Practical Strategies to Improve Your ADHD Child's Listening Skills

May 15, 2023 - Reading time: 5 minutes
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Dr. Adeel Sarwar shares his insights on the challenges faced by parents in getting their children to listen, regardless of their diagnosis. As a father and a psychologist, he acknowledges the amplified difficulty of this task when the child has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), often leading to tensions at home.

Understanding the Listening Challenges in Children with ADHD

They may impulsively answer questions, interrupt conversations, or speak excessively. Generally, children with attention difficulties have one or both of these listening challenges:

  • They struggle to filter out irrelevant information, leading to an overload of information.
  • They have difficulty managing their attention and hence, miss out on substantial information.

Improving Listening Skills: Practice is Key

Daily, short listening exercises can be highly beneficial. Consistency in practice time is critical for this to be effective.

Implementing Listening Practice

Listening practice involves providing positive feedback to children when they follow instructions correctly.

Steps to Implement Listening Practice

  • Grab your child's attention by addressing them directly, maintaining eye contact, or positioning yourself directly in front of them.
  • Notify them that you are about to start the listening practice.
  • Maximize their focus by minimizing distractions such as turning off the TV.
  • Provide simple, clear instructions, one at a time.
  • Offer praise when they successfully follow the instruction.
  • Make the process positive and enjoyable.

Gradually add complexity to the instructions as the child improves their listening skills.

Creative Strategies for Improving Listening Skills

Sound Bingo: A fun way to enhance listening skills is to play sound bingo. Create a bingo card with sounds that you would make while preparing dinner. Have your child sit in the kitchen with their back towards you, crossing off sounds on the card as they hear them.

Listening Shell: To discourage interruption, introduce a "listening shell" at family gatherings. The person holding the shell has the floor, signaling everyone else to listen.

Champion Distractor: A competitive game where one person tries to complete a task while another tries to distract them. This game teaches the child to focus amidst distractions. Another fun game is "Simon says," which reinforces careful listening to instructions.

Addressing Common Concerns about ADHD

Often, parents ask how to manage a child who constantly interrupts or blurts out things. Changing your reaction to these behaviors can help. For instance, do not respond when she interrupts, but continue with the conversation. Also, look for opportunities to praise her when she manages to be patient in a conversation.

If your child seems unengaged during listening practice or continues to interrupt, it might be time to make the tasks more challenging or introduce breaks during the practice to keep them engaged.

Developing listening skills in a child with ADHD may seem like a daunting task, but with patience, consistency, and creative strategies, it's entirely achievable. Remember, the key is to make the learning process enjoyable and rewarding for your child. With time and practice, you'll not only see an improvement in your child's listening skills but also a significant enhancement in their overall communication skills and self-confidence. Always remember, every child is unique and progresses at their own pace, so celebrate small victories and continue to support your child on this journey.

adeelDr. Adeel Sarwar, PhD, is a mental health professional specialising in a broad spectrum of psychological conditions such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, eating disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Armed with years of experience and extensive training in evidence-based therapeutic practices, Dr. Sarwar is deeply committed to delivering empathetic and highly effective treatment.