SO, YOU'VE JUST GOT A DIAGNOSIS...
Updated: Jul 22
This post is written for parents and carers of children with ADHD. It should give you some answers to the following questions:
what is ADHD?
why does my child have ADHD?
what happens now?
what can I do, now, to make my life easier at home?
what else is important
where can I go for more information?
What is ADHD?
Everyone’s brain is different, and that’s brilliant. Some people fizz with ideas, energy and emotions, other people are more calm and sedate. We need all sorts of people in the world, of course. But sometimes the brain gets too fizzy, so that the person can’t do the basic things they need to do, like stay in class, go to a supermarket, or settle to sleep. When the person can’t do some or all of these things because they are too ‘fizzy’, too hyperactive, too impulsive and with a too short attention span, we call this ADHD. Between 1% and 3% of the population have ADHD, so it’s quite common, and you’re not alone!
2) Why does my child have ADHD?
It is not known exactly what causes ADHD but we are starting to have a better understanding. From looking at people’s genes, we think that about 80% of the risk of having ADHD is inherited from the person’s parents. There are some other things that can make ADHD more likely in particular children, for instance:
Being born premature or with problems with the delivery
Having brain conditions such as epilepsy
Drinking excessive alcohol during pregnancy
But this is important: ADHD is NOT caused by poor parenting or family break-down, although these factors can make the symptoms more troublesome
3) What happens now?
Having a child with ADHD is an emotional roller coaster - we and other agencies will try to help all we can, but it is always going to be tough.
a) Parenting support
Children with ADHD react best to a particular style of parenting, which does not come naturally to everyone. Also, they leave little or no margin for error. For this reason we believe that all parents of children with ADHD would benefit from support with their parenting.
Your paediatrician will also refer you to Early Intervention CAMHS (Tel 020 3228 6783) who will provide further advice and support, but the EICAMHS team have a long waiting list, so most people can do some work with the parenting team before they reach the top of this.
b) Support from paediatrics
They are there for any queries, and to act as a co-ordinating agency for your child’s care. They don’t normally see children again for around 6 months after diagnosis while the school, parenting and CAMHS are working with them, but if things aren’t going to plan, please do let the doctor know on 0203 049 6004.
c) Support at school
Very often, children with ADHD find school especially hard. They are required to sit still, listen to long strings of verbal instruction, and then convert these instructions into sequences of actions; none of these come easy to the ADHD child. Unfortunately, by the time they are diagnosed many children have had several years of being told to 'just try a little harder' and so are giving up on trying, and becoming defiant. However, children with ADHD can be helped at school.
You can expect the school to:
Construct a structured plan for educating your child, based on his/her particular needs
Discuss this plan with you
Make sure that the plan is being implemented
Review the plan regularly
Inform their Educational Psychologist of your child's diagnosis.
An Educational Psychologist is an expert in helping teachers deal with specific issues in
the classroom. Your child may need to see one, or just be observed.
We would ask you to:
Make contact with your child's teacher and discuss his/her issues
Be supportive of school's efforts to help, as well as supporting your child.
If things go wrong, or for more information and support, contact the Lambeth Parent Partnership Officer on 0207 926 9805
4) what can I do, now, to make my life easier at home?
Of course, YOU are the most significant person in your child’s life: the good news is that there are things that you can do to make a significant difference to their problems.
There’s loads of stuff on the website from various sources, but for now remember the following:
Keep calm. Your frustration is understandable but does not help
Don’t talk too much. Short instructions, don’t respond to everything
Catch them being good. Target praise when they respond less badly than they could:
“well done for walking away and not hitting your brother”
Spend time with them doing things they like to do, even if that means getting beaten at Fifa a few times.
Be available. Limit your own time watching TV or on your phone, and respond when they need you.
For things you want them to STOP
Say what will happen if they don’t stop when you get to three.
(time out, remove privelige, early bed - whatever works for you)
Count 1…… 2……. 3. Until they stop.
If they stop then start again straight away, carry on your count
If they get to three DO THE THING YOU SAID.
You need to stick with this. For ages.
For things you want them to DO
Rewards work here. Star charts, jars to put pasta into, whatever works to encourage them into good habits.
But mainly, keep calm. This isn’t your fault, or the child’s.
5) What else is important?
Support from other parents: The Lambeth ADHD parents group is a group of parents who have children with ADHD. They meet every 4th Wednesday of the month at Effra Children’s centre. For more details call the Centre on 020 7733 8425 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Diet: some people find that there are certain foods that make ADHD symptoms worse, but for most children with ADHD there is no need to look for foods to exclude: far better to ensure three balanced meals a day (including breakfast) containing a variety of foods and plenty of fruit and veg.
Exercise is brilliant for children with ADHD. Have a look around where you live for opportunities for exercise. Even walking to school makes a difference!
Sleep is also very important: the child who sleeps poorly will be more hyperactive and have even worse concentration. We should have talked about this issue during your child’s assessment, and have a plan for any difficulties, but there are a few ‘golden rules’ in any case:
NO screens in children’s bedrooms, under any circumstances
A quiet, screen-free hour before a fixed bedtime
The child, once in bed, should be returned there when he/she gets up, with no discussion except a friendly ‘good night’
Massage and quiet music can be helpful
Benefits: Having a child with ADHD creates additional strains and burdens on your family, and it may be that you are eligible for extra benefits, for instance Disability Living Allowance. Please call Every Pound Counts on 02079265555 for advice.
Does he/she need medication?
Not at the moment; quite possibly never. Your paediatrician may talk to you about this at a later date, but the important thing to understand now is that any decision to go onto medication is for the family to make, and no-one else.
6) Where do I get more information?
If you are interested in a book, we would recommend Step by Step Help for Children with ADHD by Cathy Laver-Bradbury 1-2-3 Magic by Thomas Phelan has been recommended to us by parents.
ADDISS (ADHD Charity) 02089522800 www.addiss.org.uk