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How can I use my ADHD child's interests to motivate him?

Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) think organically and imaginally. They may struggle with abstract reasoning that is removed from everyday life and their interests, but they are often ardently curious and have passions in specific areas of specialization. The good news is that they can be highly motivated if you engage these areas of intense interest.

As a rule, you will want to work with your child's passionate interests. Children with ADHD often channel much of their energy and enthusiasm toward what seems like a waste of time to adults. They may get very excited about sports figures, sports teams, animals, dinosaurs, or subject areas that don't seem likely to lead to academic success. But these areas of intense interest are actually tremendous resources for you as you go about supporting and teaching your child. For example, if your child loves figure skating and identifies Sarah Hughes as a hero, then you can use that energy and channel it toward concrete behavioral change. At times when your child gets discouraged about school and says things like "I'm not good enough because I have ADHD," you can ask her to think through what Sarah Hughes's life would be like if she had said "Why try?"

One example of this strategy can be seen in the experience of a seven-year-old boy who was obsessed with knights. He talked about knights in shining armor, he drew pictures of knights, and he loved to read stories and see movies that involved knights. In this case, both the teachers and the parents were worried about this preoccupation and wondered if, in itself, it might represent a separate problem -- some form of childhood obsessive-compulsive disorder, perhaps. However, all children, particularly children with ADHD, are quite imaginative and intense in their interests. Rather than communicating their anxiety about his preoccupation to the child, his parents channeled his energy around the subject of knights into an exercise to help increase motivation.

The parents invited their son to play a game exploring the outcomes of two different knights, Sir Try-a-Lot and Sir Why-Try. (For older children, you might want to choose sports heroes rather than fictional characters. For example, you might use Lance Armstrong, the cyclist who has repeatedly won the Tour de France after recovering from cancer.)
The Gift of ADHD: How to Transform Your Child's Problems into Strengths

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The Gift of ADHD: How to Transform Your Child's Problems into Strengths

As a parent, you already know that your child has many gifts. What you may not know is that attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) related symptoms—the very qualities that lead him or her...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.