FAMILY- Slow down: Therapist advises hugs before drugs


There's no doubt that boisterous, and inattentive children can be frustrating both at home and in the classroom. But long before considering medication for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, parents should make sure the home environment is conducive to an attentive, content child, says psychotherapist Pamela Sorensen. While Sorensen acknowledges some children do require medication for attention issues, she offers the following tips as the first steps a parent should take when concerned about a child's behavior.

Assist with transitions: "Transitions are very important to children, and they have a much bigger impact on a small child than on an adult," says Sorensen. "Parents need to think in detail about the transitions their children face each day." Discussing things such as who's going to take a child to school and who will pick up is important, she says. So are little details like what he or she will have for lunch or snack.

"To the child, these are not trivial things," says Sorensen. "These are like little anchors." 

Face time: "This is not the same as screen time," says Sorensen, who says many working parents arrive home with their children and never take a breath before launching into chores.

"Mom thinks she has to get dinner on the table immediately, things are hairy and wild, the kids are driving her crazy," she says. "She's standing at the refrigerator or stove. From the child's point of view, he's seeing mother's back. The child wants the mother's face." 

Sorensen's advice: slow down. "Dinner will be 20 minutes late, who cares?" she says. "Sit down. Don't turn on the television. Sit down and be still. You'll be surprised. You don't need to ask, 'What did you do today?' You don't need to question the child. This is the reunion that even the older child needs. He needs to reconnect with a mother who's not in a hurry." 

Give control: "Most of the time, a child doesn't have any control over anything. He gets up when you say, gets the bus when the schedule says, goes to school. There's so much that's not within his control," says Sorensen, who suggests parents give even their very young children control over small manageable things. 

"Let him pick his own clothes," she says. "And do you really care whether he has Cheerios or toast? Let him decide." Allowing a child to make those choices, says Sorensen, "helps a child feel he is making a contribution to how things work and that he can do it effectively."

Routine and rhythm. "Every family's routine and rhythm are different," says Sorensen. "Some families have bath in the evening, some in the morning. What matters is that it happens in the context of a familiar rhythmic routine of family life."

Sorensen says this predictability relaxes children, and she adds, "If it's possible for the bedtime routine to be unhurried and to include reading, this is also very helpful. There's something about winding down to the sound of mother or father's voice that's extremely reassuring. This needs to be a time of intimate connection, without the television."



You are so right. I conceded to the pressure of the schools and started using the meds on my grandson. He had an adverse reaction and they put him on an anti-psychotic. He gained 50 lbs. and rambled around crying all of the time. Thanks to a Tutoring agency, I was directed to an Audiologist who said he had Auditory processing problems which mimics ADHD. He has been off all meds for a few years and he is a different kid. I also did what your article suggests and it worked. It was a lot of work but well worth it.


This was the first time that I have come across "The Hook." I have a few general comments about your current piece on "...hugs before drugs."

For people who have accurate ADHD Spectrum Diagnoses, and who are struggling mightily due to their atypical Frontal Lobe/Dopamine/Norepinepherine status, the core question isn't whether or not to use meds. Remember that it is unduly difficult to get Typical Learning and Self-Management from a person with Atypical Brain Structures and Brain Chemistry.

If you have a trained and experienced Physician who will take the time to titrate [work with the dosing patterns] medicines properly, then Medication are often very beneficial.

You must be careful about which other professionals to involve in the ADHD part of a family member's problems. Most people who have a strong background in ADHD feel that traditional "counseling" is usually ineffective. Why? Because persons with ADHD eventually come to know what they need to do, but unlike others cannot pull up the appropriate responses when they need to use them. They know what to do, but can't do what they know! often can't do what they know. This kind of core ADHD deficit is seldom addressed during most counseling activities. Rather, contemporary Medication-accompanying interventions need to have more of an ADHD Coaching/Cognitive-Behavioral orientation. Often Therapists need to work on the problematic responses inthe very settings where they are not being used with sufficient frequency.

Also remember that Pills are dumb, so we MUST also have supportive and non-reactive home/school/work structuring to go with a Brain that is has begun to work better due to properly selected and dosed meds.

Thanx for considering my input.

Edward Gooze, Ph.D.
Biobehavioral Specialist and ADHD/Autism Coach
Austin, Texas

You obviously do not have a child with ADHD or work with many. How much reseach have you done yourself? Your opinion is from an uncredentialed inexperienced source. I take it with a grain of salt.
Get real

Get real.

The meds haven't been the magic bullet for my son. The side effects are very unpleasant, like not being able to eat and fall asleep at night, not to mention mood. We haven't tried anything but Concerta, but I am not so impressed. From his reaction, I wonder if he has ADHD after all.