Ministry to Children With ADHD

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Experts on ADHD speak up in this roundtable discussion to help you effectively reach kids with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

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A lot of these kids feel like nobody loves them and that they’re always bad. We want to make sure that’s not happening here at church.

Many parents are trying to find which church is going to accept their child because they’ve been tossed out or rejected from three other churches.

*Name has been changed.

Experts predict that seven percent of children have Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)-or about one child in 20. The ratio of guys to girls diagnosed with ADHD is about 6-to-1. Today, ADHD is the most common reason a child is referred to a psychologist or psychiatrist.

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ADHD results from a subtle malfunction in the intricate transmission of neurochemical messages between brain cells. The most obvious symptoms of ADHD are inattention, distractibility, inability to follow instructions, and impulsiveness. Hyperactivity is prominent in only 30 percent of children with ADHD.

In almost every children’s ministry, there is at least one child with ADHD. Children’s ministers often ask what they can do to more effectively reach these kids. So we asked three experts to help us understand ADHD.

Paul White is a counseling psychologist and has worked with ADHD and learning disabled kids for about 15 years. He does evaluations for private schools, has a son with ADHD, and lives in Wichita, Kansas.

Judy Basye has a master’s degree in educational administration with a special emphasis in special education. She’s been trained by Norfolk Institute of Learning Disabilities, taught school for nine years, worked in a learning assistance program, and is a children’s pastor in San Mateo, California.

Donna Smith* is the mother of a child with ADHD.

CM: How do you know when kids have ADHD and not just a discipline problem?

PAUL: It’s a tough call because it’s a professional judgment. The characteristics related to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder-activity level, attention span, impulsiveness, distractibility-vary on an individual basis. You have to compare the child’s characteristics on those issues to the same age and same sex of his or her peer group. The issue: Are the behaviors average? sort of a problem? a major challenge? so severe that they interrupt or disrupt the child’s life and ability to function adequately at home, school, or church? The characteristics should be pretty consistent across settings.

Some people overinterpret and say kids have to be this way all the time. But there are clearly some settings where a child has a longer attention span. Generally in a structured setting such as a classroom, you’re going to see the ADHD characteristics across different settings versus the occasional activity. So that would be one differential of someone who has ADHD versus someone who has a more general kind of behavioral problem.

JUDY: Here at church, I’d agree to all those. But I also ask parents how their child responds to some kind of activity at home, school, and church just to balance out what we’re looking at. So I’d agree with Paul 100 percent.

DONNA: I agree with Paul too. I notice my son has a much longer attention span while he’s playing Nintendo, watching television, or playing with Lego blocks than sitting at the dinner table or something else.

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Children's Ministry Magazine

Children's Ministry Magazine is the most read magazine for people who minister to children from birth through sixth grade. We're partnering with you to make Jesus irresistible to kids.

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