A. Unfortunately, some people, including parents, teachers, and doctors, can be quick to jump on a diagnosis of ADHD for children like this. It is important to remember that part of the criteria for making a diagnosis of ADHD is that the symptoms have to cause some kind of impairment. If his grades are good and he is not disrupting the class, then it doesn't sound like it is causing a problem.
So if his fidgeting isn't a sign of ADHD, then maybe it is just a 'bad' habit, like nose picking, hair pulling, and nail biting.
Still, since he is getting in trouble for fidgeting, something needs to be done, especially since it is agitating him.
One option is to try and convince the teachers to try and be a little more forgiving and ignore the behavior. You can explain that this is a habit of his and that you are working on helping him stop. Since getting in trouble is starting to bother him, you can explain that they may turn a normal behavior into a real problem for him by hurting his self esteem and causing anxiety over this. And that making him anxious and drawing so much attention to the fidgeting will likely just make him do it more.
To help him stop, you might give him something else to do with his hands that isn't so noticeable. Maybe holding and squeezing something like a stress ball would help.
As with other 'bad' habits, like thumb sucking, nail biting, and hair twirling, it may also help to:
- ignore the behavior as much as possible, especially if it isn't disruptive
- offer lots of praise and attention when he isn't doing it
- give simple reminders to help your child know when he is doing it. For example, his teacher might give him a special hand signal or tap on his desk when he is fidgeting a lot.
- offer a substitute for the behavior. In addition to the squeeze ball, he could also simply make a fist, keep both hands on his desk, or use both hands to hold his books.
- provide an incentive or reward for stopping. A sticker or star chart can also be helpful in stop many bad habits.
It may also help to have a formal evaluation with your Pediatrician or a child psychologist to make sure that he doesn't have ADHD or something else, like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Having an evaluation, even if it is negative and shows that he doesn't have any specific medical problems, may help you convince his teachers to work with you a little more on this.
If possible, you could also try to set up a meeting at school to talk with more school personnel. Maybe getting the school counselor involved would be helpful.