How to Fight ADD

Four Parts:Dealing with ADD in ChildrenTeaching a Child with ADDMaking Lifestyle ChangesTreating ADD

In Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), the individual -- child or adult -- is unable to maintain and focus their attention. The inability to concentrate can be observed during very early years and childhood but especially becomes prominent in school years when the child does poorly at academics. The problem has became very prevalent and requires immediate attention to help the individual perform better and to improve his or her functionality. To help reduce ADD's influence in your or a loved one's life, start with Step 1 below.

Part 1
Dealing with ADD in Children

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    Show them your support at home and in school. Children with ADD need every possible means of support in their struggle to overcome ADD. The parents are seen as prime partners in this fight with ADD, though teachers are also incredibly influential.
    • Children with ADD can differ in their symptoms and in their needs. Therefore, it is important to evaluate the child to identify the child’s strengths and challenges so that effective strategies can be crafted to support their learning.
    • Parents should establish a relationship with their child's teachers. It is imperative the parents share with the teachers their observations and experiences with the child and what they understand of the child.
    • The therapies and the progress, too, should be communicated to the teacher. This helps the teacher to take on from there because most of the child’s effective hours are spent at school. Both home and school need to be positive learning environments.
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    Give the child structure. Children with ADD really respond well when there is structure and order in their lives.[1] They should be taught to be as organized as possible. Assist them in keeping all the items they use and need in an organized manner.
    • Encourage a child to do things himself as he will learn how to organize things and how easy it is to locate things when kept in an uncluttered manner.
    • For example, the child can be taught to keep his stationery together in a drawer, his school books in one place and home book together in another place, likewise she can be taught to make use of drawers, folders, and trays to keep her things. This way she will not have to struggle looking for things.
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    Help them minimize distractions. A child with ADD finds it difficult to stay focused for a considerable time. His attention is easily robbed by sights and sounds around them. It can even be his or her own thoughts. This distraction can interfere with their ability to finish tasks. They tend to get so distracted they might lose interest in the task or altogether forget to complete it. Because of this, outside distractions must be kept out of the picture.
    • To minimize distractions while studying, working on assignments, and performing tasks at school or doing homework, make the place where she sits to do her work soundproof and free of any doors and windows.
    • Ear plugs can also be used to keep sounds from disturbing him. It also helps to make time for frequent short breaks as they cannot sit still for long.
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    Help them stay motivated. To make things simple for him, a single task can be broken into multiple tasks or sub-tasks. It will be easy for him to work upon and stay on track. Help him keep the list of tasks he needs to finish in writing and within his view for reference.
    • As and when he successfully accomplishes something use it as a platform to boost his motivation. Appreciate him, recognize his achievement no matter how small or insignificant it may seem to be.
    • A child with ADD really craves for praise, appreciation and good words because she hardly gets them. She is mostly put through negative reinforcement. Only words such as mischievous, ill disciplined, rude, rash, lazy are associated with her.
    • Make it a point to appreciate and reward her for her good behavior no matter how insignificant it might outwardly look because it might be a small step leading to a bigger step for them.
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    Teach them that misbehavior is something that will not be tolerated. When they misbehave make it a point to let them understand that misbehavior/inappropriate actions can and will attract consequences. The consequences can be giving them time-outs or suspending their privileges.
    • Apart from the consequences, help them understand how they could have done something differently. Though their neurological make up is to be blamed for their inappropriate behavior, sometimes they need to be corrected the hard way
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    Handle instructions carefully. Children with ADD find it extremely difficult to follow instructions. Seeing them may give you an impression that they have understood everything and will face no issues following them. But in reality, difficulty in following instructions is one of the hallmark problems of ADD. Here's what to keep in mind:
    • To make their job less complicated, the steps involved in the instructions/process can be broken down into instructions having fewer or smaller steps.
    • It also helps to keep the instructions very brief, simple and to the point for the child to assimilate easily.
    • Repeat the steps/instructions a couple of times for them to remember and follow.
    • The instructions can also be given in writing in such a manner that different steps are highlighted/marked in different colors.
    • Maintaining direct eye contact with the child while communicating can make it easier for the child to follow instructions
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    Allow them to work on multiple tasks. It is very easy for a child with ADD to drift away from the task at hand and get lost in thoughts and imagination. He has a very limited attention span and focus. He finds it difficult to sit on a single assignment till its completion. This can keep the child behind in all the tasks and projects. Therefore, the child can and should be encouraged to switch between tasks/projects/assignments.
    • This way he has the liberty to start working on a different subject or assignment once his interest dies in one subject. He can switch between multiple assignments. This method can keep him productive for longer periods.
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    Help keep them safe. Unfortunately for the child with ADD, this hyperactivity of theirs is not welcome all the time and in all places. Those affected by ADD just do not seem to display sense of time, place and action. They act on the spur of the moment and are described as impulsive. This combination of hyperactivity and impulsiveness can prove dangerous not only for them but also for the people around them. Therefore, in certain situations, ADD needs to be handled effectively.
    • The best way to control the symptoms of impulsivity and hyperactivity would be to divert them towards a better outlet. The interests and inclinations of the child should be taken into consideration.
    • Children with ADD can spend endless hours on an activity that intrigues their interest but can never be made to focus on tasks which they find uninteresting, repetitive and boring. Their attention can be grabbed and made to follow instructions if and only if they are able to relate to the activity or task.

