Should preschool children with ADHD be disciplined when it is known that they cannot control their own behavior? Clearly, they do not willfully misbehave. As delineated in the diagnostic criteria that describe ADHD, these children are impulsive, hyperactive, and inattentive. Certainly, I would implement all of the interventions that you will read about or have read about in my first book, ADHD and Social Skills: A Step-by-Step Guide for Teachers and Parents. Sometimes, however, you may feel that your child needs something more.
Do you believe in time out? If you do, here is a caveat: By giving a preschool child with ADHD time out, you may be punishing him for behavior that he cannot control. When you tell a preschool child with ADHD that he has to go to time out, you take the chance of embarrassing him and making him feel poorly about himself. These children already have poor self-esteem. Why make them feel worse about themselves? When time outs are used with these children, they may just be counterproductive. “Unfortunately, using a time-out as a punitive method with kids diagnosed with ADHD may turn out to be counterproductive” (Armstrong, 2018, np). In fact, there is every reason to believe that preschool children with ADHD will just be more active when they are in a place where they are alone. They will, in all likelihood, stimulate themselves. What is the alternative? What these preschool children with ADHD need is a place where they can try to achieve some quiet and relaxation. Permit them to have control over the time that they spend in a place that they choose.
In fact, give your child a Time Timer1 and tell him to make a decision on the length of time that he will spend there. You can call it “the quiet place,” “the relaxation place,” or whatever your child wants to call it. There is no reason to make your child feel worse about himself than he already does by making him go to a typical time out. You can instead help your child to realize that he needs some time to unwind. What can he do in his quiet time? He can look at a book, listen to a book, draw a picture, listen to music, or do something else that he enjoys, such as a puzzle.
Because you’re changing the purpose of a time-out from passive punishment to working out problems, suggest activities that your child can do in the time-out area to help him gain control and feel better. Possibilities include
• Visualizing an image that helps him cope (a special place in nature, a favorite trip, or an imaginary journey).
• Meditating (focus attention on the inflow and outflow of breath, notice distractions that pop up, and return to focus on the breath). • Doing physical relaxation exercises (the yoga pose called the Cat) or imagining that you’re in a cozy elevator. As you feel it slowly descend, you feel more relaxed.
• Thinking about, writing down, or drawing the solutions to his or her problem (Armstrong, 2018, np).
One other activity that your child can do when he is in his quiet place is for him to use a Me Reader. These are electronic readers that typically come with eight books. When you push the button, a voice reads a story to your child. One example is The World of Eric Carle. The instructions are located on the back of the book cover. These Me Readers are really quite entertaining because in addition to a pleasant voice reading your child a story, each story is accompanied by pleasant sounds. Each picture has a color-coded button that corresponds to the text box border on the page that your child is reading. When it is time to turn the page, your child will hear a pleasant chime.