Staying alert can be challenging for children
It's funny how our personal experiences can influence our interventions or our understanding of a problem. Long before my child was diagnosed with ADHD, I demonstrated an interest in children living with ADHD. I enjoyed working with these little balls of energy and recognized their great untapped potential. Since my son was diagnosed, I have tried to "analyze" this condition as a mother. I must admit this analysis is somewhat different than the analysis I had done in the past, as a specialized educator. Nonetheless, as a mother/specialized educator I pushed my research even further and made wonderful discoveries surrounding ADHD.
It's no secret that the main difficulty children with ADHD face is staying alert. Since children's attention span is important on many levels and in various spheres of daily life, we must deal with this factor. Children with ADHD tend to daydream or, for example, watch the cat that is walking outside instead of focusing on their book. They can also be forgetful and easily lose their belongings. These common characteristics are frequently observed.
Although most children with ADHD are diagnosed only once they are in school, during pre-k years, children can display similar difficulties and behaviors. Here is how you can help them.
- Eliminate as many stimuli as possible within your environment. Remove all visual and auditory stimuli that may distract or bother children and take away from your learning environment.
- Be realistic. Generally, you can count on an attention span of 5 minutes per year of life. Avoid asking children to remain alert beyond this period, especially children with ADHD. Use a timer, an hourglass, or a time timer to manage how long children shall stay focused. Gradually try to increase their attention capacities.
- Place weighted stuffed animals on children's legs. The weight of these stuffed animals will help them channel their energy appropriately.
- Let children stand at the table to complete crafts and drawings or to participate in games.
- Sit children on a small ball, with their legs stretched out on the floor. The ball will exert pressure on their body. Because they will be able to move gently, their ability to concentrate will be improved.
- Encourage children to experiment with various positions. They can lie down on the floor, sit on the floor, stand, etc. These positions may help them focus.
- When children start to wiggle during a board game, take a short 2-minute break and have them perform jumping jacks, walk around the table, hop like a frog, etc.
- Slide pieces of elastic fabric over chair legs. When children move their legs, they will feel a slight resistance that will help them channel their attention without disturbing those sitting next to them.
You may know other tips and tricks that can help children with ADHD during pre-k years and beyond. Use your judgement and experiment to see what works best for the children in your group. Results may not be present the first time you try something new, but be patient and consistent. Your efforts will pay off.
Maude Dubé, Specialized educator