His grandmother declares that 8 year old Billy has “ants in his pants.” His parents try to cope with him jumping up in the middle of dinner, racing around the house and not following through with simple directions. His teacher has tried various methods to help Billy be less disruptive in class and stay in his seat but he winds up in the Principal’s office where he displays behavioral problems and is on the tipping point of being suspended for his unruly behavior. He’s been kicked out of Boy Scouts and his fellow students shy away from Billy’s odd behavior and call him “weird.”
His parents have tried to discipline him, but punishment doesn’t work. In fact, it just makes his behavioral problems worse. Billy isn’t a “bad” kid, however, there are obviously some behavioral issues that need to be figured out so he can function in his home and school environment and in social situations.
Although children mature at different rates and have different personalities, temperaments, and energy levels, it is important for parents, teachers, and caregivers to acknowledge when a child displays behavior that is atypical or that is impairing his or her ability to participate in everyday activities. Meeting with a psychologist or health professional will allow you to express your concerns so that an accurate diagnosis can be made and treatment can begin that.
In Billy’s case, he was diagnosed with ADHD and his parents made the decision to work together with a psychologist to reduce his impulsive behaviors, improve his focus, and teach him coping strategies for school. His parents also sought support for establishing a home routine, using proactive discipline methods, and supporting Billy’s social skills.
When a child starts displaying behavioral problems, it’s not just an isolated problem; it affects everyone they come in contact with, from the stranger in the grocery store who mutters under her breath about that “brat” to the siblings and classmates. This is why it’s important to recognize the behavior early so that the child can be evaluated and the necessary treatments and supports can be put in place.
Getting Help for Your Child
Getting help for your child starts with an evaluation that will better pinpoint what the “problem” is. The evaluation will then inform some different ways of doing things at home and school to match your child’s needs:
Evaluation: A psychologist or health care professional will meet with you to get an overall picture of the situation and help identify the areas that should be immediately addressed. Topics that are important to discuss include current and past behavioral symptoms, how these symptoms have affected your family and your child’s functioning (school performance, social relationships), and a family history of related concerns. The psychologist should do a thorough evaluation of your child’s executive functioning skills, as discussed in the previous blog, and how those relate to his or her academic and emotional functioning. This will include direct assessment with your child and, in addition, may include gathering data from multiple informants including parents, teachers, or other caregivers about the severity of your child’s symptoms across settings.
Clear Intervention Plan: After the child has been evaluated and diagnosed (if a diagnosis is warranted), the psychologist will work with the parents, caregivers, and in many cases the school and teachers to identify learning strategies, accommodations, and behavioral interventions that will help your child be more successful. It is at this point everyone will be taught five clear points:
- Recognize behavior
- Prevent behavior
- Self-manage behavior
- Alleviate behavior
- End behavior
A clear plan should be comprehensive enough to address your child’s needs at home, school and in social situations. One of the most important elements for an ADHD child is to create and maintain a structured environment. As parents, you play an important, supportive role in your child’s ADHD management. This may include educating yourself about ADHD, establishing a clear routine, giving consistent expectations and following through, and praising and capitalizing on your child’s successes.
Labeling a child “weird”, yet not recognizing that there could be very serious underlying issues is harmful on almost every level. It leaves the child vulnerable and open to bullying or being bullied. If you are concerned about your child’s behavior, please contact the Rice Psychology Group and discuss your situation with us. We’ll work with you and your family to evaluate the situation and show you, your child and the rest of your family how to change so your child grows into a happy and productive adult.