B is for Behaviour

ADHD gets treated like it’s a behaviour problem when it isn’t.

That is, the behaviour can be a problem, but that doesn’t mean it should be addressed using behaviour management techniques like behaviour charts, behaviour contracts, and token systems.

See, the things we do as ADHDers are usually related to one of our particular symptoms. This means that we really don’t have a lot of control over how much we talk to our neighbours in class at school, whether or not we’re on time for work, or how well we keep our rooms clean. It’s not that we don’t care about the rules, it’s that we’re impulsive and act before thinking things through completely, we have no real concept of time (it’s fluid and not concrete at all), and we lack the ability to make and follow plans as quickly and easily as non-ADHDers often do.

So when a teacher at school implements one of those behaviour management charts for the whole class, say the kind with the clothespins that move up and down depending on the student’s behaviour, the kids with ADHD (whether or not they’re diagnosed) are going to either focus so hard on meeting those behavioural expectations that they can’t actually take in any of what they’re supposed to be learning, or they’re going to “act out” and lose points every single day but probably will learn more of the material.

Or when a manager or boss writes up an ADHD employee for being late too often and provides a list of what they need to do to correct the issue without discussing possible solutions with the employee, the ADHDer is probably going to struggle to meet these expectations and end up getting fired even though they’re doing their best.

And when a parent tidies up their child’s room when said child is not at home and throws out things that are important to the child (sometimes without realizing it’s important), it erodes the relationship between the child and parent, and it does nothing to help the child begin to look after the cleaning on their own.

What generally will work better in each of these hypothetical situations?

Well, the teacher might discuss the problem with the student and involve them in figuring out ways to be less of a disruption in class. That might mean fidget toys or a seat at the back of the room with permission to pace, or a seat at the front of the room with regular check-ins during class.

The manager might discuss the importance of timeliness with the employee and offer a couple of suggested helps, such as changing start and end times or setting timers to help get out the door.

And the parent might offer to help the child clean up their room right from the start. If the child is older, they might work together to create a map of the room and determine the step they need to follow to get the room cleaned up, and then make a checklist for regular weekly cleaning that the child can follow.

What is a way you’ve been helped by making adjustments to situations instead of struggling to meet expectations? Have you been hindered by the use of behaviour management techniques? In what way?

A is for ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Inattentive type, Hyperactive/Impulsive type, Combined type.

The image is typically that of a pre-teen boy, literally climbing the walls at school. The reality is as varied as the types listed above; as individual as the millions of people who have the disorder.

ADHD is the teenage girl who hyperfocuses on reading and writing, does well academically, and sucks at making friends, keeping her locker and her bedroom organized, and doing her homework more than 12 hours before it’s due.

It’s the twenty-something accountant who jumps out of planes for fun on the weekends.

It’s the entrepreneur who flits from one project to the next, sticking with an idea only until it’s ready to meet the world.

It’s the little boy who struggles to learn to read because the pictures are more interesting than the words and he keeps losing his place.

It’s the little girl who keeps getting in trouble for talking in class.

It’s the disorganized fifty-something professional whose house is a disaster, whose marriage is a shambles, who is constantly broke despite having a well-paying job, who is late for everything all the time.

There are many faces of ADHD, and these are just a few of them. Share yours in the comments below.

October is ADHD Awareness Month.