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Emotional Maturity and Children with ADD
The educational program that I completed for my Masters in Education had several classes that dealt exclusively with Attention Deficit Disorder. One of those courses was taught by a Director of Special Education with many years of experience. Her area of specialty was ADD/ADHD. I'll never forget one thing that she taught us, because it made so much sense. She told us that people with Attention Deficit Disorder function at a level that is about thirty percent younger than their chronological age. That squared with my observations, both at home and when I was working with kids in various settings.
Dr. Russell Barkley, a researcher and author who specializes in Attention Deficit Disorder, believes that children with ADD have an emotional age that is 30 percent below their actual age. In 2013, Dr. Yogesh A Jogsan of Saurashtra University, in Gujarat, India, presented research about emotional maturity in people with Attention Deficit Disorder. Jogsan collected data by using the Emotional Maturity Xcale (EMS) by Singh and Bhargava. The Adjustment Inventory for School Students (AISS) by Sinha and Singh was also used. Here are the findings:
"Emotional maturity in individuals continues to develop until around the age of 35. This process can be slower in people with ADHD, and they may not reach the level of emotional maturity of a 21 year old until they are in their late 20s or early 30s. For children with ADHD, their emotional maturity level may be well below that of their non- ADD counterparts."
What are the implications for children with Attention Deficit Disorder across their adventurous years? First, know that it isn't a great idea to tell a kid with Attention Deficit Disorder to "act your age." They don't have the same social-emotional age as their peers who share the same birth year. A twelve-year-old will act about age eight to nine. That's where they are! This means that parents and adults in the children's lives will need to structure their experiences, so that they can do age-appropriate activities and stay safe.
Sometimes you can pair them up with an older sibling or a youthful relative to venture forth. A responsible neighbor who is just a bit older can also be a good resource. Just make sure that the older youth is caring and has a good character. Observation and asking questions can help you know what you can expect from that older buddy.
Some activities where a child is outside of direct supervision can be problematic, if they don't have a guide. These include going to the neighborhood pool, the movies, or to an amusement park. Random rambles for hours around your neighborhood or town are opportunities for growth, but they can also lead to trouble when a youth is unsupervised. Since emotional maturity is delayed, which means that the executive function of the child's mind doesn't function at the same level as their peers, their decision making is impacted. Each family is different, so giving blanket instructions about scaffolding these experiences isn't practical. You need to do the analysis and determine how to sequence your child's activities so that these pursuits lead to emotional and social growth.
It is necessary to make sure that kids with Attention Deficit Disorder have a variety of experiences that build competence and maturity. Parents who make the scouting experience a part of their kids' lives will probably need to be a part of that activity, especially if there is camping involved. When kids take out-of-town field trips, such as mission trips or choir tours, parents need to know that the chaperones understand their kids' needs. These types of events have the prospect for major growth for a child with Attention Deficit Disorder. They need these chances to develop, but they also need a good plan in place to make sure that they are physically and emotionally safe.
Understanding that your child with Attention Deficit Disorder is younger than his years is a first step toward helping him learn to navigate through life. Making sure that he has a proper level of guidance and times when he can function independently is a great next step. Your mindful planning can make all of the difference for a child who needs to learn to function safely and successfully in the world around him.
I highly recommend this book for parents who want ideas and strategies that help their children develop. Here's an Amazon link.
Superparenting for ADD: An Innovative Approach to Raising Your Distracted Child
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Content copyright © 2014 by Connie Mistler Davidson. All rights reserved.
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