a strength-based approach to helping kids with ADHD
Dr. David Rabiner, an expert on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), defines the condition as "a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity/impulsivity that occurs in academic, occupational, or social settings." In other words, children with ADHD may have difficulty with staying focused, keeping still, and taking turns
Parents, if this sounds familiar, keep reading.
As you may have learned, ADHD can be difficult to diagnose because many children experience some degree of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness as they grow and develop. In fact, some parents don’t know their kids have symptoms of ADHD until they start school. Children with an ADHD diagnosis may face challenges in the classroom in terms of behavior and academic engagement.
Children with ADHD are often identified by what they struggle with or cannot do, rather than the strengths and abilities the children already have. Teachers have always worked hard to ensure each child is challenged at a sufficient level and that support is structured in a way that enables the child to thrive. Many teachers are now focusing those challenges to play to a child’s strengths.
In an article published by the Canadian Psychological Association, authors Emma A. Climie and Sarah M. Mastoras encourage using strengths-based assessments in the classroom “…’to probe positive areas’, for instance, if football is a skill and strength, how and why is this going well and how can these successes be applied in other contexts in the school environment?”
As Dr. Rabiner explains, ADHD symptoms are often dependent on the setting and time of day. Unfortunately, the classroom is one setting where ADHD symptoms are very likely to be prominent. This is where a parent’s perspective from spending other parts of the day with their child can provide valuable insight regarding the child’s strength. A parent can partner with their child’s teacher and support that approach by sharing the strengths the child demonstrates at home, which he may not display at school.
Climie and Mastoras suggest teachers then audit specific strengths and skills a student has and create ‘islands of competence’ or optimism, ownership for their actions and self-control from these points. That way the student can learn to feel more confident, build their self-esteem, and receive more positive feedback from peers..
What if your child’s teacher has not yet moved toward strengths-based instruction? Take the opportunity during a parent-teacher conference to discuss the approach, the potential for success in the classroom, and collaborate on ways to make it come to life for your child and others like him.
With an eye to the best for our kids,
Michele Autenrieth Brown is the Vice President of Marketing and Development at Clarity Child Guidance Center. She became passionate mental health advocate after trying to navigate the system of care to support a family member. When she is not shuttling kids to practices or spending time with her husband, Michele is perfecting just what to say to get the perfect eye roll and sigh from her teen and pre-teen children.
If you are experiencing an emergency, please call 9-1-1. If you need help locating mental health resources in your area, visit the Bexar County Community Resource website, call your local health department or the National Alliance Mental Illness's helpline at 800-950- NAMI (6264).