In this week’s episode of The Whole Circle Podcast, we talk to Sharon Collon from Calming the Chaos with The Functional Family.
Sharon knew her eldest son had ADHD from very early on. Her husband has severe ADHD, so they knew what to look for. Sharon wanted to help him and her family, and what followed was 9 years of research and trialling everything she could to help her little boy.
They did everything, occupational therapy, speech therapy, GAPS Diet, RPA Diet, Paleo Diet, Integrative Paediatricians, Developmental Paediatricians, Child Psychologists, cutting out all colours and preservatives, behavioural therapy and then different medications.
Everything helped to a certain degree, but their home life was exhausting! Sharon began developing systems and routines to try and make their home life easier. She noticed that the more organised routine based their family became, the calmer their ADHD family members would behave.
She learned that by working with a child’s strengths and creating easy to understand systems you can improve how your family functions.
This is how The Functional Family was born.
What strategies have worked for Sharon with her son?
As detailed above, they have tried everything. You name it, they tried it!
Through all these trials they found that lots of things helped him, in particular modifying his diet by removing artificial foods and ingredients. However, through all this Sharon was looking for ways to make their home life less chaotic because she was finding that the pressure of researching, trying all different options to help her son, being his rock predominantly alone because her husband’s severe ADHD precluded him from being able to support given his poor impulse control, was a massive burden to shoulder.
What she noticed was that it’s not about getting one thing right, but about getting a few things in balance which meant she needed to make sure that she was protected and that their home life still functioned as a family.
The big discovery was that routine and consistency were the big things that her son really craved. She also has two other little boys and through this, she was able to get her family functioning so much better.
When they were functioning better and more streamlined, it then gave Sharon the energy to deal with her son’s meltdowns and outbursts a lot better and be a bit more mature about it because she wasn’t so exhausted and flat all the time by being worn down by her son.
So, once they discovered ways of being a happier family, she wanted to share it with others so that she could restore joy back into families lives who were living a similar situation to hers.
How does the ADD/ADHD brain work?
ADD/ADHD is a complex neurological condition that is classified as a spectrum disorder, meaning that you can have varying degrees of symptoms.
ADHD/ADD is divided into three different types:
Sharon’s husband and son are the combined type which means they are both inattentive and hyperactive.
ADHD/ADD is linked to and presents in a myriad of ways, such as:
- Sensory processing disorder
- Working memory problems
- Problem-solving problems
- Poor time management
Whilst what is listed above is the negative side of ADHD/ADD, there are a lot of positive attributes to having ADHD/ADD and it’s important to drive this point home to our kids who have ADHD/ADD. Yes, it can be a hard slog to have ADHD/ADD, but it can also be a wonderful superpower to have.
The positives to ADHD/ADD are:
- With the correct guidance, they can be hyper-focused
- Great at risk-taking
- Great leaders
- Great outside the box thinkers
Let’s not get bogged down in the negative and focus on the positive. There have been so many successful people throughout history who have ADHD/ADD, a quick Google search will reveal so many success stories.
The key for the ADHD/ADD person is to find what they’re passionate about and what they’re good at and then flood them with praise so it boosts their self-esteem, and you will see them flourish.
How do you help kids at school with ADHD?
First and foremost, you have to communicate with the school that your child has a disorder. We understand that some parents don’t want the stigma that can be attached so they don’t tell the school. However, the school will find out eventually and, in the meantime, your child is the one missing out on the proper supports the school can proactively put in place for your child.
It’s a good idea for all parents of children with ADHD/ADD to develop a close relationship with the school and your child’s teacher. It is imperative to check in with your child’s progress at school regularly. Keep the lines of communication open with the school so that you know if your child has had a good or bad day and on the flip side of that, it’s imperative for the school to know if your child is having issues at home or had a bad morning at school so the teacher knows what to expect of your child that day.
Creating a collaborative environment between parents and school is vital. If your child has a certain issue, the best solutions are found when you brainstorm collaboratively with the school.
What are three things as a family you can do to support your ADHD/ADD child?
Have a routine and be consistent
We know that the ADHD/ADD brain is a brain that is full of anxiety and a brain that has to work overtime to get even the most mundane basic everyday tasks done.
Focus on functional living skills. ADHD/ADD people think outside the box, there is no point having a person set up for working life with a great forward-thinking brain if they can’t tie their shoes to leave the house. Functional living skills are a must to focus on in childhood, with correct modelling from parents. This will set them up on the right path so that in adulthood this will happen automatically.
