Fostering a Child with ADHD – What You Need to Know
by: Gemma Brown
According to the CDC, the statistics of children with ADHD are going up year by year. In 2011 11% of 4-17 year olds were thought to be living with the neurological condition that affects behavior – often leading to hyperactivity, issues with concentration and a lack of social awareness that may result in behavioral problems. For some foster parents this may be somewhat of a turn off, but kids with ADHD still need loving homes and although there is no known cure the condition, a combination of medication, therapy and good routine can reduce symptoms. For prospective foster parents of children with ADHD there will be a wealth of support and information, but here are just a few of the things that you can do in your day-to-day life to help a child with ADHD transition well into your home.
Children with ADHD benefit hugely from consistency and routine. Their brains struggle to understand sequences of events which can lead to disorganization but implementing routine will help to gradually improve this and also offer them reassurance by knowing what to expect on a daily basis. Try to implement a morning and bedtime routine quickly, as well talking to your child's school about their school day schedule too. You also need to be consistent in your expectations of them and their behavior so if something is punishable once then ensure the same rules apply next time. This will eliminate confusion and make your boundaries clear. When planing their bedroom try and make it neat and clutter-free with no distractions and plenty of good storage. Sometimes mess around them can lead to further disarray in their thoughts.
Studies link low self esteem with ADHD and so it is important to work on building their sense of pride and self worth. You can do this in a number of ways. Giving them small responsibilities (such as housework) will let them know you trust them and praising them when they achieve their goals will help make them feel important and proud. Show them affection and spend quality time getting to know them in order to make them feel as though they are loved and valued. Children who have ended up in care often have insecurities and problems with self esteem anyway so it is particularly important to work on this.
In order to give your child your very best care, you also need to care for yourself. Looking after a child with ADHD can be exhausting with repetitive, rigid routines to stick to and sometimes difficult behavior to manage. Don't feel guilty for taking time out every now and then. By having some 'me time' you will be more positive and focused when you are with your child which is far better than pushing yourself too far and becoming tired, disorganized and bad tempered.
Work with other care providers
When your child starts their new school be sure to request a meeting with the principal, vice principal and your child's class teacher to discuss their condition and needs. Many children with ADHD can thrive in mainstream schools but classroom management techniques from teachers are often needed to ensure they can get the very best from children who suffer with concentration and attention skills. Other care providers (such as grandparents, child-minders or a non-full-time parent) also need to be aware of the delicate nature of the condition. Warn them about the dangers of upsetting the routine and overindulging the children with treats, which may make them harder for you to manage when they come home. Everyone needs to work together and go by the same rules to ensure that consistency is maintained.
Medication and therapy
There are many types of treatment for ADHD. Medication often involves a brain stimulant which increases activity in the areas of the brain responsible for concentration and control. Social, cognitive and behavioral therapy are also often used alongside medication to help increase awareness, change thought processes and improve behavior. But as your child grows and adapts to their new life with you their needs may change. It is important to keep in regular contact with your pediatrician and/or counsellor in order to manage their treatment and make any adjustments if necessary.