ADHD and behaviour modification


The point of therapy and counselling is for the child to learn coping skills and adaptive behaviours. Options may include parent training, family therapy, organisational skills, training, individual tutoring, social skills training and individual psychotherapy.

The role of the parent

Success is often dependent on how well the adults around the child are able to establish routines and rules for behaviour, and help the child to achieve them.

As a parent of an ADHD child, your role is crucial. Your child is unlikely to be able to change his own behaviour without your help and guidance.

If you have an ADHD child, there is a lot that you can do to help him maintain focus, manage his time and so on. Your goal is to model and teach strategies that he will internalise and use.

Children with ADHD often have trouble following instructions and may be distracted before completing a task. You will need to be patient and persistent, using strategies like establishing eye contact and clearly articulating instructions.

There are lots of books and websites to help you, but professional input can make a significant difference. An experienced counsellor can work with you to develop an approach for your family.

How to begin helping your ADHD child

Identify the changes that need to be made

The first thing you will need to do together is identify the specific changes that need to be addressed. One of the strategies that works well is to highlight the consequences of misbehaviour and to reward good behaviour.

Star charts

Star charts can be helpful with attention problems. Focus on one or perhaps two key behaviours at a time and be very specific about what behaviour you expect. You can’t say: “Be polite” or “Improve at school”. Be clear, positive and specific, for instance, “Do your homework straight after lunch every day”.


The tough part is that you must be consistent – no compliance means no reward. Time out can also be helpful in teaching appropriate behaviour.

ADHD and school

School holds its own set of challenges for the ADHD child. If you are fortunate, your child will have a teacher who understands the condition and works with you and your child to help him succeed. Schools will sometimes make accommodations for ADHD children, such as allowing them extra time to complete tests.


Homework time can be challenging for ADHD children and their parents. The basics that are important for all children – such as a quiet place to study, a space where stationery and other resources are kept together, and so on – are even more so for ADHD kids.

Task management

Make it easier for him to succeed by helping him to institute good routines, manage his time and possessions and practice good organisational skills. Help him break tasks up into manageable chunks. Keep a schedule and a timetable handy and remind him to consult them.

Social skills training

Social skills training may help the ADHD child to manage anger, be less aggressive and impulsive, and to behave in a more socially acceptable way.

Did you know?

  • Sitting on an exercise ball instead of a regular chair may help concentration.

Teachers have had success with what some call the Wriggle Method - ADHD kids sit on big exercise balls when working, and are allowed to wriggle as long as they don’t get up and move around.

Apparently, this helps them channel excess energy, so instead of tapping a pencil or fidgeting, they are constantly moving on the ball. One study showed that in-seat behaviour and word formation improved when kids were on the balls.

  • There is some evidence that chewing gum may help kids concentrate better.

Contact ADHASA (ADHD/Hyperactivity Support Group) on (011) 888 7655 for more information.

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