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Respite Care for Children With ADHD

Updated April 17, 2017

Respite care for children diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) provides family and child with a short break from each other. Children with ADHD often create stress in their families. Respite helps families rest and reconnect. For children with ADHD, respite provides an alternative setting where rules are enforced and behaviour expectations are high.

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Respite care should be part of an overall therapeutic approach to help a child with ADHD to address issues of concern. To guide, motivate, and assist an ADHD child to make new positive changes in their behaviours, therapy, medication, support, self-help strategies and therapeutic respite may be part of the treatment plan. Respite care visits should coincide with the need of the family for a break. Additionally, utilise respite care as a negative consequence for the child's poor choices at home.


Sometimes respite care is scheduled ahead of time. At other times, respite is provided as an immediate consequence for particularly egregious behaviours. Which option is used depends on the child's treatment plan, and the availability of the respite provider.

Give respite providers information about the child's treatment goals; for example, follow directions without argument, and use a respectful tone of voice at all times. Additionally, respite providers should maintain the same rules that the child follows at home. If the child is not allowed to play outdoors after dinner at home, the respite provider should implement the same rule. Consistency between parents and respite provider reinforces the family rules as appropriate in any setting.

Generally, children with behavioural, emotional, or mental health challenges who have too much fun at respite, return home disinterested in following rules and adhering to personal goals. Respite care activities might include some or all of the following: chores, writing assignments, homework, thinking time, and reading. Because children diagnosed with ADHD are full of energy, institute energy-burning activities: trampoline, jogging, swimming, and hiking are examples. Playtime, TV, and computer games are generally considered "too much fun." Instead, an ADHD child at respite should practice being a focused, compliant and respectful family member

Finding Respite

Respite providers, especially trained, therapeutic respite providers, are in limited supply across the country. Families should contact therapists and social service agencies for names of local respite providers. Parents should meet with potential respite providers and consider the fit between the family's needs and the respite provider's experience. When a respite provider is not available, parents may decide to train a family member, friend, or community member. Training should reinforce the need for adherence to the same rules at respite as when the child is at home, or more stringent. Respite should encourage the child to return home with a desire to comply and be a productive part of the family.

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About the Author

Susan Ward, M.A., writes about family, parenting, and children's mental health issues for multiple publications. She has been published in various special interest publications, both in print and online, in the United States, Canada, Australia, and the U.K. since 1989. She's also authored two books and numerous booklets.

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