported and even enhanced by at-home parental interventions.

The following are some tips on how parents of a child with learning disabilities can work better with their child’s teachers:

Develop a Relationship
Your child’s teachers care about your child. Teachers want their students to become the best that they can be, and want them to benefit as much as possible from the classroom environment. So introduce yourself to your child’s teacher, and start to build your team. Attend PTA meetings, sign notes home, call in with questions or concerns. In order to establish rapport, make sure to give the teacher positive feedback as well as appreciation: “Johnny just loves your class! You obviously have a way with kids!” Small gifts at holiday times are also good ways of showing appreciation.

Communicate Your Child’s Special Needs
If your child has already been diagnosed with a learning disorder or other special needs, it’s important that you inform your child’s teachers as soon as possible. While parents understandably don’t want their kid to be discriminated because of his or her disability, they do want the best education possible. This may involve using special teaching or grading strategies, making various accomodations and so forth. You can help the teacher understand your child’s reactions, behavior and learning style by providing all the information you have. This will enable the teacher to bring out the best in your youngster. Even if your child does not have a formal assessment, you may know something that the teacher does not  about what motivates your child. Sharing your insights with the teacher can empower the teacher to achieve more with your child.

Be Prepared to Educate Your Child’s Teacher about Your Child’s Condition
Don’t assume that the classroom teacher knows all there is to know about various learning challenges. Children may have learning disabilities, ADHD, behavioral issues, trauma, anxiety or mood issues that interfere with their ability to learn. While almost all teachers have some background in special needs and special education, not all are experienced or have expertise handling specific conditions. It’s up to you as a parent then to provide classroom teachers with resources on what your child is going through, and specific tips on how, as teachers, they can help your child.

Communicate Your Child’s Strong Points
Remember to communicate your child’s strengths as well. Your child is not defined by his or her learning problems and challenges. If both you and his or her teacher are consistent in reinforcing positive areas of growth, then you can further strengthen these areas, and create a more resilient child.

Be Willing to be Part of the Assessment Process
When teachers notice changes in a child’s performance or behavior, they may want speak with you. Perhaps they want to make recommendations, urge you to get assessment or treatment for your child, or ask for your help. Since all of their concerns have to do with your child’s education, it’s most helpful if you listen carefully to what the teacher is saying. This is no time to be overprotective of your child or defensive about him or her. Instead, it’s the time to collaborate with the teacher and work together to bring out the best in your youngster. When the teacher sees that you take his or her concerns seriously, he or she will be even more inspired to work hard on behalf of your child.

Special Education

The traditional classroom setting is not always a good fit for a child with special needs. If your child has learning disabilities (i.e. reading and writing difficulties), he or she may have trouble keeping up with peers in a regular classroom setting. Similarly, if your child has a behavioral disorder, such as Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), then your child may need certain interventions that a regular classroom teacher is not trained in. And if your child is gifted in a particular way, then he or she may find the general curriculum insufficiently stimulating.

To help your child get the most in his or her learning situation, you may want to consider placing him or her in a special education classroom.

What is a Special Education Classroom?
As the term implies, a special education classroom refers to a learning environment that differs from the standard education offered in traditional public and private schools.

A special education classroom offers alternative teaching and classroom management styles, from instructors trained in special education. Materials are also adapted to the special needs of the learners; for instance children who are visually impaired may be given textbooks in brail or large font. The curriculum may also be atypical; a special education class for children with mental retardation and autism can teach self-management and social skills instead of math or science.

What’s Great about Special Education Classrooms?
In a special education classroom, students are encouraged to learn at their own pace, and thus the class need not follow the school curriculum prescribed by the government. Learning is very individualized; usually instructors tailor fit their lesson plan to the profile of the class, making each special education class unique.

Typically, teacher-learner ratio is very small, at times even 1:1. Parents, caregivers and learning specialists may also accompany students while taking their classes, unlike in the traditional classroom environment where classroom parental supervision is discouraged after the first day of class.

Should Your Child be Enrolled in a Special Education Class?
If you have a child with special needs, a special education classroom may be appropriate. However, it’s important to keep in mind both the advantages and disadvantages of special placement.

One of the main disadvantages of special education classrooms is that they tend to take kids away from what is perceived as a “normal” learning experience. Children miss opportunities to socialize and learn with the other “normal” (not identified as “special!”) kids their age. They may also feel like they are being ostracized for their disability or special needs, that their exclusion from mainstream classroom is a sign that they are inferior in some way.

