How Self-Regulation Can Help Your ADHD Child Manage School Behavior


ADHD can cause major hindrances for learning and success in the classroom. The effects of this disorder can make it very difficult for a child to perform. However, behavioral treatment methods are ever-improving and interventions such as those involving self-regulation are gaining popularity with success in new, groundbreaking research. There is more and more evidence showing the efficacy of this method in the treatment of ADHD.

Self-Regulation and School Behavior

What is self-regulation in regards to children who are suffering with the symptoms of ADHD? This method of treatment helps adolescents to better be able to direct internal cognitive processes that guide mental ability and skills in relation to specified tasks. Simply put, this method of treatment helps children to shape their thoughts and turn them into a tool for learning, rather than a hindrance. This involves guiding a child in the direction of recognizing thought processes and finding the motivation to engage in learning processes. This method has shown success in the outcomes of generally passive students.

Self-regulating ADHD is a challenge that takes time and patience to accomplish.

Many ADHD-afflicted children want to overcome their learning disability and function as other healthy children do. That is why self-regulation has become a popular method and practice for ADHD treatment in children. This motivation to perform better is in itself a good way to self-regulate ADHD. One of the reasons this method works is because the child knows best what aggravates his or her condition, and what lessens it. By taking a conscious, focused approach towards self-managing their ADHD, the child can learn different methods such as focus control, breathing exercises, and learning routines to turn this disability into an advantage.

Performance is the most important outcome of this kind of intervention for children struggling with ADHD. Passive students have the tendency to shut down when they are not able to achieve the goal of a given task. With training in self-regulation, these students are better able to recognize the problems they are having with learning and actively play a role in finding the solution to the problem. This leads to improved performance, which is the main goal of this treatment. Performance is the motivator for the child, the teacher, and the parents. With self-regulation interventions, motivation to perform is often one of the strongest indicators for success. For this reason, the child must have motivation to perform the tasks that they are given in the classroom. Finding a good treatment method is a good place to start for those with ADHD.

Critical Factors in Self-Regulation

There are two critical factors in self-regulation as a treatment for ADHD in relation to classroom behavior. Any intervention involving self-regulation should consider these aspects above all else in regards to the intervention:

1. The subject of the intervention should find value in the self-regulation of behavior. There must be purpose for the child, which will lead to more motivation to self-regulate. While the specific behaviors that are being addressed may not be of value to the child, the outcome of desired behavior should prove to have value for them. This will help to increase motivation to perform.

2. The desired behaviors must be able to be easily observed and defined. In order for the child to self-regulate, they must be able to understand what is desired of them (easily defined). It should also be easily recognized by both the child as well as the interventionist and others who are involved (easily observed). It is critical that self-monitoring is encouraged so that the child will eventually learn to self-regulate without the need for external motivators. Desired performance on a given task should become the sole motivator for the child.

Learning better with ADHD is about managing symptoms properly.

Research in Self-Regulation for ADHD

While there is little research with empirical evidence regarding the efficacy of self-regulation interventions in the classroom, there have been some promising studies done with this method of treatment. A 2013 study from the Department of Psychology at Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany examined the benefits of this method of intervention for students in the classroom. The teachers of the ADHD participants were tasked with assessing and rating the students both before and after the self-regulation interventions. This study did show effectiveness with self-regulation methods in these children and even resulted in lasting effects dependent upon the specific methods utilized.

ADHD Treatment

ADHD must be diagnosed by a licensed doctor or mental health practitioner, and these behaviors must impact and/or impair normal daily functioning for the adolescent to receive a diagnosis. The symptoms must also present themselves prior to the age of 12 for an official diagnosis. You can find more information on the specific symptoms, risks, and treatments associated with ADHD through the National Institute of Mental Health.

The most common method of treatment with ADHD is medication. Stimulants are the preferred method for most doctors and mental health professionals. These prescription drugs work to help a child to be better able to focus through the stimulation of dopamine and norepinephrine. These two neurotransmitters play a critical role in behavioral and cognitive processes like attention and thinking. Less frequently, doctors may prescribe non-stimulants such as antidepressants for adolescents with ADHD.

Medication is a common self-regulation treatment for ADHD kids.

In this day and age though, many people are concerned with the levels of perceived 'over-medicating' in the country and world. Many people are looking to other methods of treatment for themselves and their children in an effort to live healthier lifestyles. At the same time, there are cases when medication alone is not sufficient to treat all signs and symptoms of ADHD (as well as other disorders). Enter less traditional methods in behavioral therapy like self-regulation.

Goal Setting

Goal setting will help the ADHD child with the most important factors of self-regulation, such as motivation to perform, purpose, and self-monitoring. Just as with the desired behaviors, goals should be well defined and easy to understand. There should be clearly laid out rewards for achieving the set goals. Goals should also not become too difficult for a child. The completion of specified goals will be a huge motivator, and loss of motivation can be detrimental to self-regulation techniques. Goals should also be proximal. That is, they should be able to be accomplished in the near future rather than the long term. The ability to achieve these goals more quickly helps to increase motivation to perform, directly affecting actual performance. Goal setting in self-regulation helps ensure success!

By Kyle Aken
January 2020
k-12 adhd & school

Never miss an update