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Teaching Problem Solving Skills to Children with ADHD

Even though the "Stop and Think" movement in ADHD treatment has lost some momentum lately, the basic strategies and techniques are still worth teaching your children. My favorite version of the technique it the "Five Step Problem Solving Strategy," and it goes something like this. . .

Teach your child this five step problem solving strategy:
1. Ask yourself, "What is the problem?"
2. Think up three possible solutions (options) to the problem.
3. Look at each option for a minute. Ask yourself, "Is this a good move or a bad move?"
4. Pick the best option/solution.
5. Try it out and see if it works.

I use Checkers in my practice to teach this formula. It is a great way to practice without it effecting anything in the "real world." I use this formula:

Move "A" - think of three good moves that you could make. Pick the best move.
Move "B" - choose your move. Now once you have moved, ask yourself, outloud, "Is this a good move or a bad move?" If it is a bad move, go ahead and move something else.
Move "C" - choose your move. Now once you have moved, ask yourself, "Now that I've moved here, what will the other player move next?" If you look ahead and find that you won't like the consequences for your move, go ahead and change your move. Think ahead!

I really like the kids to be able to think in terms of "Look at all of your options," "Is this a good move or a bad move?" and "If I do this, what will happen next?" Parents, you can do this with your kids at home. Just remember the point of the checkers game is for the child to learn the problem solving strategies (let him change his move even if he's taken his hand off of the game piece!). Game by game watch your child (if age 6 or older) get better and better at making decisions and good moves. Then use the "language" from the game to talk about real life situation. Good luck with this.

If you would like to learn more about how to help children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, please visit us at the ADHD Information Library at http://www.ADD101.com.

Douglas Cowan, Psy.D., is a family therapist who has been working with ADHD children and their families since 1986. He is the clinical director of the ADHD Information Library's family of seven web sites, including http://www.newideas.net, helping over 350,000 parents and teachers learn more about ADHD each year. Dr. Cowan also serves on the Medical Advisory Board of VAXA International of Tampa, FL., is President of the Board of Directors for KAXL 88.3 FM in central California, and is President of NewIdeas.net Incorporated.

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