Some educators argue that special education classrooms do not adequately prepare a child for the real world, as most social and working environments will require mainstreaming. Special education classrooms are largely dependent too on the skill of the instructor or administrator; with the term “special needs” having such a huge scope, that it’s quite possible for a special education class to fail to respond adequately to each child.

Below are some things you may consider as a parent:

Can My Child’s Learning Needs be Responded to Adequately in a Traditional Classroom?
Note that special needs differ in nature and degree, and your child may not require a special education classroom after all. A child with mild ADHD, for example, can successfully mainstream if his or her condition is adequately managed by therapy and medication. A child with hearing problems may be assisted by technology or a caregiver who provides sign language interpretation. If reasonable accommodations can be made, it might be best to limit the changes to a child’s life because of a disability or condition.

Will My Child Do Better in a Special Education Classroom?
On the flipside, all parents want their children to be the best that they can be. We all have to concede that general education is precisely that — general. Even if your child can perform adequately in a traditional classroom, if the individualized teaching methods and specialized equipment can assist them to achieve and break expectations, then by all means enroll your child in a special education classroom.

Can You Augment Special Education Classrooms with Other Supportive Activities?
What you sacrifice when you enroll your child in a special education class, you can recover by increasing their participation in other programs designed to increase their socialization and self-sufficiency. Programs geared towards developing talents, summer camps and the like can all augment what is lost in special education. In fact, there is nothing to say that special education classrooms can’t be taken alongside traditional classroom learning — perhaps your child can get the best of both worlds.

Can You Afford Special Education Classrooms?
Luckily, with the government’s growing recognition of the rights and needs of persons with disabilities, special education is offered for free in many states. There are also many non-governmental organizations and advocacy groups who offer special education for a low cost. But most private special education classrooms still require hefty tuition, understandably because one-on-one care is costly. Personal finances are a realistic consideration.

Child Has Difficulty in School

A child may have difficulty in school for many reasons. Some kids aren’t motivated to learn because they are distracted by stress at home. Some kids have trouble concentrating because they have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and others have difficulty quieting down to learn because they have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Some children have intellectual challenges (developmental delays or mental retardation) and still others have specific Learning Disabilites. In this article, we will examine Learning Disabilities and their impact on school children and teens.

What is a Learning Disability?
A Learning Disability (LD) refers to the umbrella of biological, mental and behavioral conditions that result in difficulty with tasks related to absorbing, processing and applying information and skills. In other words, information may be hard to organize, hard to remember, hard to understand and/or hard to express. For instance, a child with a learning disability that affects arithmetic may have any of these problems:

  • Can’t make sense of what the teacher is explaining
  • Can’t recall what the teacher said
  • Knows what the teacher said but can’t explain it to others
  • Knows what was said, but can’t apply it to new arithmetic questions
  • Learning troubles associated with LDs are not due to a student’s lack of effort or his or her intellectual capacity. Areas that may be affected by a learning disability include reading, writing, performing mathematical processes, listening and speaking.

There are many different types of learning disabilities. Below are some common ones:

  • Dyslexia. Dyslexia is a genetic condition characterized by difficulty in reading. Contrary to popular opinion, dyslexia is not an illness that causes people to read backwards. But people with dyslexia do have difficulty with spelling, reading words aloud, and phonological processing or the manipulation of sounds. Some dyslexics have a condition called “strephosymbolia” which is the tendency to read similar symbols incorrectly, as they are spatially reversed in the brain. Thus, “b” may be read as “d” or “w” may be read as “m.” Whole words can be misread or remembered inaccurately due to this condition.
  • DysgraphiaAlso called agraphia, dysgraphia is an LD related to difficulty with writing. Specifically, people with LD have trouble with the fine motor skills and muscle coordination involved in writing. Issues with the language and perceptual centers of the brain may also contribute to the difficulty in putting words to paper.
  • Dyscalculia. Dyscalculia covers learning disorders related to problems with numerical operations and tasks requiring math reasoning. Issues faced by a person with dyscalculia include inability to understand the concept of numbers and quantities, basic operations like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, as well as logic problems related to numbers.
  • Dyspraxia. Dyspraxia is a motor learning disability. While its manifestation is in execution of movement, dyspraxia has less to do with muscle problems, and more to do with the brain’s ability to process and execute commands relating to physical action. Dyspraxia is believed to occur among 10% of the general population.
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). While primarily a behavioral condition, ADHD is sometimes considered to be a learning disability because it impairs a person’s ability to concentrate on a task and finish what one has started. Because of this, kids often have trouble catching up to lessons in school. Hyperactivity also affects learning, as few kids with ADHD are able to keep still in the traditional classroom environment.
  • Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD). As the name implies, CAPD refers to difficulty in learning through hearing. A child with CAPD would have difficulty attending to instructions, listening to lectures, and distinguishing sounds from each other. Since it can interfere with classroom learning, it may also be considered a learning disability.