Part 2
Teaching a Child with ADD

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    Recognize that many children with ADD are very intelligent and creative. Children with ADD are thinking of multiple things at the same time. They think like born innovators. They are almost always bubbling with energy and enthusiasm. It's this aspect of ADD that makes them truly brilliant. When you're teaching them, focus on this aspect of their disorder.
    • Try to encourage the individual to embrace this side of ADD and to focus on it themselves, especially for teenagers. ADD doesn't have to be a burden -- in fact, it can be used to the child's advantage.
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    Know that some children with ADD are auditory learners. This means they find it easier to learn by repeatedly listening to the lessons. The lessons can be read out loud and the children themselves can also be encouraged to read aloud. That way they absorb the content better.
    • They can and should be encouraged to speak through their work. The tests can also be designed to be given orally. When this is done, you may see higher scores.
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    Know that some children with ADD are visual learners. This means they learn better by seeing. It helps to teach them using aids such as charts, graphs and other pictorial representations.
    • They can be easily encouraged to write and draw. Design the tests to allow them to show their learning through writing and drawing
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    Know that some children with ADD are tactile learners. This type of learner absorbs more and better when they are allowed to touch, feel and experience what is being taught to them. Keep all assignments as interactive as possible.
    • In regards to test, make them conceptual. Have the child show you what he or she has learned. Do experiments and draw out problems or examples with concrete objects for representation.
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    Equip the child with learning readiness skills. These skills are very important to help the child learn any new task and have the ability to pay attention. These include
    • On seat behaviors
    • Compliance
    • Attention
    • Eye contact
    • Imitation
    • The child with ADD often does not demonstrate these basic skills and once taught it becomes easy to work with the child and make him or her learn new things.
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    Do concentration and attention building exercises. This will help you enhance the child’s attention which is the major issue. You can do this in various ways. Here are some examples:
    • Ask the child to complete a simple puzzle or game activity and increase its complexity and time; reinforce the child on successful attempts.
    • Use recorded stories according to the level of the child and ask him or her to listen as carefully as they can and later on tell the story to you. You can increase the complexity over time to further improve attention.
    • Ask the child to identify similarities and differences between two pictures. This task is very helpful in increasing attention and concentration and often the children enjoy doing this task.
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    Break down the task into simple steps. Help the child learn at his or her pace by increasing attention and following easy commands and steps. A child with ADD often tries to escape from mental effort requiring task and shows frustration and more in a lack of attention. Start with smaller and easier steps and gradually make them complex working with the pace of the child. Each progressing step can boost their motivation.
    • Regardless of the task, set expectations clearly. Let them know what they will be learning, what is expected of him, what preparations are required on the part of the child, and what materials would be required.
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    Help increase their focus by using creativity in tasks. Use as much creativity as you can to help the child increase focus and develop attention and increased concentration. You can first of all identify what the child enjoys the most and then can use those tasks in different activities. Some useful tasks are reported below
    • Coloring using crayons or markers to complete a drawing
    • Using oil paints and water paints on any new material like leather or packing material
    • Using colored clay to make toys, pots or models
    • Sculpturing using different materials
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    Enhance group activities. Working in groups is very important for the child to build his capacity for attention. It helps in the following ways:
    • Helps the child gain effective learning skills
    • Helps the child attend the group activity through turn taking, responding, etc.
    • Enhances his or her concentration by first understanding the group activity and then responding accordingly
    • Motivates the child while looking at peers performing an activity and makes him compete
    • Increases mental activity and attention
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    Use role playing and modeling. If you want the child to increase his attention and concentration, you can give the children and the child role model different positive roles and talk about how good children listen and respond. Modeling is also very effective as the child often learns many skills and learns to attend and concentrate by observing the models around him or her.
    • Consistency and repetition in any concept or idea, are very important. Constantly working on attention and concentration and repeating different tasks by increasing their difficulty level will give you better results in less time. You have to be patient but the good results will enhance your motivation to work, too.

