Taking ADHD/LD from Stress to De-Stress
ADHD / LD and stress
Children with ADHD are constantly stressed by demands that push them into full swing. You wonder why school is so difficult – so frustrating – so crazy. According to research, 30-50% of these children have specific learning disabilities (SLD) in addition to ADHD. While many know they “have” it, most do not have a good understanding of ADHD or its other diagnoses.
As a result, these children do not understand why they face challenges every day that look really easy to other children, but are huge hurdles for them. So you react in predictable ways:
- You think you’re stupid, don’t you
- They try to hide their struggles. Generally they do this by “stepping in and acting” (e.g., arguing, challenging, acting silly, negating the importance of the task); or “play along” (e.g. withdrawing, bursting into tears, going to the nurse, skipping school, looking sad)
What they don’t do is grab this invisible bull by the horns and wrestle to the ground. Why? Because they don’t know what’s causing the trouble and they don’t think there is anything they can do about it. In short, they are not in control of their own academic destiny.
Why is that important? When people think they have no control over the factors that threaten their physical or mental safety, they are under stress.
Good stress prepares us for a challenge. It says, “Don’t sweat this (literally) – we can handle it. We see the problem and know how to solve it – so make yourself comfortable and let this threat go away! “
Bad stress sends the message to our brain that “if you don’t get out now, something bad is going to happen”. The children I described above are under chronic, dire stress.
In simple terms, the stress process looks like this:
- Stress creates hormones that help us deal with things that we perceive as threats to survival.
- One of these hormones is cortisol.
- The right amount of cortisol helps bring about additional chemical changes that balance our brain and body.
- Too much stress creates too much cortisol and “BAM!” The whole system got out of hand.
- In a protective move, the brain actually tries to recalibrate itself to deal with this imbalance so that the stressor appears less harmful. The primitive or “old brain” – the one responsible for survival – is running at full speed.
- Meanwhile, the “new brain” (the prefrontal cortex), which is responsible for the executive functions that help us plan and learn, is stepping back behind the survival brain.
- The result is persistent stress – caused by reality or the perception that tasks are too difficult – that leads to changes in brain chemistry that negatively impact memory and learning.
Here’s the good news. Teaching children about their medical conditions (SLD and / or ADHD) helps them reduce stress by giving them a sense of power over these obstacles. When children learn strategies that lead to greater success, they gain a better sense of control, experience less stress, and avoid the cumulative toxicity that affects brain function. In other words, the continuous tension cycle is a reversible process!
When parents, teachers, other professionals – and especially the children themselves – understand this phenomenon, they can find new ways to interpret student efforts to “escape” stressful situations. Oppositional or defiant behavior is no longer misinterpreted and labeled as impolite or disrespectful.
There are many things you can do to help your children understand the nature and consequences of their ADHD / LD. See my book for suggestions on how you can talk to your children and help them understand what they can do to overcome or bypass their disabilities. You can also check out Keath Low’s article on 5 Talking Points Your Children Need To Know About ADHD, or Diane Dempster’s 3 Tips For Raising ADHD.
Additionally, here are a few suggestions you could try:
- Teach your children to recognize potential obstacles. Invite them to think about anything that might get in the way of their work. Get your child’s thinking going by suggesting the following:
- Competing events (family activities, calls from friends, text messages, new video game, etc.)
- Lack of sufficient study place
- insufficient prior preparation or skills
- a negative attitude (it is not necessary, I cannot calculate, I will never have to know, etc.).
- Health factors (I’m sick; I’m tired)
- Teach your children to identify potential reinforcers, such as: B. Which increases the likelihood that they will get their job done. You can strengthen them by suggesting self-talk, such as:
- I have faith in my abilities
- I feel competent in this ability
- I am determined to learn this because …
- I have what it takes to do this job, like materials, sources of information, human support; Parents, tutors, other children
- Turn ADHD distress into stress reliever by using the language of success. Raise the emphasis on PRAISE and emphasize SELF-EVALUATION. You can encourage self-assessment by asking:
- How do you think you did it
- Are you satisfied with it?
- What goal have you been working on?
- Did you achieve your goal?
With all of these suggestions, try to focus more on the process than the product. This can make learning a safer and more satisfying experience for students. These strategies should help make your ADHD child’s study less stressful, reduce anxiety, and build competence and self-confidence. I encourage you to complete this list and share it with others, and invite you to email me your ideas via my website www.jeromeschultz.com.