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Practical Homeschooling® :

Hyperactive, Hyperkinetic, ADD, ADHD

By Joyce Herzog

Printed in Practical Homeschooling #10, 1995.

How to help a child learn who finds it difficult to shut out his surroundings and concentrate on his lessons

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The following examples suggest that a child is poor at blocking out the variety of stimulus in his environment: he hears the curtains rustle, he sees the dust flecks floating, he feels the breeze lift the hairs on his arms. Many of these children, who doctors label as hyperactive, hyperkinetic, ADD, or ADHD, may not be able to shut out the overwhelming stimuli which confront their bodies and brains and, therefore, cannot concentrate on what is being said.

How Can I Help Him Listen?

Allow him to hold and mold clay or silly putty as he listens.

Save gum or hard candy as something he gets only when it is time to listen.

Allow him to use crayons or markers, with blank paper as he listens.

As you read him a story, or in church, firmly rub his back.

How Can I Help Him Slow Down?

Decrease the stimulus in his learning environment.

Only ask for slow down when essential.

Structure his learning time and always include something for his hands and/or mouth to be doing.

He, above all children, needs to know what is expected, needs consistent discipline.

Allow some kind of white background noise (ocean waves, very gentle and quite classical music, even quiet static) when he is to concentrate.

Start with very small times of concentration interspersed with periods of total body involvement such as running, stretching, or somersaults. Gradually increase concentration time.

Keep him out of situations that you know will over-stimulate him (unstructured situations, large numbers of people, loud concerts, etc.).

Other Helpful Hints

Teach him early to jog, run, swim, and play ball and allow those activities as breaks between academics as often as possible. Start with two minutes of concentration followed by three minutes of controlled physical activity.

Use a teaching style which allows him to get totally involved a controlled way. This means body, mind, and spirit, not just see, say, and write.

Separate behavior from the person: “That behavior will not be tolerated.” “You are always welcome, but that behavior is not.” “Go to your bedroom (or a time-out area) until that behavior is under control.” “I love you so much, but that behavior is . . . dangerous (disturbing me, distracting to others, etc.).” “We will have to leave . . . if you persist (until that is under control, until it stops, etc.).”

As often as possible, he needs to understand the purpose of what he is doing and be motivated by his own agreement that it is important.

It will be very important to keep the child from feeling worthless or inadequate. Praise him every real chance you get—not just for achievement, but for who he is or for trying his best. Believe in him and his potential to become a good person. Discover strengths and encourage their expression.

Find something he is really interested in (cars, airplanes, horses, etc.) and try to associate anything you want him to learn with what he likes.

He may rarely see a difficult project through to completion. Give him some very simple projects (one at a time) and see that they are finished. Then help him identify and enjoy the good feeling that comes from having finished the job.

Encourage him to read aloud and use a marker to keep his place, but allow him not to if he becomes more distracted.

Encourage him to make at least one good friend outside the family. This may be an older child who understands the need, an adult, or even a pet. He needs to have affirmation from someone other than Mom and Dad.

The child will need to grow up and be involved in decisions about his learning as young as possible. He will succeed only with a great amount of effort on his own part, and he will be willing to put that forth only if he sees it is worth it.

Give him a timer with a gentle count down. Have him concentrate for a designated period of time (continually increasing the increments). When the timer signals, he may take a designated break (continually decreasing increments). At first, he will need a signal to get back to work as well. The timer’s signal should be gentle and unobtrusive.

Don’t give options. It must be done now. Be sure he understands in a firm but gentle way.

You must always remain firm but gentle. Know what you expect, know what the limits are, and communicate them to him in a way that he understands. Do not allow him to break the rules until you are angry, and then yell and strike out. Any disobedience must be stopped early and consistently and redirected.

Find times and ways to enjoy your child and your relationship with him. He won’t find acceptance in many places or from many people. It is essential that he knows that you love him (always) and enjoy him.

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