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Parental ADHD Advocacy
Children diagnosed with ADHD face seemingly insurmountable obstacles. First, an ADHD diagnosis evokes unflattering stigma. Labels are loathsome, but are part and parcel of an ADHD child’s life. Second, special accommodations in the classroom cause deep resentment among peers and teachers responsible for implementing the accommodations. More importantly, children diagnosed with ADHD rarely have an advocate looking out for their best interests.
ADHD advocacy is a budding trend in the mental health industry. For years, children have struggled without advocacy support while trying to cope in social and classroom environments. ADHD clinicians began to respond to the call for advocacy, but their role was limited to medical education of parents and educators. National ADHD advocacy organizations have been effective in lobbying politicians for ADHD laws, particularly in the areas of education and the workplace. National organizations have a macro sphere of influence, not the micro attention to detail that is parent advocacy for ADHD.
Parents are the only true advocates for ADHD children. Their sphere of influence ranges from drugs to equity in education. While ADHD research is a positive first step in becoming an advocate, knowledge of the condition is not enough to impact the life of an ADHD child. Parents must get involved and commit to defending their child. Here are some important areas that require ADHD parental advocacy:
Recognize the signs
ADHD education begins with recognizing the complicated signs of the disease. By complicated, I mean that some ADHD symptoms mirror other disorders like anxiety and depression.
The best place to look up ADHD symptoms is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). The manual provides a general list of 18 symptoms and the criteria required to establish a diagnosis of ADHD. Dr. Daniel Amen further details the 18 symptoms by providing a detailed list of symptoms in the form of a checklist.
The parental defense of ADHD is ineffective if the parents do not understand the basic symptoms of the disease.
ADHD Clinician Test and Assessment
A diagnosis of ADHD is a two-step process. Parents should make this a three-step process by carefully reviewing a list of candidate clinicians. I recommend choosing a clinician based on friends or a family doctor’s recommendation.
ADHD Parent Advocacy involves creating a list of questions for each clinician candidate. Questions should include:
- How to make a diagnosis?
- Do you have references?
- What is your position on ADHD medications?
Parents are usually involved in the second stage of the diagnostic process, which involves the presence of a significant other. Parents should also be involved in the first step of the process. The first step is a series of psychological tests that determine if a second consultation is warranted. Parental advocacy for ADHD during this stage involves observing how the clinician performs the tests. Additionally, parents should weed out any clinicians who aggressively push ADHD medications during stage one.
Medications for ADHD
The purest form of ADHD parenting advocacy is understanding one fact: ADHD medications do not cure ADHD. Medications are prescribed to alleviate the symptoms. They are not a panacea, and there are other options that help children manage ADHD. The same concern for illicit drug use should apply to the prescription of a stimulant narcotic for an underdeveloped human being.
If parents decide that ADHD medication is the best course of action, they should be vigilant when it comes to monitoring their child’s prescription. Side effects occur when a child takes the wrong dose at the wrong time of day. This usually happens at school, so parents should clearly communicate their child’s ADHD medication regimen to a nurse and school administrators. They also need to make sure the drug doesn’t fall into the hands of other kids looking for a stimulating high.
Above all, parental advocacy for ADHD means promoting alternative treatments for symptoms. This may involve butting heads with the clinician. Head banging is a good thing when your child’s health is at stake.
The physical and mental benefits of a regular exercise routine far outweigh ADHD medication. Exercise is a long-term solution for rampant hyperactivity. ADHD medication is a quick fix that introduces powerful chemicals into a child’s system.
ADHD parent advocacy for exercise is more about changing a child’s sedentary lifestyle. Parents should encourage their children to refrain from playing video and computer games. Encouragement should start at a young age, when unhealthy habits are easier to change.
The ADHD establishment continually dispels the theory that too much television causes ADHD. Although watching television does not directly cause ADHD, lying still without exercise exacerbates the symptoms of the disease. Parents are the first line of defense in preventing a sedentary lifestyle from taking firm root in a child’s lifestyle.
Diet and nutrition
Sugar was once thought to be a contributor to ADHD symptoms. Once again, the science of ADHD seems to dispel the attribution of sugar as a myth. Nevertheless, a healthy diet based on nutritional components is, like exercise, an integral part of maintaining a healthy body and mind.
Parents may not have a stronger advocacy role for their ADHD children than the livelihood decisions they make. Fast food is out. Fruits, vegetables and fish rich in omega fatty acids are all the rage.
Many parents make the mistaken assumption that sports participation reduces impulsivity and hyperactivity. The energy released during athletic competition will calm an ADHD child. The problem, however, is that distraction is a trait that ruins athletic performance.
Enrolling an ADHD child in sports leagues is a great strategy to circumvent mind-numbing games played in front of TV and computer screens. True parenting advocacy for ADHD means explaining in detail to the child’s coach what exactly constitutes the condition known as ADHD. Most coaches are willing to adapt their coaching style to promote the strengths of an ADHD child.
Sponsoring also means not pushing your child to play a sport they don’t like. Find the right sport and encourage the child to participate in it until he reaches a higher level of performance or loses interest.
A child’s ADHD diagnosis is often the result of their school performance. The teacher and administrators notice the child’s distraction and hyperactivity and bring the behavior to the parents’ attention. Parental advocacy of ADHD for a child’s academic success is irrefutably mandatory.
Pay attention to how the school system makes changes to improve your child’s ability to learn. Knowing about ADHD laws is a start, but constant monitoring of your child’s performance and persistent insistence that the school adheres to ADHD laws strengthens the parental defense of ADHD. Part of Mark Norris’ job is to develop a strong partnership between parents and academic professionals. With the parents’ agreement, he organizes school meetings and follow-ups with them, their child and the school team involved in the child’s success. An objective and detailed portrait of the child’s strengths and challenges is presented and, if necessary, classroom accommodations are established.
Parents can also provide a nurturing environment at home, where one-on-one tutoring complements the instruction provided at school. The ultimate ADHD parental defense strategy is to educate your child in a home school environment.
Policy advocacy means getting involved with ADHD organizations that push lawmakers to write ADHD-friendly legislation. At the very least, getting involved in ADHD organizations will keep you on top of changes in legal status that affect your child.
ADHD coaching is a growing industry. Most of the attention given to this alternative ADHD management method is how a trainer benefits adults. Parent coaching is not about coaching your child. It’s about taking classes and absorbing information from a certified ADHD coach.
Parental coaching puts you in the role of the student. You learn many strategies to develop your child’s strengths and lessen the more burdensome symptoms of ADHD. Mark Norris is at the forefront of this invaluable movement. He has developed a complete site dedicated to the issue and a detailed coaching program that he sets up for adults.
It is estimated that four to six percent of the population of the United States suffer from ADHD. Recent trends indicate that the percentages will rise sharply. Most of the increase is due to the soaring diagnosis rate among children. As the rate continues to rise, parents should be aware of the defensive responsibilities they inherit as their child navigates the turbulent waters of ADHD.
Advocacy means involvement. Involvement only happens if you have a deep commitment to your ADHD child’s progress.
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