Zach is typical of many thirteen-year-old ADHD boys. He hates school, loves video games, and lives in a house that has become a virtual minefield. Someone in his house regularly goes ballistic. School is one constant metal-against-the-chalkboard experience for Zach. As the school day moves forward, his negativity builds. By 6th or 7th hour, he is on the verge of exploding. He often gets sent out of one or both of those classes. He gets in the car after school and his mother needles him about whether or not he turned in all his assignments and has the necessary books and papers needed to complete that night’s homework. Entering the house, three hours of almost uninterrupted arguing ensue. The back-and-forth volleys between Zach and his mother predictably end when his father comes home around 5:30 and yells at Zach’s mother for not getting him to complete all his homework and at Zach for not listening to his mother. Their home is a war zone.
I have been meeting with the family once a week and I really feel like a diplomat from the U.S. State Department. Snarky comments, instantaneous dismissals, and hurtful sarcasm have made progress difficult. With help from a very cooperative assistant principal, however, we have begun to put into place a plan that already seems to be paying dividends.
First of all, Zach’s schedule has been changed so that his last class of the day is Learning Strategies. If he works productively in that class, he is rewarded at home. He has to pack his backpack with appropriate materials, do some homework during class, and get the teacher to sign his planner, verifying that he has met the targets of productivity and preparedness. If he shows this to his mother in the car, she says nothing about school, and he receives 60 minutes of video game time. If on that day Zach brings notes from other teachers regarding his productivity in their classes, he gets an extra 10 minutes for each note.
So far, relationships have been improving between Zach and his parents, as well as with teachers. He is using Learning Strategies quite effectively, a fact that has lessened the amount of work Zach must complete at home. This strategy is creative and involves coordination between family and school. The teachers regularly talk to Zach about video gaming time. Instead of scolding his behavior, they empathize with his wasting an opportunity to play his favorite game. Yelling at home has gone down 90%, according to Zach’s parents. I have great hope for Zach and his family and will keep you apprised of their progress.
Be willing to try new and creative approaches with your ADHD loved one. And by the way, healthy lifestyle choices do help ADHD kids succeed. Stay aware of current research and be willing to try new things. My next book, released this June, will offer 200 pages of creative solutions! It is called: Movers, Dreamers and Risk Takers: Unlocking the Power of ADHD.