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- Little Person, Few Problem-Solving Skills?
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## Little Person, Few Problem-Solving Skills?

“I can’t do it,” “I forgot my book,” or “It’s not fair that…!” Problem solving is difficult for most children, but it is especially difficult for those with ADHD. As parents, we must remember that our children express frustration in the form of crying these annoying little phrases because they do not have the linguistic facility to express ideas clearly. If children with ADHD could express their ideas more clearly, they would probably not be classified as ADHD, because their brain function would not be so scattered that communication of emotions would be a barrier.

The so-called “normal” person tends to think in linear patterns, for example, A is to B as B is to A, thus allowing him to follow a logical progression of steps. ADHD patients have difficulty processing sequential steps because their brains go wrong on so many different levels, and these mistakes are random and uncontrollable situations for these kids (and adults with ADHD too!). Think about when you taught (or are currently trying to teach) your child the concept of left shoe goes on the left foot, right shoe goes on the right foot. “Normal” children have difficulty with this concept, so imagine what it sounds and looks like to the child with ADHD.

Around the age of three, children begin to understand the concept of left and right, or so it is thought. What is closer to the truth is that it is very unlikely that children really understand the concept of right and left and it is more likely that their “understanding” is really more a memorization of the shape than a true understanding of the right and left. For the child with ADHD, the struggle comes when what they see with their eyes is not what ends up at their feet. Enter the crying, screaming preschooler who is frustrated AND one who doesn’t have the communication skills to tell you WHY he’s so upset. The key to helping them solve this is to have fun while teaching them how to solve problems!

To refer to teaching left/right shoes, try this: Take some colored construction paper and trace your child’s feet, making sure to trace between the toes so an outline is visible clear of your child’s foot. Next, use another sheet of paper and draw an outline of your child’s favorite shoes. To add some fun, let your little one trace your feet and shoes too. Cut out the outlines so you have one image (complete with toes!) of each foot and repeat for the outline of the shoe. Have your child match the feet to the shoes using only the papers. To add some variety once the child begins to demonstrate the task with some proficiency, ask him to show you on his body that the outline matches him, you, the dog, his siblings, grandparents, etc. This exercise is achieved. many things at the same time.

First, it teaches form, which is a necessary skill for linear thinking. This also introduces the concept of right and left in a non-threatening environment that is more about fun and less about “getting it right”. This exercise can also create connections between the child with ADHD and others, which reinforces similarity rather than difference and ultimately teaches improved interpersonal communication skills. This exercise creates vital connections between what the child’s eyes see and what their brain interprets those images, ultimately allowing the child to correctly fit the right shoe on the right foot, which builds confidence and self-esteem! A final advantage of this tool is that you can get creative with it to teach all kinds of shapes, objects, numbers and even the alphabet, so the activity will grow and expand to fit the base of your child’s knowledge for years to come. Having this problem-solving skill will help keep them on task at home and at school, help maintain developmental goals, and continue to build self-esteem with each new concept your child masters.

A word of caution here. Don’t punish your child when he initially struggles with the activity, neither you nor others should tell him, “That’s wrong.” Instead, try using phrases like, “Are you sure? Let’s look again.” Keep trying until the child gets it right, then clap your hands and make a big deal about correct identification just like you did (or maybe you do) with potty training. The idea is to create bonds in the brain, not create more barriers, which negative language can cause. Soon your little one will be walking away telling everyone she knows she’s a big girl or a big boy because she can wear her shoes! As a parent, you may never know what small success will provide the breakthrough your child needs to stop complaining and start getting excited about learning.

Something to try with the elementary learner who might be struggling to learn math concepts is to find something tangible that your child with ADHD really enjoys and use those objects to make connections between what words their eyes see and what answers they have to write paper Marbles, dinosaurs, princesses, rocks, toothpicks, building blocks, earrings… the tool doesn’t matter, just identify the right one. The concept for you as a parent to learn here is that the child with ADHD is usually a very visual and tactile learner. When your child says, “I can’t…”, you as a parent need to reinforce your unconditional support by saying, “Yes, you can, and I’ll show you how!”

Using this concept is very easy, as this tool works whether the math problem is a number equation or one of those funky word problems! Collect as many of the objects needed for the math problem 4 + 3 = ___ For this skill-building exercise we will use toy cars. Line up the cars at the top of your child’s homework page. (As a parent, remember that linear thinking is nearly impossible at this stage, so the cars will act as a visual cue for whatever math problem it is.) Have your child read the problem aloud as you do verbally reassure him that he CAN solve the problem before, during, and after the reading. Then have your child count the appropriate number of cars for the largest number (4) and place the cars in the middle of the homework page (or wherever the child prefers the cars to be placed, as long as the cars are front and center). , because the goal here is to give the child a tangible approach to what he perceives as intangible, i.e. the math problem). Now have your child count the next number (3) one car at a time to add to the first 4. When your child reaches the correct answer of seven, he should be beaming, because he will have achieved something. He had originally perceived it as impossible, and now he should see math as something he is very capable of. As you can see, this method will work for a long time for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, although you may need to switch your tool to pennies to handle larger numbers! Remember that creativity is something almost ALL children with ADHD have in abundance, so let them change the teaching elements they want to use as they get older and the problems become more difficult. This method involves changing your child’s self-concept from can’t to CAN!

One last skill I have to offer for the ever aggravating “I forgot…” is to make a general list of daily supplies/to-do’s for your child, laminate it and put it in the book bag. Don’t go crazy and have 25 tasks or this skill builder is doomed. Make it simple! Remember that the child with ADHD can usually only hold about 2-3 items in memory at a time, so break the list down into sections that contain the REALLY relevant items specific to your child. Some examples can be: Materials = books, teacher’s notes, homework; Clothes = jacket, socks, shoes; and Food = snack, lunch money, lunch bag. Teach your child to check the list when he finishes his homework each evening to make sure that what he brings home is what he returns to school the next morning. Also, ask your child’s teacher to post a similar list in your child’s room or ask them to remind them to review the list each morning before class starts to encourage your child to be ready to learn by having all your tools ready. and reminding the child to check the list again before leaving each day. I cannot stress enough the value of visual and tactile tools in helping your child learn in the best way for him and instilling confidence that he CAN accomplish what is asked of him. Self-confidence and healthy self-esteem will reduce the number of times you hear “It’s not fair…” and encourage your child to participate in tasks they might not have done otherwise.

While this is just a small sample of skill builders and problem solving skills, I hope you have found some information that will help you in your interest in helping a child with ADHD grow in a positive direction. If you would like more information, please join my followers on my blog or send me an email and I will be happy to address any specific issues you may have. You may also like to visit this site: http://www.sos-research.com

Until next time,

I believe in Me

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to treat or diagnose ADHD. All people suspected of having this disorder should be evaluated by a medical professional. The information contained in these publications is for informational purposes only and should be used at the users’ own risk. The publisher is in no way responsible for adverse reactions or conditions that may arise from the use of this information.

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