Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a group of disorders that include inattentiveness, over-activity, and/or impulsivity. Daycare providers must recognize the signs of symptoms of ADHD as well as how to manage children diagnosed with the disorder.
Our two-part interview with Dr. Keith Kanner details the important aspects of ADHD in a daycare or preschool setting. Dr. Kanner is a Licensed and Board Certified Clinical Child, Adolescent, and Adult Psychologist and Psychoanalyst.
OwnADaycare: What can parents or early childhood educators do if they suspect children are exhibiting ADHD behaviors?
Dr. Kanner: First, educate themselves on “normal” development for these age groups. Many of the symptoms listed as actually seen in normal pre-school children and the combination of maturity and external guidance and limits often helps the child better manage him or herself. However, if such efforts fail, consulting with a “developmentally oriented and trained psychologist, pediatrician, or child psychoanalyst” is the best advice for parents.
OwnADaycare: What are some tips For early childhood educators who care for children who exhibit ADHD behaviors?
1. Help preschoolers use their words to express their feelings. Children who are impulsive are not good communicators and often are afraid of their feelings. When a loving teacher tells them that it is okay to feel something and guides them into appropriate expression, they feel less anxious and often times reduce acting out. Also, help them with conflict resolution. When teachers get the two children together and help them better understand each other and help them come up with ways to resolve their conflicts, this process becomes internalized and generalized for other future situations.
2. Use, what I call, “loving limits”. Here, the teacher empathically helps the child understand better what is going on inside of him or her, by telling them what they think they are feeling or experiencing, but then helps them be a “better boss of their feelings”, by setting some sort of a limits. Here, the teacher is teaching them about the okayness of feelings, without making them feel guilty, but helping them understand cause and effect.
3. Get the parents on the same page. When children act out in school it is frequently a carry-over from home. Educating the parents on how to better label feelings and set limits helps reinforce what the teacher is trying to do in the classroom.
4. Don’t discipline or shame the child in front of the class. Use private talk times to get your point across.
5. Calm yourself down before intervening with an impulsive child. Children pick up on anxious teachers and this makes matters worse.
6. Educate yourself on “normal” development. Some teachers study the DSM IV and make their own diagnoses and this is a bad idea.
7. Consult with other teachers and pool your ideas.
8. Get a professional consultation to help you figure out what is going on inside of the child. I personally consult for 5 different pre-schools and it really works!
9. Don’t give up on the child. Teachers play a very important part in the lives of the pre-schoolers. When they are acting out with you, it is a cry for help.
10. be positive and encouraging. This is be internalized into the child who is NOT feeling good about him or herself that they are struggling.
11. If your best efforts do not work, then the child may need professional help. The earlier we get kids help them better! The referral should be to a “developmentally oriented professional” – in other words, someone who can compare normal development to non-normal and can think beyond a descriptive diagnosis.
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