Part 3
Making Lifestyle Changes

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    Eat healthy. A healthy diet of nutritious food can reduce the symptoms of ADD. Healthy snacks eaten at regular intervals can assist in maintaining proper blood sugar levels, controlling hyperactive behaviors and improving focus.[2] Appropriate amounts of protein and complex carbohydrates (meats and whole grains) in each meal will help the symptoms diminish.
    • It is also very important to consume the mineral contents of zinc, magnesium and iron in the right amount. Studies have shown that people with ADD -- especially children -- have been seen to be deficient in these minerals. Because of this, be sure to include meat, poultry, fish, and nuts as part of a healthy diet.[3]
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    Get the necessary amount of Omega-3 fatty acids. These are found in foods such as salmon, tuna, flax seeds, walnuts and fortified eggs and can do an excellent job of controlling the symptoms of hyperactive and impulsive behaviors. They also impact attention and memory positively.[4]
    • Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B are also good for depression (it is common for people with ADD to experience depression). Foods rich in vitamin B are meat, poultry, eggs, milk, yogurt, cheese, vegetables and fruits such as potatoes, spinach, avocado, broccoli and bananas, almonds, walnuts, figs, apricots, dates, whole grains.
    • Omega-3 fatty acids are excellent for effective brain functioning which obviously makes them good for focus, attention and concentration.[5]
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    Make sleep a priority. Many children and adults with ADD experience sleep related problems. There can be trouble falling asleep, having disturbed sleep, or difficulty waking up in the morning.[6] When the individual fails to get adequate sleep and/or rest, it aggravates the symptoms. Therefore, sleep needs to be a priority.
    • It helps to maintain a routine with regard to sleep as in getting into bed and getting out of the bed at the same time everyday.
    • Make it a habit to stay off TV, computers, video games and other electronic devices at least one hour prior to going to bed. This one hour could be utilized as a preparatory time for getting sound sleep.
    • Listening to some light and soothing music can calm down the nerves and induce good, deep sleep rhythms.
    • Some mild aromas can be used in the room. They can do a wonderful job of relaxing your mind.
    • Intake of caffeine should be reduced to as low as humanly possible; caffeine has got the notoriety to interfere with sleep.
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    Consider starting on stimulants. Both children and adults with ADD can be put on stimulants to improve the symptoms of ADD. Medication can be effective in suppressing the symptoms to a certain extent for as long as they are used. Medication is especially effective in addressing the issues when used in tandem with other treatment options such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, diet and exercise.[7]
    • Again, this can be only for as long as the person is on medication. Medication is an approach to suppress the symptoms of ADD -- not a solution to cure it.
    • Stimulants are usually the most common medication prescribed for treating ADD. They are seen as the most effective type of medication in treating ADD for they are backed by extensive research that proves their effectiveness. Ritalin, concerta, daytrana, Dexedrine, Adderall and vyvanse are some of the stimulants which are seen as beneficial for ADD.
    • All the patients do not respond to the same medications alike. One person with ADD may show significant improvement while the same drug may not show similar impact on another person with ADD.
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    Talk to a doctor about non-stimulant drugs. Those such as Strattera and other anti-depressants are also prescribed in some cases. Some high blood pressure medicines such as clonidine and guanfacine are also prescribed for ADD. These medicines can be effective in suppressing the symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsive behavior, though are not very helpful in dealing with attention related problems.
    • Non-stimulant drugs work differently compared to stimulant drugs. The two types of medications are often combined to give a better effect. Research also supports the idea that a combination of drugs is often a better option for treating ADD than a single drug used alone
