More often than not one thinks about a child with ADHD and a picture pops into their head of a child bouncing off the walls, calling out, fidgeting with anything and everything. There is also the side of the ADHD child which includes defiant behavior. This is most definitely NOT because the child is "bad" or "naughty." Dr. David Anderson, Ph.D, talks about how "kids with ADHD are wired to be attracted by things that are outside the bounds of what we want them to be doing." This attention leads adults to draw erroneous conclusions about the behavior's motivation.
The definition of Attention Deficit Disorder, according to the American Psychiatric Association, includes "inattention (not being able to keep focus), hyperactivity (excess movement that is not fitting to the setting) and impulsivity (hasty acts that occur in the moment without thought)." All three categories can be viewed negatively. The trick to cracking the ADHD code is to tap into the extreme interest which children with ADHD are living. They have trouble sitting still, not because they are bored, but because they are so interested in that "thing" over there....just outside the lesson at hand. They have trouble focusing, not because they are scatterbrained, exactly the opposite....they are thinking about 1000 different things that have caught their interest and into which they would like to delve deeper.
Emotions can run high, on the part of both the child and the adult. Adults may see a child who does the exact opposite of what they have been told to do. Perhaps the adult sees the child picking and choosing what part of the instructions they decide to follow. Whatever the adult sees it is only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. Their perception, more often than not, leads to demands, threats, loss of priviledges, and maybe more. It is probably safe to say that voices were raised and lines in the sand were drawn. The child, struggling with ADHD, is being bombarded by input coming from all sides. The child, struggling with ADHD, is practically numb to the negative responses coming from the adult due to the frequency with which they come.
Behavior is tricky when living with ADHD. Increased structure and well defined expectations are extremely beneficial to the child living with ADHD. It is this very child that needs modeling and guidance as to what behaviors are acceptable. "The structure that parents provide is a model for what we want kids to learn, and keeps them in good standing as they develop better self-regulation," says Caroline Miller. Russell Barkley is of the belief that poor self-regulation "should be one of the core symptoms of the disorder." Self-regulation, inhibition, delayed gratification are all out-growths of the impulsivity that is at the cornerstone of ADHD.
Treatment of ADHD is never one-size-fits-all. While there are medications to help with impulsivity, irritability, and aggression that is only one aspect of treatment. Another avenue that should be explored is education. Adults must learn the best ways to model appropriate behavior and to outline very clear and exact expectations and directions.
As with everything in life and human beings, it is an ever changing dynamic. By keeping the lines of communication open between adults and children the journey will be an easier one.