Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity disorder, also referred to as ADHD, is a common disorder that affects about 10% of the child population. Although it’s not fully known why, boys are about three times as likely as girls are to be diagnosed with this disorder. Children with this disorder tend to act without thinking, display hyperactive-impulsive behavior, and have trouble focusing at school. Even though they might understand what’s being expected of them at school they still have trouble following through with it because they either can’t sit still, pay attention, or focus on the little details.

It’s true that all children can act this way at times but there’s a distinct difference in those with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – ADHD. The main difference is that these signs and symptoms present themselves over a longer period of time and in a variety of settings. It’s a pervasive disorder that prevents a child from being able to function socially, academically, and at home with family. If you’re concerned that your child has this disorder the good news is that children are capable of successfully managing the symptoms with proper treatment.

Signs and Symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity are the key behaviors of ADHD. Some children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder only have problems with one of the behaviors, while others have both inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity. Most children have the combined symptom type of ADHD.  In preschool, the most common ADHD symptom is hyperactivity.

Let’s take a careful look at what attention deficit or inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity means and how these symptoms might affect a child’s daily life.

Attention deficit – INATTENTION means a child may wander off task, lack persistence, has difficulty sustaining focus, and is disorganized; and these problems are not due to his or her defiance or lack of comprehension.

Children with symptoms of inattention may often:

  • Overlook or miss details, make careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or during other activities
  • Have problems sustaining attention in tasks or play, including conversations, lectures, or lengthy reading
  • Not seem to listen when spoken to directly
  • Not follow through on instructions and fail to finish schoolwork, chores, or start tasks but quickly lose focus and get easily sidetracked
  • Have problems organizing tasks and activities, such as what to do in sequence, keeping materials and belongings in order, having messy work and poor time management, and failing to meet deadlines
  • Avoid or dislike tasks that require sustained mental effort, such as schoolwork or homework, or for teens and older adults, preparing reports, completing forms or reviewing lengthy papers
  • Lose things necessary for tasks or activities, such as school supplies, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, and cell phones
  • Be easily distracted by unrelated thoughts or stimuli
  • Be forgetful in daily activities, such as chores, errands, handing in homework

HYPERACTIVITY-IMPULSIVITY means a child seems to move about constantly, including in situations in which it is not appropriate; or excessively fidgets, taps, or talks. Impulsivity means a child makes hasty actions that occur in the moment without first thinking about them and that may have high potential for harm; or a desire for immediate rewards or inability to delay gratification. An impulsive child may be socially intrusive and excessively interrupt others or make important decisions without considering the long-term consequences.

Children with symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity may often:

  • Fidget and squirm in their seats
  • Leave their seats in situations when staying seated is expected, such as in the classroom or at the dinner table
  • Run or dash around or climb in situations where it is inappropriate or, in teens, often feel restless
  • Be unable to play or engage in hobbies quietly
  • Be constantly in motion or “on the go,” or act as if “driven by a motor”
  • Talk nonstop
  • Blurt out an answer before a question has been completed, finish other people’s sentences, or speak without waiting for a turn in conversation
  • Have trouble waiting his or her turn
  • Interrupt or intrude on others, for example in conversations, games, or activities

In all cases, no matter what symptoms a child may have, as a parent it’s important to remember that your child is not intentionally acting out or being difficult with you on purpose. A child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder simply has trouble controlling their behavior without medicine or proper therapy. Contrary to what some people may believe this disorder is not caused by poor parenting, excessive sugar, or vaccinations. Research into causes indicate both genetic and environmental risk factors that may contribute to the development of ADHD.

While there is no cure for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, many treatments are available that can markedly reduce your child’s symptoms and improve his or her functioning across all settings. Your child’s doctor can work with you to get the correct diagnosis for your child and to also successfully develop a treatment plan that will help you manage  symptoms and develop a long term plan for dealing with the symptoms as you raise your child. In most cases the disorder is treated with a combination of medicine, behavior and emotional support therapy, educational support and training. A good treatment plan also includes close follow ups and monitoring by your child’s doctor, who may choose to make changes along the way.

Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder often have difficulty interacting with their peers. Their symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity make it difficult to initiate and maintain the natural back and forth social interactions that require attention, engagement, reciprocity, and emotional problem solving. Social skills practice and mentoring are key elements of a comprehensive treatment approach that will give your child the opportunity to gain these fundamental social abilities that will support his future confidence, competence and success.

The symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder tend to be less prevalent as a person grows older. Their hyperactivity tends to settle down as they grow into young adults, although they still may have problems with staying organized and paying attention to details.

In addition to medicine and behavior therapy it’s also important for a parent to be an active participant in the child’s treatment. Since education is such an important part of managing the disorder, we have put together a number of comprehensive resources that can help you fully understand your child’s disorder and how to successfully manage it. Click here to view our full webcast catalog.

Tips to Help Kids with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Stay Organized

Parents and teachers can help kids with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder stay organized and follow directions with tools such as:

  • Keeping a routine and a schedule. Keep the same routine every day, from wake-up time to bedtime. Include times for homework, outdoor play, and indoor activities. Keep the schedule on the refrigerator or on a bulletin board in the kitchen. Write changes on the schedule as far in advance as possible.
  • Organizing everyday items. Have a place for everything, and keep everything in its place. This includes clothing, backpacks, and toys.
  • Using homework and notebook organizers. Use organizers for school material and supplies. Stress to your child the importance of writing down assignments and bringing home the necessary books.
  • Being clear and consistent. Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – ADHD need consistent rules they can understand and follow.
  • Giving praise or rewards when rules are followed. Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – ADHD often receive and expect criticism. Look for good behavior, and praise it.