Last week we talked about Ryan and his “Quasi-ADHD,” inspired by a by 7th grader I had recently met who had been previously diagnosed with ADHD (see Ryan & His Quasi ADD).
Ryan was “diagnosed” following an interview with his mom and the completion of a checklist endorsing many of the typical ADHD/ADD items, such as “overly distractible,” “inattentive,” and “restless.”
That’s all it took to get diagnosed.
Recently, Ryan was taking to not handing in his work and his mother was pushing the school to extend deadlines through a 504 Plan, under the premise that his “disability” precluded him from being able to hand in his work on time.
My sense was that the mom was overreaching with what she wanted the 504 to accomplish.
As I explained to her, “504 Plans are intended to provide kids (and adults) with a disability a more level playing field.” “The accommodations are supposed to be reasonable and pretty easy to implement,” I continued.
I knew it was a bit risky, but I asked the mom, “What if Ryan’s just blowing off his work and not handing it in because he’s choosing not to? Do you really think that should be accommodated?”
The mom wasn’t thrilled with that question posed to her, but she decided to try and deal with Ryan without getting a homework accommodation.
Assuming the school work assigned was reasonably within the Ryan’s capability level, what could the mom do aside from her strategy of having the school accommodate Ryan?
As a parent you largely have two directions to go with the ADHD or “quasi-ADHD” style child.
You can either try to go the more positively toned direction or you can go with more negative consequences that compromise the child’s lifestyle (i.e., gaming systems, iPads, phones, etc.). Perhaps a combination of the two is possible.
Most parents gravitate to the positive approach thinking that the child will happily work for tokens, stickers or some other tangible reinforcer. It seems whole lot more pleasant going this way and they are often a bit squeamish with the second approach.
If you are trying to go down the positive road, I have one piece of advice for you. Don’t get overly syrupy and lay it on too thick. Watch overusing statements like, “Buddy, you’re so amazing!!!” (No he’s not – he’s just finishing his homework.) or “I’m so incredibly proud of you,” said in effusively gushy tones.
Kids readily see through those type of statements and start to tune them out. They know that they’re not as amazing as you are making them out.
Of course you can make the positive road a bit more tangible. Try and not get too complicated. I like getting an old-school wall calendar. You can inform your child – “When you get started on your work and finish it in a reasonable time, you will get a green check on the calendar.”
I’m ok with accumulated checks leading to things like letting the child stay up an hour later on a Friday night or some other earned privilege, but again, you don’t want to overdo it. Parents should be close by for some assistance, but not too much.
With the compromising lifestyle approach, parents realize that kids take all kinds of things for granted.
With this approach, the child has to face his poor choices. A statement, said calmly without a lot of heat behind it such as the following tends to work wonders, “Gee, Ryan, I’m really sorry, but since you chose not to do your work, it’s going to be a really boring night around here tonight. All screens are off limits. Maybe you will earn them back tomorrow.”
With this latter approach, the reality is the child needs to know that his lifestyle (except for food and shelter) are largely treats, extras that need to be earned. Completing homework should be a part of the deal.
Managing quasi-ADHD or even full-blown legitimate ADHD kids can be quite challenging. Take a look at the message you are sending to your kid. There’s always room to tighten things up and put responsibility where it belongs.
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