    • In this case, the child or an adult with ADD is put on a small dose of medicine. The dose is slowly raised until some effect is observed from the administering of the medicine. This is termed "titration." The goal of using medication for treating ADD is to benefit the person as much as possible while limiting their exposure to side effects.
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    Take up yoga, tai chi, taekwondo and meditation. The benefits associated with yoga and martial arts are plenty. Many physical and mental benefits are associated with regular practice of any of the forms. This holds especially true for children and adults with ADD.[8]
    • Regular practice in an appropriate manner of any of these forms helps one to build self-esteem, self-control, build focus and stay organized. When your self-esteem is high and you feel in control of life, you are better equipped to deal with pressure, stress, bullying, etc.
    • Yoga and deep breathing techniques such as pranayama are self-calming techniques that can greatly help in treating ADD, too.
    • Regular practice of meditation ensures the prefrontal cortex is buzzing with activity. That is the region in the brain which is responsible for focus, attention, organizing and impulse control
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    Get adequate exercise. One of the most striking characteristics of ADD is hyperactivity. Children and adults with ADD are always on the go; they find it difficult to sit at a place for significant periods of time. They have the constant urge to do something or the other be it running around, climbing and fidgeting. Exercise is a great outlet for this urge.
    • When they are given appropriate guidance and shown the right way to expend their energy the symptoms or the intensity of symptoms not only come down but they can be guided to excel in taking charge of their life. The child with ADD can be encouraged to take up physical activity or extracurricular in school.
    • The physical activity can be as simple as taking a walk, hiking, running in the park, taking a pet for a walk, watering the plants, bicycling or can be some organized sport such as soccer, hockey, badminton, basketball, volleyball, etc.
    • For children and adults with ADD, getting proper and adequate sleep is an issue. Exercise and general physical activity ensures the person sleeps better.
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    Seek out a support group. Support groups can play an important role in helping the people with ADD understand their disorder, symptoms and situation better. This can help them accept their problems and situation which can improve their involvement in their treatment. The more positive they are, the more effective it'll be.
    • A support group is a platform where lot of valuable strategies/approaches are shared. It is a place which makes them realize they are not the only people with this problem and they can do a good job of dealing with it and they are equipped to do so.
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    Use white noise to combat a wandering focus. Children and adults with ADD find it difficult to focus their attention on the task they are trying to do. They are easily distracted by their surroundings, the happenings, the sounds and the people around them. However, some "white noise" sounds do have calming effects on certain individuals.[9]
    • This distraction can be especially bothersome when they are preparing to study, do their schoolwork, home work or any other serious work. Provide a quiet and less happening place and if that doesn't seem to work, have a running electric fan or static radio available to combat the silence.
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    Get a pet. Studies show that a pet can succeed in bringing down the hyperactive, impulsive and aggressive behaviors in children. Studies also tell that people who take care of their pets are less likely to be affected by depression and anxiety related problems. If getting a cat or dog is feasible for your situation, you may want to consider it.
    • Getting involved in playing with pets boosts the levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain naturally. It also may proffer your child a sense of responsibility when caring for the pet.