Interrupts Frequently

Whether it’s because of poor manners or difficulty in impulse-control, kids often interrupt adults. It is the parents’ job to teach children how to wait patiently or, in case of true emergency, interrupt properly. After all, social skills are integral in a child’s personality development. Kids will find more social and relationship success when they know how to behave politely.

If you have a child who tends to interrupt others, consider the following tips:

Inform Kids Early That Interrupting is Not O.K.
Interrupting starts early and is best addressed early. Babies can interrupt conversations with their cries and there’s not much parents can do about that! However, toddlers can begin to learn that they are not the only one with needs. Two and three year-olds can be taught to recognize when adults are talking. “Mommy is talking with Daddy right now. Please wait a minute” or “Mommy is talking on the phone. Please wait a minute.” As the child grows, even more can be required of him. For instance, a pre-schooler can be taught to say “excuse me” – and can also be taught when to use this phrase and when to just wait instead. “If you need help you can say “excuse me” but if you just want to tell me something interesting, then please wait until you see that I have finished speaking.” School-age children are capable of distinguishing between true emergencies and “I want something right now,” so you can raise the bar even higher: “If there is a fire or something else dangerous that is happening, go ahead and say “Excuse me but there is a fire in the kitchen!” or something like that. Or, if someone is waiting for you at the door and you have to leave right away, you can say, “Excuse me, but someone is waiting for me – I need to ask permission for something right away” On the other hand, if you want to know if you can eat something or do something, then please wait until you see that I’ve finished speaking and then say, “Excuse me, can I ask you something?” Hopefully, by the time your child is an adolescent, you won’t need to to offer any more lessons on interruption! (Although, you may need to review what you’ve taught previously!).

Teach Kids How to Recognize Cues Signalling their Turn
Make sure that you child knows what  “interrupt” means! Use role-playing, puppets or dolls to illustrate what happens in a conversation. Demonstrate what a pause or “lull” in the conversation sounds like. Explain how to say “excuse me” and wait for a response.

Don’t Reward Interruptions with Attention
Some kids are prone to interrupting because they know that it is a strategy that “works” – they’ll get what they want. If this is the case, then it’s best to send the message as soon as you can that interrupting is not an effective way of getting needs met. Tell your interrupting child “I’m talking to so & so right now” and then ignore him until you are ready to deal with his concern. Try to refrain from giving attention even if the child starts to tantrum. Try not to show irritation or upset (since that is also a form of attention). Don’t reprimand or punish. Instead, reward the behavior that you approve of (waiting patiently and saying “excuse me” at the right time). If parents consistently reinforce the behavior of waiting for one’s turn, then they will eventually see more of it in their children. If after using this strategy for some time, your child still interrupts, then change strategies. You can use discipline to eradicate interruptions. Make a rule: “From now on, when you interrupt me to ask a question, the answer will be an automatic ‘no.'” Or, “From now on, when you interrupt me when I am speaking with someone, I will not answer you and you will have to write out ‘I wait my turn before speaking’ ten times” (or pick any other negative consequence that you want to use – see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe for appropriate suggestions). Be consistent with consequences if you decide to use them and your child will quickly learn not to interrupt.

Give Your Child Quality Time
Kids love to share stories, and they may be constantly interrupting you because they like to tell you things. Make sure that you do give your child time so that they can tell you everything they want to tell you. If parent-child bonding time is regular, then there’ll be less need for frequent interruptions.

Provide Ways to Manage Excitement While Waiting
The behavior of interrupting frequently may be due to poor impulse control. Kids get so excited, they can’t contain what they want to say! As alternative to giving in to one’s impulses, parents can teach their children ways to manage frustration tolerance. For example, parents can give children a recorder so that they can document their stories during moments when there’s no one they can speak with. Parents may also teach children to count from 1 to 10 while waiting, write out their message (if they’re old enough to write!), or play with toys that are nearby until you are available.

Consider Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD
If your child’s interrupting behavior is excessive, chronic and appears across all settings, then consider the possibility that your child may have ADHD. ADHD appears before a child is 7 years old, and symptoms typically last for more than 6 months. If you suspect that your child has ADHD, then do consult a mental health professional for an assessment. When ADHD is properly treated, it will be easier for the child to refrain from interrupting parents and others.