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Benefits of an Individual Behaviour Plan for Children with ADHD

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Benefits of an Individual Behaviour Plan for Children with ADHD

24/08/2022
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When your child is diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), you will likely experience mixed emotions. It can be overwhelming and even scary if you’re unfamiliar with the disorder. You might question what the next steps are, and you might even find yourself wondering what your child’s future will be like given there is, as yet, no cure for ADHD.

Despite the challenges that come with a childhood ADHD diagnosis, there are lots of ADHD resources and support networks that you can take advantage of for the sake of your child and their development. An individual behaviour plan is one of the most effective ways of managing childhood ADHD. In this blog, we’re going to talk about behaviour plans in more detail and the key benefits of implementing one.

Understanding What ADHD Is

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Before a behaviour plan can be implemented, it’s important to first understand what ADHD is. When your child receives an ADHD diagnosis, it can be difficult for everyone involved and you might feel isolated – however, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. According to research, around 3-5% of children in the UK have ADHD, making it one of the most prevalent childhood conditions. It is typically diagnosed when a child starts school, and it’s more common in boys than girls.

While ADHD can be a lifelong condition, with two thirds of people going on to have some symptoms in adulthood, there are many cases in which people can learn to manage their symptoms so that they have little to no affect on their daily lives. ADHD can manifest itself in a number of ways, with inattention as well as difficult behaviour being the most recognised symptoms, particularly in children. However, what may be seen as poor behaviour isn’t always intentional, and oftentimes, behaviours can be managed when addressed properly with help from a specialist.

Despite its relative prevalence, no two children with ADHD are the same. There are some common signs of ADHD which may be shared, but managing ADHD effectively relies on understanding your child’s unique needs and ensuring those needs are met. Medical professionals will provide expert advice and guidance, but it’s important you follow through with treatments they suggest, even if they can seem daunting or difficult. When you speak to an expert, they may suggest implementing a behaviour plan.

What is a Behaviour Support Plan?

In essence, a behaviour plan is a type of treatment plan that aims to educate parents on what they should expect from their child developmentally, and how to encourage positive behaviours whilst working to manage negative behaviours. Children with ADHD can sometimes get frustrated when they feel like they’re not meeting the expectations set out by their parents, teachers or peers. This can cause self-esteem issues and exacerbate negative behaviours, especially if little praise is given or attention is focused on their strengths.

A behaviour management plan works in tandem with both parents and children to ensure there is structure to the child’s day and that they are taught how to navigate some of their difficult behaviours and are rewarded for their positive behaviours in equal measure. This entails recognising areas where your child is struggling the most and curating a behaviour plan around their direct needs. Behaviour management plans can be divided into two sections: at home and at school. Both environments are different and may present varying challenges for your child, hence the need for different plans to be implemented.

How is a behaviour plan implemented?

In many instances, an individual behaviour management plan is the first port of call, ahead of medication. Although, if medication is prescribed for treatment, a behaviour plan may still be used.

In terms of creating a behaviour plan at home, you’ll need to assess which areas your child is having the most difficulty with, and any behaviours you want to address. Common issues include:

  • Disregarding daily chores or struggling to complete them independently, such as bedtime issues or failing to keep their space tidy
  • Problems with homework, such as failing to complete it or exhibiting a careless attitude to quality
  • Being defiant or argumentative towards household members, including siblings

For example, you might want your child to get into the habit of tidying up after themselves and putting their plate in the sink after they’ve finished eating. This is a small task, but one that can give way to bigger tasks, like washing up or clearing the whole table. It’s best to start small to get your child used to the new system and adjust to what’s expected of them.

For example, every time your child puts their plate in the sink when they’re done eating, they get a point. To help them, it’s a good idea to make a visual points chart that they can see and keep track of. As points build up, they are working towards a reward, like a day out. You might choose to give more points for more challenging things or for them adopting positive behaviours you value more highly, like helping someone in need or getting good feedback at school.

Where negative behaviours are exhibited or a behaviour isn’t adopted, you can implement consequences. This might include revoking points if your child has a negative outburst or fails consecutively to meet their daily expectations. What’s important here is that you recognise that there will be bad days where things don’t get done, and to remain supportive on those bad days, but if the bad days persist and you notice behaviours slipping, then consequences may be implemented.

Curating an Individual Behaviour Plan

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As mentioned above, it’s best to start small with behaviour management plans. Children with ADHD may feel overwhelmed at times and it can take them slightly longer to adjust to change. You should also keep in mind that when you’re setting out positive behaviour to be rewarded, choose things you know they can do. If you set the bar too high, your child may fail to reach your expectations and routinely face the consequences for doing so. This is where some families fall down and give up on their plans because their child is unable to reach the goals they’ve been set, leaving them feeling like they’re not good enough, resulting in more negative behaviours in retaliation.

