Strategies for ADHD traits

Some basic info for parents compiled by Simon Piff:

Behavior strategies focus on teaching your child the skills they need to increase their cooperative behavior and reduce challenging behavior.

You can start learning about and using these strategies even if you’re still waiting for an official diagnosis for your child.


Clear verbal instructions 

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Your child will find it easier to behave well if they have a good understanding of what you want them to do. Clear, easy-to-follow verbal instructions with demonstrations will help. You can help your child to follow verbal instructions by:

  • keeping instructions clear and brief, with the shortest number of steps
  • showing your child what to do – for example, ‘Please pick up the clothes from the floor and hang them up in the cupboard’
  • keeping eye contact with your child
  • asking your child to repeat instructions back to you to make sure he has understood.


Tiredness levels 

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All children find it easier to behave well if they’re not tired. You can stop your child from getting too tired by:

  • providing healthy food options for longer-lasting energy and concentration
  • building rest breaks into activities
  • doing learning tasks like reading or homework, and then doing some physical exercise for a little while
  • being ready with a few fun but low-key activities like picture or sticker books – your child can do these if they start to get overexcited
  • getting your child into good habits like getting to sleep and waking up at much the same time each day
  • keeping Screen time to a minimum during the day and making sure all electronic devices are switched off at least an hour before bed.


Regular, predictable routines

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Routines help children feel safe and secure, which can encourage good behavior. You can set up routines and handle changes by:

  • talking to your child about their daily schedule. You can also ask teachers if they can keep a copy of the school schedule where your child can see it
  • using lists, pictures of your child’s routines and/or timetables
  • letting your child know in advance about changes – for example, ‘In five minutes, you’ll need to brush your teeth and get ready for bed’
  • limiting the number of choices your child has to make – for example, instead of saying, ‘It’s time to get dressed. What do you want to wear?’, you could say, ‘It’s time to get dressed. Do you want the green t-shirt or the red one?’


Social skills 

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Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) might need a bit of extra help learning to get along with other children. You can help your child develop social skills by:

  • rewarding them for helpful behaviour like sharing and being gentle with others
  • teaching them strategies to use if there’s a problem with another child – for example, walking away or talking to a teacher
  • teaching them how to keep an eye on their own behaviour, using a short prompt like ‘Stop, think, do’.


Praise for positive behavior

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Praise  for positive behavior will make this behavior more likely to happen again. You could try:

  • getting your child involved in activities where they are likely to do well
  • making a big deal when they do well, even if it’s just a small success to start with – for example, ‘You finished that entire page of homework. You must feel so proud!’
  • going over the highlights for your child at the end of each day. You can also talk through things they might have had trouble with.


In the classroom 

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You could talk with your child’s teacher about:

  • dividing tasks into smaller chunks
  • offering one-on-one help whenever possible
  • giving your child a ‘buddy’ who can help them understand what to do
  • planning the classroom so that your child is seated near the front of the room and away from distractions
  • making a visual checklist of tasks that need to be finished
  • doing more difficult learning tasks in the mornings or after breaks
  • allowing some extra time to finish tasks.


 The best thing you can do for your child is to learn more about the different traits of ADHD yourself !!