ADHD: Meeting the Challenge

by Mary Fowler

There is no question that AD/HD creates plenty of opportunity to overcome adversity. Why are some children and families better able to meet the challenges AD/HD presents? The answer can be glimpsed in the research that's been done on resilience.

Resilience does not mean avoiding adversity or sailing off into the sunset. To be resilient is to adapt despite challenges and threatening circumstances.

AD/HD places children and youth at risk for a number of life problems. Research shows that certain protective factors help at-risk children and youth to minimize the possibility of negative affects. Among these helpful protective factors are:

  • ordinary parents,
  • connection to competent and caring adults,
  • self-efficacy (the power or ability to produce a desired outcome),
  • intellectual ability,
  • pleasing personality,
  • talents valued by society, and
  • being able to control one's self-one's attention, emotion, arousal, and behavior. (Masten, 1999)
  • When researchers Weiss and Hechtman (1993) did follow-up studies on adults with AD/HD who managed to successfully meet their challenges, the adults overwhelmingly identified one main reason for their success: Someone believed in them.

    Most often that someone was a parent. Still, other caring adults such as coaches, teachers, and spouses, also filled them with hope and a belief in self.

    To help your son or daughter develop a sense of well-being, think about the above list of protective factors. Which ones can you help your child develop?

    Remember, AD/HD is not a matter of can't or won't. It's a matter of can and will-with the right recognition and help.

    Where Can I Find Support?

    For parents, teachers, and children challenged by this disorder, AD/HD can be a truly unique experience. While some days the struggles seem insurmountable, it's important to realize that when AD/HD is properly managed children with AD/HD can turn some of their liabilities into assets, and they can minimize the others.

    Meanwhile, there is help and hope available. Parent support groups exist in every state. Some, like CHADD and ADDA, are AD/HD-specific. Others like the Learning Disabilities Association and Parent's Anonymous may also be useful, depending on your individual circumstances. Visit the Web sites of these groups (see "Resources"), where you'll find information on activities and contact numbers of similar groups in your area.

    10 Ways to Teach Your Children Well

    10. Help your child identify his or her areas of strength.
    9. Help him or her to identify areas of weakness and ways to work around them.
    8. Teach self-advocacy skills.
    7. Be your child's strongest advocate.
    6. Create opportunities for success-no matter how large or small, like special chores.
    5. Play or do activities with him or her.
    4. Encourage your child's special interests.
    3. Enroll him or her in extra-curricular activities.
    2. Help your child find a niche.
    1. Be your child's biggest fan.

    Reprinted from National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities (NICHCY) Briefing Paper, Revised Edition, April 2002. Contact NICHCY at P.O. Box 1492, Washington, DC 20013-1492; phone: 800/695-0285 or 202/884-8200 (Voice/TT); email:

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