We talk often about the impairments of ADHD and the need for support in the classroom in the form of either an IEP or 504. Descriptions include lack of focus, inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Because many times the struggles of ADHD are so evident and negatively impacting to both academic and social environments, we as parents and advocates focus on those weaknesses in order to incorporate effective strategies.
Despite support, many times our kids with ADHD are frustrated that they are unable to function in the way that others do in accomplishing expectations. And why wouldn’t they feel that way? They are in a daily environment that is truly unfriendly to their abilities. They are smart and many times gifted, yet ADHD symptoms and executive functioning deficits cloud their abilities in the eyes of others and in their own eyes. It truly is like trying to stuff a square into a rectangular hole.
Self-esteem is crucial for the success of all of us. We all have to know that we have value, that we are capable and have talents despite weaknesses and struggles. What is the answer in this case? Whenever possible, our kids with ADHD need to be reminded of their talents and abilities that others might not necessarily have despite their straight A’s. The talents that exist are hidden within the walls of a building that place demands on areas of weaknesses. Many times, our kids with ADHD cannot flourish because their strengths do not shine as they use strategies, sometimes unsuccessfully, in order to fulfill teacher expectations. Daily our kids with ADHD need to hear about at least one thing they do well. Whether it is playing fantasy football and winning, looking into a sky and determining the flight path of a jet, or just plain being intuitive to the world around him. Yes, they need to know what they can do. What they can do matters and can be translated into something they might want to do in the future. Even noting their success in the use of a strategy is a positive reinforcement.
Perhaps the IDEA should mandate the necessity of at least one goal that reflects capabilities and their reinforcements in IEP’s. In addition, our kids with ADHD should all have a goal of self-advocacy. After all, the ability to self-advocate demands knowledge of oneself and a healthy positive self-esteem. Understanding their medical diagnosis and how it affects daily life in all environments as well as the ability to ask for necessary strategies and support is crucial to success!
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