By Debra L. Karplus, MS, OTR/L
Grandparenting the first grandchildren somehow seemed much simpler than it’s been with the newest little guy, despite the experience and wisdom you’ve acquired over the years. But, you’re older now. Maybe your age is finally catching up with you because, frankly, this grandchild wears you out much beyond just being exhausted.
Time out! Don’t be so quick to blame yourself because you’re probably not the only person who has noticed that his energy level seems to be unusually high. His teacher affectionately refers to him as her favorite little “high flyer”. His parents often feel like they want to run away from home, because they’re really tired. Maybe his behavior has nothing to do with the sugary candy bars he enjoys; possibly there is a medical issue of concern.
Are you slowing down, or is your grandchild hyperactive?
It could be that your grandson or granddaughter has Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). Approximately three to five percent of the school-aged population has it. It affects about three times more boys than girls. Its cause is unknown. You may have also heard of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), a closely related syndrome that involved more inattention than hyperactivity.
Physicians with the help of observant teachers and parents are able to diagnose this most common of neurobehavioral disorders from its often obvious symptoms, hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity. ADHD and ADD can last through childhood and into the teen years and sometimes longer. Possibly you know an adult who seems to have a brain that never seems to slow down. Like many childhood syndromes, it is managed rather than cured.
Surviving life around a child with ADHD or ADD is totally possible.
There are several successful methods for keeping attention disorders under control. When combined they can be very effective for many children. Medication is one way to manage ADHD and ADD. There are numerous prescription pharmaceuticals on the market today that work well. Teachers and parents notice improved behavior instantly when these drugs are used. Like any medicine, there are side effects. But the ability to get through the school day behaving properly, learning lessons, and interacting with peers can be a blessing. When asked, children on these meds can often tell when their chemical effects have “kicked in”.
In school, teachers need to understand the limitations and needs of students with attention deficits and create an optimal learning environment with few distractions. Something as simple as where in the classroom the child sits, and which direction he faces can be amazingly helpful in minimizing the behaviors of ADHD and ADD. Often, children diagnosed with attention disorders have been identified for special education services and have an Individual Education Plan (IEP) that maps out specific problems, goals, and approaches to help the child. Special services such as occupational therapy may be provided to help facilitate social skills and address sensorimotor issues.
At home, parents and siblings need to be extraordinarily patient, which is often easier said than done. Create a household where your hyperactive child can use his or her energy in positive ways. Be supportive of the child and give praise. Encourage the child to establish healthy friendships with peers.
Grandparents can be helpful to parents of the child who is hyperactive.
Perhaps the most valuable help you can provide is to give the parents of your hyperactive grandchild some respite. Invite your grandchild on outings where he or she can run around, such as the park. Have him visit for a sleepover or even an entire weekend if possible.
Never lose perspective. Your grandchild with a hyperactive disorder has a bright future ahead. Savor every minute together.
Author biography: Debra Karplus is a licensed occupational therapist, teacher, and freelance writer for national magazines, baby boomer, and grandmother of two. She lives in a Midwestern college town. She has been published inGrand Magazine in the past. Learn more about her at http://debrakarplus.blogspot.com