October is ADHD Awareness Month

4 min read   •   October 29, 2019
Lorian Phillips – Clinical Psychologist

The term ADHD has been rolling off the tongues of many parents and teachers alike. But what is it, really? And how do we cope with it? October is ADHD Awareness Month. Learn why these four letters have become common, and find support from parent seminars to help you manage it well.

Kids, then and now

Circa 1980: It’s a beautiful summer afternoon and the Mitchell kids are playing in their garden. They play on swings, swim, have races on the lawn and eventually just flop and relax from all their exertions.

Circa 2019: It’s a beautiful summer afternoon and the children of the Mitchell’s just mentioned are lying on their beds. One child is playing Fortnite on Xbox and screaming at his friends to make the right moves to win. The other child is lying on his bed with the laptop balanced on his legs searching for information on Google. Or, chatting to his friends on his mobile phone. And the third child is lounging on the couch staring at the TV.

Implications of technology for the ADHD child

Sound familiar? This is the state of play for children and teenagers of today. What are the implications of all this technology for the ADHD child as well as their neurotypical peers?

As October is ADHD Awareness Month, it is important to focus on this very important issue facing our children today.

Did you know that as a result of too much early exposure to electronics, our children’s brains are getting rewired? Regular children now have a shorter attention span and a greater need for novelty. One can only imagine the implications for the ADHD child in terms of their ability to focus. How do they concentrate and not get distracted by incoming stimuli?

Constant stimulation and the effects on ADHD kids

Furthermore, these computer games are specially designed to hook our kids into becoming addicts. They provide constant stimulation to the brain so that their “reward” neurotransmitter, dopamine, is being repeatedly activated. Therefore, our children struggle to switch from any of these activities to the more mundane ones of schoolwork, homework, etc. Every time a child gets a like on Instagram or a reply to a WhatsApp message, their dopamine also gets elevated. Consequently creating further addiction and again making the gap between the regular and the exciting more difficult to bridge. Due to all the time spent on technology, our kids today are showing less ability to read facial expressions, body language, and the nuances of social communication – something that ADHD kids may already struggle with.

What to do? We can’t stem the tide and it’s not all bad. It’s all about how we manage it.

Managing ADHD

Ban distractions

It is vitally important that families try and eat dinner together where technology is banned. This encourages conversations where kids can then learn about the social aspects of communication. This also allows them to be involved in one activity without being distracted.

Encourage healthy habits

The use of technology should be contingency based. That is to say, if the child wants to go on the iPad, Xbox, etc, he first has to complete his homework, do some form of exercise (a great healthy dopamine enhancer vs dopamine being enhanced by technology), read a book and so on. This is so for all children, not just ADHD/ADD ones.

Explore the positive aspects of technology

It’s also a good idea for parents to be able to chat to their kids about what they enjoy from technology and get involved on some level. For example, try playing an Xbox game together, or use Google to elaborate on a difficult homework concept or as a point of discussion. Our kids are used to us just complaining about technology. Our openness to some aspects of it may make them more likely to go along with some of our old-fashioned ideas for having fun. This will certainly build on our relationship with them too.

Use these tips and tools to become ADHD aware! Above all, connect more with your child. Don’t shun the devices, instead, impart some important skills to stand him/her in good stead. Happy October!