Thursday, December 02, 1999

ADD parents' challenge: Focus on practical ideas

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Helping a child who can't pay attention or stay focused is often challenging for parents, but it doesn't have to be overwhelming. Sometimes, practical ideas and practices can make the insurmountable seem manageable.

        Some examples from A Parent's Handbook on AD/HD from the Attention Deficit Disorders Council of Greater Cincinnati:

        • Dreaded morning routine: The simple routine of getting out of bed, brushing teeth, dressing and getting ready for school can be tasks of enormous proportions for a child with attention problems. To help ADD children keep track of time in the hustle-bustle of the morning, tape index cards with clear, simple instructions in the bedroom and bathroom. Use hooks to organize a child's clothing. Use a kitchen timer to keep them on task. Use a multiple timer that beeps every 5 minutes to remind them to move on to the next chore.

        • Math skills: If children have trouble keeping numbers in straight lines, or if they copy problems haphazardly on a paper, fold the paper in sections or use graphing paper to keep columns straight. Color-code the symbols used in math (the plus, minus, division and multiplication signs) to reduce confusion.

        • Reading: Ask questions before reading a passage or chapter so the child has listening clues. Read every day. If necessary, have the child take notes on 3-by-5 cards. Keep a dictionary nearby.

        • Staying organized: Use a backpack with Velcro or zippers to keep papers from falling out. Color-code each subject, including book covers, file folders and dividers, to help the child keep things in order. Use a daily planner. Keep a second set of school books at home. Create a homework or study space in the home, preferably not the bedroom. Do homework at the same time each day.

        • Staying on task: Divide large tasks into smaller steps that are more easily accomplished. Keep distractions — Nintendo, TV, radio, stereo, phone calls — to a minimum or get rid of them altogether. Use positive reinforcement to reward good behavior and results.

        • Family issues: Often, mothers take on the responsibility of managing a child's ADD problems. Fathers and siblings need to be educated and involved as well, so everyone can pitch in.

        • How to order: A Parent's Handbook on AD/HD is $15 at Miami Co-Op book store in Oxford, $17 by mail (includes shipping) from the Attention Deficit Disorders Council of Greater Cincinnati, P.O. Box 198065, Cincinnati 45219-9998 or email

- ADD parents' challenge: Focus on practical ideas
Addressing ADD at home
What is attention deficit disorder?

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