Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a popular childhood diagnosis. Terms like hyperactivity, impulsivity and easily distracted come to mind when describing a child diagnosed with this condition. How can a clinician work with this conditions using everyday materials? Therapeutic games, such as the Impulse Control Game are great and serve their purpose but what about playing a game of Connect Four with the child?
This game works on helping a child be patient in decision making as one must notice the opponent’s maneuvers before making another move. These pauses provide teachable moments for clinicians to ask the child to think out loud. Those thoughts can then be generalized to other situations in which impulse control is important such as during an argument.
Ever use a box of beads as a therapeutic tool? Try hiding four or five small objects, such as a pencil or bounce ball in the beads. Ask a 4-5 year old to find those objects in the beads. Watch as the child sustains his or he attention to find the hidden rewards. Positive praise and reinforcement throughout this activity helps the child feel a sense of accomplishment in completing a task.
Working to be a creative with ADHD diagnosed children can be challenging. Puzzle books are another great resource. Children do not even know that they are working to improve their focus and task completion when asked to find the 5 differences between two pictures. Instead, he or she is impressed when the 5 differences are found. This provides the opportunity for the clinician to point out the length of time the child sustained attention to the task and also to apply this situation to alternative situations, like completion of a math worksheet at school.
Other useful books can include “Where’s Waldo,” and “I Spy.” Other games that can be utilized similar to Connect Four include Battleship, Perfection and Memory. For younger children, color by numbers, mazes and connect the dots can be used.
Therapeutic tools are great, but do not count out everyday activities that children enjoy. Sometimes when it does not appear therapeutic at all, it can serve the best purpose in helping a child feel a sense of accomplishment in handling issues with hyperactivity, impulsivity, and attention problems.
Rachel Collins, LPC is a clinical therapist working with children and adolescents in New Haven, Connecticut. Her specializations include eating disorders, self-injury and trauma related work. She has a history of writing articles, giving presentations and serving in leadership positions at the local, state, regional and national level.