You accomplish this by task leading. One task automatically flows onto another task and so on and so forth. For example, make your bed, have breakfast, brush your teeth etc. Doing the same thing each day, in the same way, creates routine and consistency, thus creating a habit so that their muscle memory becomes trained to do that every single day.
There are a lot of studies out now showing that high-intensity exercise for children with behavioural issues works the same as ADHD/ADD medication.
Today’s lifestyle is very sedentary, we don’t exercise as much. But for people with ADHD/ADD, high-intensity exercise is vital. It doesn’t have to be paid structured exercise, it can be as simple as cranking up the music and dancing around the house to get that heart pumping. Trampolining, going to the park, getting out into nature are all great ways to get exercise. This needs to be daily. Again, creating routine and consistency around exercise creates that habit so that it can be done every single day.
Declutter your environment
We know that having a cluttered environment increases anxiety so you want to declutter because this because in turn, it will create less distraction and a lot less stimuli for the ADHD/ADD brain which is imperative.
Calming the Chaos
Sharon has created a course called Calming the Chaos so parents can learn how to create bite-sized changes in their lives that will have a massive impact. This helps families to function better and give everyone back a bit more time and joy.
It is not just enough to survive living with ADHD/ADD, we want your family to thrive.
Even if you aren’t an ADHD/ADD family, this course covers so many things that any family that struggles with chaos, can benefit from.
Check out all about it and register to join >>> here.
Screen time sure is a hot topic and one that is most the likely the biggest one we will face in our lifetime.
The reason that it’s of particular concern when it comes to the ADHD/ADD brain is because of their ability to hyperfocus which feeds into the instant gratification part of their brain that gets joy. So, trying to get them away from screens can be really difficult.
It’s a good idea to stick to the guidelines for screen time. These days children are getting way more screen time than they should, especially when you factor in access to computers at school and the need to use them for their school work, as well as TV, iPads, phones etc. Access to screen time is everywhere!
On Sharon’s blog she has a comprehensive post about screen time, as well as a guide to how much screen time is appropriate and a screen time schedule (which you can check out and download >>> here).
We get it, screen time can be a way to keep your behaviourally challenged kids calm and quiet, but then the problems and behaviours arise when it’s time for them to get off it. It’s always best to keep screen time to a minimum. Getting your kids out and about, active and back to nature is a much better option.
Children love clear boundaries so if you are giving your children clear guidelines of what you do in your house then they know what they have to live by. When your children try and test those boundaries, and they will, whether it be for more screen time or in Jo and Tracey’s case, wanting to eat additive-filled food, be consistent, don’t make threats that you are not prepared to follow through with and don’t give in.
Your kids will eventually get the idea that you cannot be worn down and that you won’t cave and give them what they want. Yes, it’s tough and can at times be exhausting, but eventually, they will give up asking.
Again, don’t focus on the negative. For example, if you are taking away all artificial colours, don’t just show your children what foods you are taking away from their diet with artificial colours in them. Show them all the new foods they can have instead of foods with artificial colours, whether it’s simple brand swaps or you’re going to make things from scratch with natural food colours. This way your children won’t feel deprived.
How can we support families who have ADD/ADHD children?
The most important thing to note when you’re dealing with kids with behavioural issues, in general, is to praise them. More often than not they are constantly having negativity directed at them because of their behavioural issues but the reality is they are desperate for praise because not only does this boost their self-esteem, but everyone wants to feel accepted, loved and valued and these kids are no different.
Watch the language you use about behavioural issues. People with ADHD/ADD are trying so hard in their everyday lives, negative language can be incredibly detrimental.
Make sure you give behaviourally challenged kids eye contact. In most circumstances, when our kids are behaving negatively, we react negatively with our body language such as eye-rolling or turning away from them.
Our kid’s behaviours can be occurring because they are sensory seeking so we need to make sure we are feeding the right beast, which means eye contact is really important.
When our kids do well give lots of eye contact with over the top praise and big reactions and when they are behaving negatively, get down on their level with eye contact but keep the reaction to a minimum so that it doesn’t feed their sensory seeking.
Only give big reactions for positive behaviours.
Also, be patient. Try and put yourself in that family’s shoes and the hard slog they are living. They need your patience and understanding as well as support.
The parents need a lot of support as well because living this life can be very isolating. Love, support and understanding go a long long way.
Links and Resources