Friday, July 1, 2011

ADHD pre-teen issues

Questioner: Kimberly

Subject: ADHD pre-teen issues

Question: I have a 12yr old step-son, lives with us every other week.

He lies about not having homework, he forgets everything related to school, he reads at an 8th grade level but doesn't comprehend what he's read. He's been diagnosed with ADHD and it seems that is his excuse for everything. He has no interest in anything except video games and cartoons. He can play with my 5 and 3yr old daughters at their level, to the degree of arguing over toys.

We don't know how to reach him, he tunes us out. Everything we do or say with him, he relates to a video game. We've tried taking the games away, we've tried using them as a reward, nothing works... his therapy doesn't seem to be helping either, what do we do?

Answer: Dear Kimberly:

What does your son do that is positive? Seems like everything is negative. Do you praise him when is is doing something good? Does he get your attention when he is doing well?

"He has been diagnosed with ADHD and it seems that is his excuse for everything" these words jumped out to me. I think you need some assistance in learning how to deal with him and his ADHD. It sounds to me like you are expecting him to behave a certain way and he is not responding.

"He has no interest in anything except video games and cartoons." Well you are the adult and he is the child. Why is he allowed to watch cartoons and play video games when you are not getting the behavior you want from him.

When you say nothing works, everything is working for him. When you say nothing works it sounds to me like you try things and then give up. Children are very smart regardless of what disabilities they may have. If they know they can outwait you they will.

His therapy isn't working? Are you getting family therapy or is the therapist suppose to fix him? No one is going to make your child behave the way you want him to. If what you are doing is not working you need to find methods that do work and stick to them.

It is easy to become very negative about a child with a disability. However it is not helpful.

Do find out what you can do to help structure his environment. Work with the teachers and the school system. They need to have a yearly IEP (Individualized Education Plan) for your son. You and he need to be at the meeting to participate in planning what needs to be happening for him to get the same education as the other children. If this is not happening contact both the school administrator and the legal action center for people with disabilities. Under federal laws your son has the right to any resources necessary to provide him with the same education as any other child.

As for the therapy. Does he have a therapist who know behavioral management techniques, is qualified to work with children who are diagnosed with ADHD. Does the therapist involve you and your spouse in the treatment plan?

Also, as I imagine you maybe tired and worn out, have you found support groups for parents who have a child diagnosed with ADHD? Sometimes this is not only beneficial for emotional support but other parents have ideas you may not have come up with for behavior management techniques.

Keep reaching out and looking for new ideas. Remember that anytime you want to change human behavior the behavior will get worse before it gets better so you have to continue new techniques for a while before you give up.

One last note and this is not about what you wrote or about you. I am always concerned when someone writes be about a child who has been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD as many young children are often misdiagnosed when what they truly are suffering from is PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) children who have experience violence whether it be from violent parenting or violence from others are most likely showing symptoms of PTSD rather than ADD or ADHD which seems to be an easier diagnosis. If a child is being hit, spanked or in anyway experiencing violence or exposure to violence they need to be screened for PTSD. Having said this,

Be kind to him, be kind to yourself!

Best Wishes!

M Kay Keller