What to consider if you suspect your preteen has ADHD

Rethinking kids with ADHD as ‘neurodiverse, not bad’ is the first step.
kid playing

Not too long ago, we spotlighted autism as a neurodiverse flavor of the human experience. Thanks to National ADHD Month’s theme of ‘discovering new perspectives,’ it seems neurodivergence is the new black. Once we learn how to be with needs different than our own, we and our kids can flourish.

If there were ever a cheat sheet for kids with ADHD, let’s hope this one can be it:

  1. Getting a formal diagnosis early on is the best thing you can do – ADHH is most commonly diagnosed when kids start to suffer in school. If you suspect your tween has it, don’t hold back and get a proper diagnosis. This will only set your kid up for success later on.
  2. Be aware that a child with ADHD likely has other behavioral issues and keep your antennas perked – these include things like oppositional defiance disorder (ODD), conduct disorder (CD) and learning disabilities (LD). Conduct disorder doesn’t come down all at once though. It usually begins as ODD and snowballs in the tween years, when kids start breaking rules and turning to antisocial behavior. Catch it early and seek out help to avoid the downright frightening side (ie: violent outbursts, fire setting, sneaking out, etc).
  3. Accept that ADHD doesn’t have a cure and isn’t a sign that you’ve failed as a parent (or even worse, that your kid is ‘bad’) – the reframe for all this is key. Neurodivergence after all means that brains with ADHD simply operate…differently. In fact, typical parenting (including discipline) won’t work on kids with ADHD. It’ll backfire.
  4. Instead, work with their needs and play up those supports – according to a neuropsychologist, “children with ADHD thrive with structure, consistency and a calm, safe environment.” Household rules (and clarity around those consequences of breaking them) are also helpful. And finally, don’t forget to reinforce and reward positive behavior. A little at a time goes a longgggggg way.

Written by Tiffany Wen

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