When I see parents asking in online ADHD groups about referrals for a “behavior therapist” or “behavior coach” for their child, I always wonder a few things. I understand that behavioral issues can be exhausting to parents, discouraging for kids, and devastating for a family. I have seen this firsthand – witnessing clients kicking, screaming, spitting, and swearing. I’ve received parent’s pictures of destroyed rooms, of scratches and black eyes. I’ve seen videos of screaming and crying behavior. I really do get it – it is not what you fantasized about when you pictured yourself as a mother or father. I have sat across from or spoken on the phone with many tearful parents. I know when you are at your wit’s end.
Then I think about what kind of help you truly want. I wonder what type of person you want to bring into your home and life to help with these very personal issues. What qualifications does one need to have to truly help these families?
I am also left with questions about the intervention itself because ADHD is a neurological condition, not a behavioral one. Yes, often behavioral issues take the front seat, especially when they are as I described earlier. I can understand how parents would turn to Google and seek out behavioral help. However, some types of behavior “therapy”, such as ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) are only concerned with outward manifestations of behavior with no regard for what is happening inside a child (thoughts, feelings, sensory input, trauma, hunger, lack of sleep and any number of other things that can cause an undesirable “behavior” to occur). This study is about ABA and autism, but it resonates with many of my ADHD clients. I spent many years as an occupational therapist witnessing my clients with their ABA therapists, and I am now adding my voice to those who feel that this practice is not only negligent and misinformed, but harmful.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has one official recommendation for treatment after an ADHD diagnosis: parent training (ages 4 – 6) and parent training combined with medication (ages 6+). You can read more about the recommendations here: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/guidelines.html
Is this recommendation a little short sighted in my view? Yes. In their defense, pediatricians are generalists. They must know a little bit about everything. Referring to a neuropsychologist or developmental pediatrician or other specialist may heed you more recommendations, like play therapy, or occupational therapy. If you stick with your ped only, you are likely to feel very stuck about what to do after a diagnosis of ADHD.
I urge you to consider how ADHD is impacting your child’s life, and your family dynamics. These are important factors in your decision about what to do next. Sometimes, the struggles are purely school related, and your child can benefit from a 504 Plan. However, if your child is showing signs of defiance, aggression, frustration, and/or big emotional responses that seem out of sync in relation to the situation, you will need further help.
Your first and best line of defense to improve kid’s behavior is parent coaching. In reality, an outside person, a therapist or coach, does not live with you. Your child will respond to him or her differently than they will to parents. In my more than a dozen years working exclusively with kids, I’ve seen them “perform” for me well during a therapy session, only to never replicate that task or skill again at home. They get into the mindset of “This lady comes over, I do these things for her, then I go back to my regular self”. I have seen parents get complacent with this model, hoping that someone (me) will “fix” their kid and return him or her back in perfect working order.
I’m sorry to say that this is not how any of it works! You need parent coaching for ADHD to truly make an impact. You live with your child and you are their biggest influence!
Parent coaching for ADHD removes the middleperson – the therapist or coach – and teaches the parent how to better respond and react to the child, with the ultimate goal of positively influencing behavior. You can have an immediate effect on your child’s behavior simply by changing what YOU do. You don’t need to force them, bribe them, or punish them at all. Isn’t that amazing news?
Your next question is undoubtedly, how? It all comes down to the knowledge of the coach you choose!
For families who struggle with ADHD, your parent coach MUST have knowledge of neuroscience and the physiological needs of neurodivergent individuals. If we only see behavior on the surface – as what we actually see – we are doing kids a disservice by not diving deeper into the “why” behind the struggles. All kids are unique, thinking, feeling, and sensing human beings. The parent who learns to read their child, to recognize shifts in their regulation, and learns how to help them stay regulated, while staying calm and collected themselves, is the parent who will have less conflict and that trickles down to the household that will have better peace and communication.
I am an occupational therapist of 25 years, an ADHD coach, and a certified life coach. I understand the “why” behind behavior struggles and I work with you to learn new strategies to respond and react differently to your child. Rewards and punishments are based on behavioral theories that every behavior has a goal (attention seeking, task avoidance or similar). Behavior is much more complicated than that. There are always additional factors lying under the surface that need to be uncovered and understood. I use my training in neuroscience, psychosocial therapy, and the coaching process to help you make real progress.
If you are ready for parent coaching for ADHD to improve your child’s behavior, find more information about my program and a form to contact me. If is easily done online, affordable, and effective.
I would like to add that I am truly humbled by the families that have come to me and have admitted that they need help. That is a huge first step and I commend the parents who decide that doing the same thing over and over and getting the same (not okay) result must end. As we wrap up Father’s Day weekend, and Mother’s Day last month, please know that I am an advocate on your side. I will always help you discover the best way to do what you need to for your family and your unique situation. Once you are in my parent coaching for ADHD circle, you are always on my radar! Please join me! It’s never too late to make changes.