How to help your hyperactive child

2008-09-29 00:00

Hyperactivity is one of the major obstacles to learning in children. Hyperactive children suffer from short attention spans. Because they cannot concentrate on an activity for any length of time, they find it difficult to master concepts that require concentration.

Although different symptoms (see below) may dominate at different stages of life, some individuals may display the signs and symptoms of hyperactivity throughout their lives. This may interfere with their learning, causing the child to obtain poor results in his or her school work.

If the behavioural problems of hyperactivity are not effectively dealt with in the early stages, they can manifest in patterns of lying and abusive behaviour at a later stage. In extreme cases they can lead to delinquency.

The following guidelines can assist parents in managing hyperactive behaviour.

• Give your child a firm foundation. Communication and interaction between the hyperactive child and the parents strongly influence the way the parents tackle problems and the way they talk to the child. Accept the child for what he or she is now and not for what you would like him or her to be. Once he or she feels your total love and acceptance, he or she can accept himself or herself.

Praise is more effective if directed at the deed rather than the child. In the same way, criticise the deed and not the child.

• Avoid putting the child into situations he or she cannot handle. Do not ask the child to do more than he or she is able to accomplish. Be aware of his or her limitations and provide extra support when he or she needs it.

•Provide routines and definite boundaries. Hyperactive children need the security of a definite routine. They are more settled if they know what to expect and when to expect it. They generally hate change and will complain if they are confronted with a different situation.

•Let them master a few rules at a time. Hyperactive children can cope with learning just a few rules at a time and are confused if bombarded with too many at once. Give them the opportunity to learn and be able to cope with a few rules at a time.

•Avoid corporal punishment. Corporal punishment could even cause the child to misbehave more frequently. Hyperactive children crave attention and if they cannot have the parents’ attention by being good, they will have it by being naughty.

•Give them a break. Try to arrange for the child to spend time with his or her grandparents, uncles or aunts. If hyperactive children find themselves in a situation with someone who is always loving and supportive, they will do their best.

Parents should take an active role in reducing the signs and symptoms of hyperactivity in the child so that his or her behaviour mode is placed in a mental framework that will allow for learning at school.

Hyperactivity: the symptoms

• The child fidgets most of the time.

• The child runs rather than walks.

• The child fears sleep and therefore has difficulty going to sleep.

• The child cries out while asleep.

• The child is highly excitable and unpredictable.

• The child acts and reacts extremely impulsively before thinking of the possible consequences.

• The child’s demands must be met immediately and he or she needs an immediate reward for an achievement.

• The child does not listen to or follow instructions.

• The child finds it difficult to obey rules.

• The child is intolerant of failure.

• The hyperactive child has a diminished ability to experience pleasure.

• The child is disruptive at home and at school.

• The child is destructive and aggressive.

• The child has poor psycho-motor co-ordination and therefore trips when walking, collides with objects and finds it difficult to play sport, cycle or swim.

• The child has poor hand-eye co-ordination. He or she can have difficulty with buttoning, tying, fastening, writing, drawing and cutting.

• The child may have speech difficulties which can be manifested as stuttering, stammering and a poor pronunciation of common words.

• The child tends to day-dream.

• The child has difficulty remembering details.

• The child finds it difficult to copy from the blackboard.

• The child has disturbances in visual orientation. He or she mistakes “p” for “q” and “b” for “d”.

• The child has difficulty in logical reasoning and finds it hard to do simple maths problems or to find meanings of common words.

• The hyperactive child is emotionally, physically and mentally immature.

• Hyperactive children are poor planners and therefore lack organisational skills.

• The hyperactive child often loses his or her belongings.

• The child does not finish tasks given at school or at home.

• The child cannot tolerate change.

• The hyperactive child enjoys the meaningless repetition of an action.

•The child is fascinated by fire.

•Alois Nzembe has several years of teaching experience at both primary and high school levels. He is currently teaching geography at Icesa College.

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