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ADHD and Play

What is ADHD?
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurobiological disorder found in both children and adults. Behavioral symptoms of ADHD include distractibility, impulsivity and hyperactivity. Children with ADHD can be challenging to parent as they often have difficulty following direction and are constantly in motion.
The Benefits of Play
Play is the language of children. Play is how children learn to interact with people and the environment around them.
Play can help parents learn to understand their children better. Parent and child relationships are strengthened when parent and child play together.
"You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation." - Plato
ADHD and Play
Play is the foundation of a child's life, but ADHD children have difficulty staying still, difficulty waiting for a turn, difficulty maintaining attention and change their activity frequently. So how, exactly, do you play with an ADHD child without losing your mind?
First, determine what your goal is for the play session. Are you working on some sort of skill development? Or are you looking to share some fun bonding time? These two outcomes do not need to be mutually exclusive, but your primary goal will help you set the play environment. Play focused on skill development will have more rules and require more concentration. If you just want to have fun with each other, there can be fewer boundaries and you can make up the rules as you go along. Make sure that you and your child share both types of play on a regular basis.
When you begin to play with your child, make sure that you both know what to expect. As the parent of an ADHD child, you should remember that your child may want to quit before you're done. They may also get distracted easily and stray from what you are doing. Do your best to avoid distractions. Whenever possible, limit play sessions to include only two people. The one-on-one interaction is less stimulating for the child, will allow for better focus and will cause fewer problems. Keep play time relatively short and take frequent breaks. Give your child plenty of notice when play time is almost over. Your child will also need expectations set. Make sure rules and directions are clearly explained using short, concise instructions whenever possible and maintain eye-to-eye contact. Setting expectations for both of you won't prevent problems, but it will decrease frustration if something doesn't go just right.
"If a child is overwhelmed by too many stimuli, you may want to keep the toys in a toy room and pull out only one or two at a time." - Carol Watkins, M.D.
As you play, use plenty of positive reinforcement and praise accomplishments. ADHD children often hear too much criticism and play time is the perfect time to release some of that negativity.
Let your child use their endless supply of energy! Get them involved in plenty of physical activities. Bike riding is an excellent way to use energy. Consider using a tag-along or a bike made for two if you often ride in places that aren't safe for an impulsive child. Keep your child's strengths and weaknesses in mind before joining a team sport. For some children, teams work well, but for others it only spells defeat.
"Go to what they can tolerate and don't do it for real long." - Risë VanFleet, Ph.D., RPT-S
ADHD children also have big imaginations. Creative activities compliment the ADHD child's mind. Activities such as building, drawing and imagination games provide a healthy outlet for their mental energy. Another way to use mental energy could be a solid game of chess. ADHD children often think only of the current moment. Chess can teach your child how to think ahead, as each move builds on the prior move, and also helps the child to learn to finish tasks that are started.
So, whether your goal is to teach or just goof around, know your expectations, limit distractions, be safe, and HAVE FUN!
*disclaimer - This article is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice. The views expressed here are the personal opinions of the author.
K.C. Gagne is the owner of Connecting Rainbows, a resource website for women. She is also the parent of an ADHD child.


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