When Distractions Can Kill: Safety Tips for ADHD Families

Terry Matlen, ACSW Health Guide
  • In my previous post, I discussed the dangers of living with ADHD. Being hyperactive, impulsive and distracted can be a deadly combination. Or at the very least, they certainly are risk factors for incurring or causing significant injuries. How can one avoid getting hurt when ADHD symptoms are part of one's every day life?


    Making sure that your ADHD is adequately treated is an essential first step. We know that a combination of medications and behavioral strategies are needed to help tame ADHD symptoms. But even with those in place, there is still plenty of room for mistakes that can cause terrible accidents and mishaps.

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    Talking Mantras


    Often times, our minds are full of colliding distracting thoughts and ideas: conversations we've had the night before; daydreams, ruminations, inventions...you name it. When we're distracted, we are at risk of getting into car accidents, tripping, falling, making medication errors and much more.


    I've written before about "mantras" and how they have helped me tremendously. For example, I often talk my way through daily activities, especially when I don't want to forget where I've put things or where I've parked. Typically, I'll say something like, "I'm putting my keys on the counter. The keys are on the counter." But this talking strategy can also help to keep you and your children safe. For example, if you're taking a pan out of a hot oven, you can talk through the process: "I am holding a very hot pan. The pan is hot. I will carefully put it on the cooling rack and will not touch it."


    These mantra exercises can be taught to even young children through modeling. Have your child watch and imitate you as you do something that is potentially dangerous, like the example above. Walk him through other activities, such as crossing the street. Hold his hand and say aloud, "I am crossing the street. I first look right, then look left, then look right again before I cross. Before I cross."


    Tips for Keeping Your Family Safe


    When you and your family are out visiting a large mall, an amusement park, are hiking or are otherwise out where it is easy to get lost, consider investing in walkie talkies. When we're at the beach, I make sure my daughter is armed with one so that I always know where she is. It's best to get a model that is waterproof with a clip so it can be secured to their clothes. There's less of a chance of their losing it if it's attached to them. These are great for outdoor activities, as hyperactive kids in particular, need physical outlets and their safety needs are typically more than the average child. Of course, don't rely solely on these; be prudent when supervising them.


    If your child is old enough to be out with friends, then it's time to invest in a cell phone so he can stay in contact with you.


    Many teens with ADHD are simply not ready to be driving. Have your teen assessed by a driving school to see if he's ready to be behind a wheel. You don't have to be your child's best friend; you want him to be safe.


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    Have curfews that are reasonable for her age and maturity level. If her friends are allowed to stay out later, use this as a goal she can work towards, as she proves herself to be trustworthy and capable of making good decisions.


    Make sure your kitchen has a fire extinguisher; and don't forget to get more for the other parts of the house.


    For the child or young teen who loves to cook, close supervision is essential. Some families don't allow access to the stove or oven unless a parent is in the house. Make sure you have emergency numbers available for when you are not home. Practice various scenarios so your child knows what to do if a fire starts or if he's faced with other dangers.


    Be overly watchful with activities that can be potentially dangerous such as at playgrounds, beaches, parks and pools.


    Adults with ADHD are equally at risk for incurring injuries. Common sense tells us never to drive when tired, not to drink too much, and to get plenty of rest. But when ADHD is part of the picture, it's imperative to take even further precautions. Being well rested and clear headed will allow you to be more aware of your surroundings and be more cognizant of dangerous situations. Know your limits of how many drinks you can have well before they impair your judgment. Be cautious when meeting new potential dates. Impulsivity can be deadly; make sure you know something about the person's background before going out with them. Consider a double date for the first outing, or meet in a place where there are other people around.


    Use extreme caution when working with power tools and other dangerous equipment. Though many with ADHD absolutely hate reading instruction manuals, force yourself to do just that when handling tools that are unfamiliar to you.


    ADHD can be dangerous, but forcing yourself to recognize this and taking appropriate precautions is the best preventative. Keep you and your family safe!

Published On: January 25, 2008