Are There Benefits to Childhood ADHD?
Jami Demuth is the mother of three children, ages 12, 14 and 16 – all of whom have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). His parenting strategy? She encourages them to find ways to use their ADHD symptoms to their advantage.
“I tell my kids all the time, [ADHD] is your greatest superpower, ”says Demuth. “And I believe 100%. Yes, there are challenges that come with it. … But overall, being a superpower certainly outweighs these challenges.
This may not be the case for all children. And it’s still important to manage ADHD symptoms. But often recognizing positive traits and helping your child focus on them can build confidence and teach them to overcome obstacles.
Positive traits of ADHD
ADHD generally manifests itself in three main ways: inattention; hyperactivity and / or impulsivity; or a combination of these symptoms.
There are certainly downsides to having too much energy or being easily distracted. But some children may benefit from ADHD-related behaviors such as:
Flexibility. People with ADHD tend to think of more than one option at the same time. Sometimes that means they’re less likely to settle on just one choice. They can be open to different ideas and other ways of doing things.
Adaptability and resilience. Because of their symptoms, children with ADHD often have to find ways to adapt to their environment. It teaches them coping skills and helps them recover from challenges.
Creativity. Children with ADHD tend to be extra-imaginative. So they might be dreaming or getting distracted. But they can also notice what most others don’t. This creativity can help them come up with new ideas and solve problems.
Energy. When kids with ADHD are motivated by something, they can put a lot of energy into it. They are determined to succeed in areas that they find particularly interesting. In fact, it can be difficult to distract them from their favorite activity.
Enthusiasm. Children with ADHD usually have great personalities and are rarely boring. This lively behavior can make them popular with their peers.
ADHD affects each of Demuth’s children differently. For example, she finds that the enthusiasm and energy of her middle child builds her self-confidence. These qualities helped him make friends and be socially successful in school.
Her three children, she says, are good at creating thoughtful relationships and coming up with original ideas.
“They are extraordinary thinkers,” she says.
All children are different
Every child with ADHD has a different set of symptoms. And these symptoms can range from mild to severe. This is one of the reasons it is important to treat all kinds of ADHD.
“If the negative effects of behavior far outweigh the positives, you’ll never see the positives,” says Max Wiznitzer, MD, pediatric neurologist at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, OH.
But it’s important to emphasize the right behaviors when possible, he says.
“If they develop good habits, their ADHD won’t negatively affect them in the same way as if they only had bad habits,” says Wiznitzer, who is also co-chair of the Caregiver Child and Adult Career Advisory Board. Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD).
How parents can help
How Can Parents Help Their Children Use Their ADHD Symptoms For Good? First of all, make sure you focus on what your kids can do, rather than what they can’t.
As a parent, it’s easy to pay more attention to what kids are doing wrong, Demuth says. But since children with ADHD receive so many negative messages about their condition, it’s important for parents to encourage them.
“I think you really need to catch up. Don’t start with a negative thing, like their room is a mess, ”she says. “Highlight those times when you catch them doing good.”
Wiznitzer suggests that parents make a list of their child’s particular strengths and then identify those that are related to ADHD. This will help you understand what traits your child can use to help them be successful.
Parents can also encourage good behavior with:
A reward system. Reward your child for doing something right. Depending on your child and what they are accomplishing, the reward could be anything from a star on a behavior chart to cash.
Limits of behavior. Some children with ADHD may be popular with their peers because of their energetic personalities. But in excess, it can lead to “class clown” behavior or drive others away. Parents should encourage their child’s vibrant personality while making sure they understand when to step aside, such as when they are in class.
An emphasis on feedback. Parents are not always aware of how their child is coping outside the home. If they stop being invited to friends’ meetings or if you start getting calls from teachers, their behavior might be to cross a line. It may be time to step up treatment or talk to them about the limits. But if they are praised for their behavior, they are probably managing their symptoms well. Encourage them to keep up the good work.
With any of these strategies, says Wiznitzer, follow the three basic rules for children with ADHD: “structure, routine and consistency.”
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