ADHD Behavior Management: From Control to Regulation by Dr. Steven Gutstein
This is an article published on RDI Connect that is well worth the read as we approach a new school year. ADHD is a condition that comes up frequently, as it is commonly comorbid with ASD, however it can also be a standalone diagnosis that is challenging in it‘s own right.
RDI, while most well-known for remediation Autism Spectrum Disorders, is incredibly successful for other neurodevelopmental conditions such as ADHD. While unfortunately ADHD on it‘s own does not come with any funding supports for families in British Columbia, this is an issue close to my heart as these children can struggle as much - and sometimes more - than children with ASD. If you are a family with a child with ADHD and are feeling like you are in crisis and have no support, please reach out to me, as I can offer a program on a sliding scale to ensure these supports are available to all children who need them.
ADHD Behavior Management: From Control to Regulation
Behavior management is a critical part of any successful classroom. The successful AD/HD classroom treats management from a skills-learning approach, rather than a control or compliance based approach. The following are some tips for successful behavior management:
Even with stimulant medication, the typical AD/HD child cannot learn to completely control their behavior. If the goal is for the child to stop doing something, it is bound to fail. We have to teach alternative means of managing behavior that do not bother others or disrupt learning. The key word is management, which implies a positive decision to do something in a regulated way, rather than control, which implies just an ending or stopping of something.
Using a self-management approach, we can teach children how to “fidget” and “fiddle” without bothering anyone and losing their concentration. If I had not been allowed to doodle in my notebooks, I would have never endured my large lecture classes in college. Yet, too many AD/HD children are told that they have to sit without moving and just listen to someone talk; something they just won’t be able to do, even with medication, without completely tuning out. Moving from the goal of behavior control to management means more than just teaching fidgeting and doodling. The backbone of self – management is learning to be aware of yourself in relationship to the particular environment that you are in. It involves first the evaluation of the requirements of different situations and then the selection of actions that fall within these requirements. Where self-control is usually about stopping an action, self-regulation is about selecting an action that appears to match the social context.
Do not engage in power struggles. Do not repeat yourself, argue, plead or threaten the student when he doesn’t heed your instructions. Instead, create simple choices that the student will make: “you may do what is appropriate, or you will [suffer a small consequence].” The consequence must be decisive and immediate; if you waffle, the intervention will lose much of its impact.
Help the student anticipate and therefore prevent potential negative situations. When you see him appear in the doorway with a toy you suspect he won’t want to share with a classmate, give him the instruction that his choice is (a) turn around and play with it elsewhere or put it away, (b) share it immediately, or (c) you’ll put it in away for the rest of the day.