It’s a good idea to sit down with your child and discuss what should be on their plan with them. This will make them feel involved and included, and it can help them understand more of what is expected and why. You should also discuss with them why points might be revoked so that they understand why you’re setting out the expectations that you are.

Keeping the rules clear and consistent is key, even when you aren’t at home. For example, if your child notices that one family member isn’t as strict with them as another, or that the rules don’t necessarily apply at a relative’s house, it can cause confusion and undo what you’re working towards at home.

Behaviour Management Plans at School

There are several obstacles ADHD can pose for children at school. Lack of focus and attention can make it difficult for a child with ADHD to flourish in a typical classroom environment without any additional help or support that is tailored to their needs. When unmanaged, ADHD can make it difficult for a child to engage and succeed on an academic level, and it can also cause social problems. Some ADHD symptoms can be disruptive to the wider class, and without other children understanding what ADHD is, it could lead to social isolation.

There are a number of ADHD management strategies that have proven to be effective for managing ADHD at school, with an independent behavioural management plan being one. It works in a similar way to an at-home behaviour plan in the sense that good behaviour is rewarded and negative behaviour is met with consequences. When developing a school behaviour management plan, teachers should work with parents, counsellors and other relevant staff to establish the most difficult behaviours that need addressing and the method for doing so.

Like the at-home plan, points may be given that eventually accumulate and transpire into a reward. Research has shown that by adopting this teacher-led approach, children with ADHD are more influenced into showing positive behaviours and engaging on a more academic level. You may need to ask your child’s teacher to work with you to implement a plan, and discuss whether this approach is the best for your child based on what you’re doing at home.

Choosing Appropriate Behaviours to Reward

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As mentioned, ADHD is personal to every child and therefore, their struggles will vary. Complex behavioural issues will require specialist support to help with management, but small behaviours, that can contribute to ensuring your child settles in socially and retains a good level of independence, can be addressed through a behaviour plan. If you’re struggling to think of behaviours to reward, here are some examples:

  • Getting up on time when an alarm is ringing
  • Sticking to an allotted screen time allowance
  • Tidying up after themselves
  • Using simple manners such as please and thank you
  • Completing all the steps in their morning/bed time routine
  • Offering to help other people
  • Being welcoming to guests
  • Sitting nicely for a photo
  • Participating in family games and activities

These might seem like small behaviours and standard expectations for children without ADHD, but ADHD symptoms can make it difficult for a child to do these things. Using manners and sticking to a morning and nightime routine are equally important in childhood and adulthood. As such, the idea of a behaviour plan is to teach your child more about independence and give them the tools they need to succeed in adult life with minimal difficulty.

Managing Undesirable Behaviours

When it comes to the behaviours that might cause a point to be lost, parents should try to think carefully about what could be considered normal childhood behaviour, and what could be ADHD behaviour. As mentioned, it is key to remain understanding that your child will have bad days, and that they’re not exhibiting challenging behaviour on purpose. That being said, you should incentivise good behaviour by addressing concerning behaviour directly. Some negative behaviours that when displayed routinely could cause points to be lost may include:

  • Failing to use manners or be polite to others
  • Having an outburst if something doesn’t go their way
  • Not adhering to their routine

Adapting a Behaviour Management Plan

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As your child gets older, their behaviours and needs will change. With this in mind, it’s important to update their plan in line with their development and growth. For example, in younger children, the initial focus may be on building a routine, but in older children, you might start to introduce self-monitoring activities that can be rewarded. You should also speak to your child and identify how they feel and how they think they’re doing. You might need to change their plan based on this and their changing strengths.

If you are consistent with a behaviour plan, your child should have the skills and qualities needed to navigate the world and their place in it by the time they finish secondary school – though this does depend on the child. At this point, some children can manage their inattention effectively, but others may need additional support as they get older. It’s important that you’re just as involved and supportive when your child becomes a teenager and moves into adulthood so that they stay on track.

Professional ADHD Support

If you think your child might have ADHD and needs a diagnosis, or if your child has been diagnosed with ADHD and you need support moving forward with behaviour management, The ADHD Centre can help. We are experts in assisting children and their families with ADHD, and we can offer guidance and advice on individual behaviour plans, as well as professional medical support where needed.

To find out more about how we might be able to help you and your child, please contact us at The ADHD Centre on 0800 061 4276 or via enquiries@adhdcentre.co.uk.

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