Part 4
Treating ADD

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    Develop a team of support. Treatment for both children and adults with ADD should be a collaborative effort of a team of professionals that include family and friends of the person, doctors, therapists, life coach and nutritionists. ADD doesn't have to wreak havoc on the individual or their loved ones when handled effectively.
    • As with any issue that seems uncontrollable, the more support an individual has, the better off they'll feel and be. A daunting task is a lot less daunting when there are half a dozen people willing to help. Make it clear that the person suffering from this condition can lean on their team at any time.
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    Know that ADD comes with its own baggage. The child with ADD may get weighed down by the symptoms, the frustrations of having to deal with it, the feelings of hopelessness and embarrassment, the uncertainty about the future and dealing with the frustrations of the parents. All this negativity can lead the child into depression and anxiety, which can last through their adult years.
    • A child psychiatrist can prescribe medicines both for overcoming the primary symptoms as well as for associated symptoms of depression and anxiety. The same is true in adults.
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    Look into cognitive behavioral therapy. This is a very effective form of therapy that encourages a person with ADD to identify and challenge the negative beliefs, thoughts and behaviors that have been disrupting their life. It is even more effective with medication.[10]
    • CBT seeks to transform the person’s outlook towards life. It also focuses on tackling the primary concerns of ADD as in disorganization, impulsive behaviors, time mismanagement, inability to manage anger and stress and performance problems.[11]
    • While traditional therapies emphasize on digging the past of the person in order to come out with a solution for the current problems, CBT focuses more on eliminating irrational thoughts and behaviors that accompany ADD.[12]
    • Adults with ADD struggle to achieve and perfect themselves, which leaves them with a constant negative perception of themselves as well as their future. CBT is all about challenging these negative perceptions and bringing out the latent positivity in them.
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    For adults, consider counseling to deal with marital and family issues. ADD is the reason behind many a marital discord. The lack of attention, forgetfulness and lack of impulse control lead to many impulsive decisions, unfulfilled responsibilities and commitments, and financial problems. These can lead to friction and rupture between the person and the partner/family.
    • Counseling sessions such as marriage counseling and family therapies can do an excellent job of bridging the gap between parties and educating the parties involved on effective ways to deal with situations that arise because of ADD. Therapies such as these could also work to improve communication between the person and the partner/family.[13]
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    As an alternative, think about coaching. Apart from therapies, adults with ADD can also benefit from seeking the services of behavioral coaches. While therapists help the adult with ADD individual deal with emotional aspects arising because of ADD, behavioral coaches help one deal with primary concerns of everyday life.
    • Coaches teach ways to confront the basic problems of disorganization, ineffective time management, inappropriate prioritizing of tasks, and improper management of finances. This can be in both home and work contexts.
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    Consider medication carefully. Medication is an option but should not be taken as the sole and only option available to treat ADD. Apart from medication, there are various other treatment options in the form of therapies offered by specialists that can best serve the purpose of helping the child or adult overcome the symptoms of ADD.
    • Research studies show that ADD responds best when exposed to a combination of treatments/strategies/approaches instead of a single approach.[14]
    • A psychiatrist and only a psychiatrist can diagnose ADD and can prescribe medications.
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    Try an educational specialist for children. The child with ADD can also benefit from the services of an educational specialist because he can teach strategies and techniques that when adopted help the child to thrive in a school environment. They can also collaborate with the school to facilitate the specialized needs of the child.
    • There are also therapies to improve the social quotient of the child. They can, through interventions, help the child read peoples’ reactions and body language, develop listening skills and develop the qualities needed to mingle and interact better.


  • A Mediterranean diet that is rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, proteins is seen as an ideal diet for ADD.
  • Engaging in physical activities, exercise and sports that exert the body ensure the release of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine in levels that can positively influence and affect the person’s ability to focus and pay attention.

Article Info

Categories: Childhood Health | Attention and Developmental Disorders