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Advice and Support for Parents of Kids With ADHD

Parents can face more than a few challenges when raising a child with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

They can range from failing grades; unsafe, disruptive behaviors; or difficulty in relationships with parents, teachers, and peers — all a result of poor self-control related to the disorder. There are books galore that try to guide you, but nothing compares to direct support from empathetic experts and solace from like-minded parents.

Lisa Spector, MD, Division Chief of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at Nemours Children’s Hospital, Florida, was initially surprised to find there was no existing local program for parents in need of that kind of support. So, she partnered with the Nemours Manager of Community Health, Kelly Rogers, MPH, and the Pediatric Residency Program Director, Corinne Bria, MD, MEd, and they secured grant funds to start one.  

In the past year, they have provided four eight-week courses on down-to-earth strategies for parenting children with ADHD. As an extra investment in the future, the program provides rare guidance for pediatricians-in-training, who are coached to teach the parents.

“One of my goals in life is for pediatricians to have the skills they need to address mental, emotional and behavior disorders in their practice,” Spector says. “This is something we don’t learn in medical school.”

Parents bring their kids to the weekly evening sessions at the hospital, where, while the parents learn from the residents, their children are coached by trained college volunteers who teach them to identify and regulate their emotions. 

Eighteen families have taken the course so far, and many parents give it great reviews.

“The environment at home, especially during the nighttime routine, has become more peaceful and the communication with our son has been improving every day,” says Monica Rodriguez, a mother of two children, ages 6 and 2. “We have had more good days than bad ones and we have been working as a team to focus more on the positive things.” 

Carrie Balthazar, a nurse and mother of three, is another satisfied parent. “We learned so much, from how the brain of a child with ADHD works to why he behaves the way he does to how we can correct his behavior in a positive manner without discouraging him,” says Balthazar, whose son with ADHD was eight years old when they signed up. “Every week we would look forward to the topic because it was always something applicable to our lives, but the most important things have been giving him praise and positive reinforcement as well as keeping eye contact and close proximity when asking him to complete a task and then only asking twice,” she says. 

Balthazar says they have learned how to better manage homework with frequent breaks and limiting the amount of time her son is working. “It is now rare that we end homework time with tears — from one or both of us!” she says.

“All the evidence shows that parent education makes a big difference for kids with ADHD to improve their academics, behavior and self-esteem,” says Spector. 

The team has found that the program is a win for everyone. The pediatric residents have more tools to help parents, the children learn ways to regulate their emotions, and the parents realize they are not alone and learn how to best help their children. 

The pilot project has already helped so many families that we are planning to expand it over the next several months.

NOTE: For more information on our community education programs, email us at FLCommunityHealth@Nemours.org.