By Robin Hilborn, Family Helper editor

How can you manage your ADHD child's behaviour in school? Dr. Russell Barkley offers practical suggestions on exactly what behavioral techniques you and your teacher can use, in his book Taking Charge of ADHD.

Various principles from early in the book are reviewed: strive for consistency, do not personalize the child's problems, maintain a disability perspective of the child and practice forgiveness. He lists his general principles on page 223.

The seven principles

1. Rules and instructions must be clear, brief and whenever possible represented in the physical form of charts, lists and other visual reminders. Relying on the child's memory and verbal reminders is often ineffective. Encourage the child to repeat instructions out loud and even utter them softly to himself while following through on the instruction.

2. Rewards, punishment and feedback used to manage the child's behaviour must be delivered swiftly and immediately. The entire approach to using consequences must be well organized, systematic and planned.

3. Frequent feedback or consequences for following rules are crucial to maintaining the ADHD child's compliance.

4. ADHD children are less sensitive to social praise and reprimands, so the consequences for good and bad behaviour must be more powerful than those needed to manage non-ADHD children.

5. Rewards and incentives must be put in place before punishment is used, or your child will come to see school as a place he is more likely to be punished than rewarded. Make sure the teacher waits a week or two after setting up a reward program before starting to use punishment. Then make sure she gives away two or three awards for each punishment. When punishment fails, first determine whether the reward are insufficient; when they are, punishment will not control your child's behaviour.

6. Token reward systems can be kept effective over an entire school year with minimal loss of power provided the rewards are changed frequently. ADHD children become bored with particular rewards faster than other children and teachers who fail to recognize that fact often give up on the program too soon, believing it has stopped working.

7. Anticipation is the key with ADHD children, especially during times of transition. To ensure that your child is aware of an impending shift, ask the teacher to follow strategies …
a. Review the rules before going on to the new activity.
b. Specify the rewards of good behaviour in the next activity.
c. Describe the punishment for misbehaviour.
d. Follow through on this plan once the activity begins.

For more on ADHD, see the resources at Adoption Resource Central - ADD.



The challenge of school for the adoptee
School issues your child will face
Help your child deal with racism
When birds don't flock together
Should you tell the teacher?
You can give an adoption talk
Language development is key

Learning disabilities

What are learning disabilities?
Detect learning disabilities early
Cope with your child's LD
Brodzinsky on learning disabilities
Do adoptees need special ed classes?
Are LDs inherited?

Special needs

Accept your child's special needs
FAS: Friendly school environments
Helping students with FAS
ADHD and the school system
Manage your ADHD child in school
Strategy for the parent advocate
You may reproduce this item with the credit:
"From Family Helper," ________________________________________
First published in Family Helper No. 45, "Adoption Goes To School", ISBN 0-9733470-4-X. Adapted in part from Post-adoption Helper No. 7, "Adoptive Parents' Guide to Your Child in Primary School", edited by Jennifer Smart.