ADHD can be frustrating for children, teens, and adults diagnosed with this disorder. It can be equally challenging for individuals who parent, partner, or live with someone with ADHD. Below are a handful of tips for helping to support someone with ADHD, as well as a breakdown of what ADHD is and common symptoms to look for.
What is ADHD?
ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It is one of the most common mental disorders affecting children and many adults. According to the American Psychiatric Association, an estimated 8.4% of children and 2.5% of adults have ADHD. Many families and friends misunderstand ADHD, believing that the disorder is an academic problem or an issue maintaining focus. It is important to understand that ADHD is a problem with executive functioning, which can affect every facet of life.
“ADHD is a common neurodevelopment disorder impacting youth and adults,” says Brian Schneider, Bilingual Child & Family Psychologist and Child & Adolescent Psychological Assessment Supervisor at Diversus Health. “Many of the challenges individuals with ADHD experience are out of their control and, at times, awareness. Community and professional supports are often needed and can be of great value to provide the skills and services people need to live a happy and successful life.”
Symptoms of ADHD
Symptoms of ADHD can often include inattention or inability to keep focus, hyperactivity or excessive movement, and impulsivity. In children with ADHD, hyperactivity and inattention are heightened compared to peers of their age, which can cause distress and problems functioning at home, school, or with friends.
There are three types of ADHD: inattentive type, hyperactive/impulsive type, and combined type ADHD. The following lists of ADHD symptoms typically align with each type:
Inattentive Type ADHD Symptoms
- Lacking attention to detail or making careless mistakes in school or work tasks
- Difficulty staying focused on tasks and activities, during lectures, conversations, or reading for long periods of time
- Difficulty listening when being spoken to
- Challenges following through on instructions or completing homework, chores, or work duties (may start tasks without finishing them)
- Problems organizing tasks and workload (poor time-management, messy work, misses deadlines)
- Avoidance of tasks that require sustained mental effort (preparing reports and completing forms)
- Losing or misplacing items needed to complete daily tasks in life, such as school papers, books, keys, wallet, cell phone, eyeglasses, etc.
Hyperactive/Impulsive Type ADHD Symptoms
- Fidgets with or taps hands or feet, squirms frequently in seat
- Unable to stay seated in the classroom or workplace
- Inappropriate running or climbing onto things
- Unable to play or participate in leisurely activities in a quiet manner
- Always “on the go”
- Talks excessively
- Blurts out answers before a question has been finished
- Difficulty waiting for their turn in line or in conversation
- Interrupts or intrudes on others during conversation, games, activities, etc.
*Note: These symptoms are not the result of a person being defiant or hostile or unable to understand a task or instructions.
Tips for Helping to Support Someone with ADHD
1. Get Educated
The most powerful form of support can be to invest in education. Reading books on ADHD, watching online seminars, joining a support group, or attending ADHD conferences can provide a wealth of knowledge about the disorder, as well as helpful tips and tricks for helping someone with ADHD manage their life and daily tasks. Every individual approaches their responsibilities differently. Getting educated about ADHD will help you understand more about what your loved one is experiencing and how to walk with them as they maneuver through in life.
2. Talk About ADHD
It is important for young children to understand what ADHD is and how their brains are wired a bit differently from their peers. Helping children and teens understand the symptoms of ADHD and the skills they need to function with this disorder encourages them to get on board with learning and/or take their medication. Asking a person what they need can be helpful for adults with ADHD, as well as children. Someone may need a hand with a task or simply vent their frustrations to an empathetic friend. Additionally, the more an individual knows and understands why they struggle to focus or sit still, the more likely they will be to have self-compassion rather than seeing themselves as someone who cannot learn.
3. Highlight Strengths
It is common for individuals with ADHD to have low self-esteem. Speaking positively to children and teens can help them see the strengths in their challenges. People with ADHD can be energetic, creative, and multi-talented. Helping children and youth see the benefits of their ADHD will teach them to build a healthy self-esteem. Highlight their talents and strengths often, especially when they feel low about a task they struggle doing.
4. Offer Assistance & Support
If a child, teen, or adult is having a tough time completing certain tasks, offer to stay with them while they work. For instance, you can sit with your partner while they pay the bills. Participating in tasks and being a reliable support system for someone struggling with ADHD can make the world of a difference.
5. Avoid Being Judgmental
Individuals with ADHD can be hyper-sensitive to judgement. Avoid using words that can trigger sensitive feelings and emotions, such as “weird,” “odd,” “strange,” and “crazy.” Children and teens hearing these words may interpret themselves as inferior. Be cautious not to criticize or demoralize a person in the process of offering to help or lend a hand.
6. Establish a Routine
Children and teens with ADHD may often struggle at home, while doing better at school. In many cases, this is due to having a structured school day, which can help them stay on track. Individuals with ADHD are often prone to anxiety, leading them to be emotionally driven based on how they feel. Establishing a routine can provide better structure for people with ADHD, allowing them to find some comfort and stabilization in their daily tasks at home, school, and the workplace.
7. Identify Procrastination
Procrastination is a challenge most ADHD individuals struggle to combat. Under deadlines, children, teens, and adults with ADHD tend to be more emotionally driven to kick their brains into action – they become more focused. It can be helpful to map or plot out difficult tasks and break them into smaller, more manageable duties rather than leaving one large task to complete the day before a deadline.
It is common for people with ADHD to put off a task because they believe it to be difficult, boring, or too hard to focus on. Help children and teens learn to complete hard tasks before the easy work in order to master productivity in their lives. For individuals taking medications, focusing on completing the hard tasks before the medicine wears off may be key; for those with hyperactivity, it may be best to tackle work after playing outside or burning off some energy.
Integrating frequent breaks in between studies and work is a great way to help individuals with ADHD re-center when trying to focus on a task. You can support your child, partner, or friend by suggesting they work on a task for 30-45 minutes, take a break for 15 minutes, then work for another 30-45 minutes. Timing these essential breaks is important. It is easy for people with ADHD to get absorbed into something else without coming back to the task at hand. If they become hyper-focused, the 15-minute break can turn into five hours.
8. Eliminate Distractions
The kitchen table may not always be the best place for individuals with ADHD to focus on a task. Eliminate distractions by setting up a workspace in a low distraction zone. Including some stimulating elements into the low-distraction environment, such as soft background music, can help keep children, teens, and adults with ADHD energized and focused.
9. Monitor Medications
If you have a child or teen on ADHD medication, consider frequent check-ins to let the doctor know how their medicine is working. For instance, they may be losing or gaining weight, crashing at the end of their day, staying hyper until 10 o’clock at night, etc. Work with your provider to learn more about brands, timing, and dosages that may need to be evaluated. Our providers at Diversus Health can work with you to answer any questions you may have. Contact us to request an appointment to get started today.
If you or a loved one is struggling with ADHD, we can help. Book an appointment with one of our professional providers at Diversus Health today. If you need immediate assistance, call our crisis hotline at 844-493-8255, or text ‘TALK’ to 38255.