Most all children squirm, get irritable, don’t pay attention and easily forget things. When such behaviors become a pattern however, it may be that ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder may be the culprit. Essentially, ADHD is a condition of the brain that creates problems so that a child cannot control his or her behavior. It may well be the most common and persistent condition of childhood. Anywhere from 4% to 12% of children are affected and it is about three times more frequent in boys than in girls. It is most often recognized at the time children enter school since that is a time when staying on task, remaining relatively settled and getting along with others is of major concern to parents and teachers alike.
What are the Main Symptoms of ADHD?
- Inattention. Disorganized, forgets easily, distracts from work or play, makes careless mistakes, does not seem to listen.
- Hyperactivity: Can’t sit still, squirms and fidgets, fails to play quietly.
- Impulsivity: Trouble taking turns, may run into street without looking, acts and speaks before thinking, interrupts others.
What are early signs that suggest ADHD?
- Not happy at day care or school
- Problems with learning
- Problems with behavior that interfere with activities and play at home or at school
- Teacher at school or day care observes behavior that is unsettling
What do You Do if You Suspect ADHD?
- Ask your doctor for an assessment of your child’s development, learning and temperament.
- Ask for a conference with teacher
- Look for areas in your child’s daily life that may be aggravating problems. Excess tiredness, hunger, watching too much TV or playing too many video games are examples
What to expect from an evaluation by your doctor:
- Review of developmental milestones
- Sometimes specific tests to measure IQ and performance are recommended
- Thorough physical evaluation to determine health, coordination and language development.
- Possible referral to specialists in child development to assess behavior and learning and give directions for treatment.
What is the Best Treatment?
While there is no “cure” for ADHD, treatment, based on a long-range management plan yields excellent results. By the time a youngster has reached the teen years, many symptoms of ADHD may disappear. However, this condition can persist into adulthood and thus treatment and the plan of management should always be closely monitored.
- The best treatment is that which fits the needs of the family and makes sense to the youngster in question. Not every child will require the same kind of treatment.
- If learning is a problem, special assistance at school may be needed.
- Behavior therapy is usually helpful. Seek the help of therapists who is familiar with ADHD and can give sensible advice for management as well as one who relates positively to your child.
- Make sure that safety is an increased part of the family’s plan of action.
- Encourage and search for opportunities that are of interest to your youngster. These may include sports, room and time to explore and creative activities such as gardening, art, caring for a pet or building models.
- Limit TV. Do not allow a TV in your child’s room.
- Establish safe, sound and enforceable limits.
- Do not engage in “battles of the wills.”
- Be on the lookout for ways to reassure and compliment your child. Youngsters with ADHD often feel left out, inadequate and easily become discouraged.
What about Medication?
Most medications prescribed for the treatment of ADHD are stimulants. The most common ones are Methylphenidate and Amphetamines. Stimulants seem to work because the brain, rather than being “too active” is under stimulated. Thus, the areas of the brain responsible for organizing, sorting, attending and merging information seem to need help in getting all their tasks done on time and in order. They seem to be lacking in some of the chemical connections that make all that happen and stimulant medications help them get back on track.
Certainly, not all children with ADHD need medication. Only after a careful assessment of your child’s symptoms and a diagnosis of ADHD is confirmed, should medication be considered a part of the management plan.
ADHD is a real condition. It interferes with behavior, learning and children’s play. It can be diagnosed and it can be treated. Teachers, physicians, therapists and counselors have learned a great deal abut ADHD and have much to offer that will make understanding and treating this prevalent condition of children helpful and effective. Avoid controversial or questionable methods as they may actually delay help that your child needs. If you have concerns about the use of medications, discuss them thoroughly with your child’s doctor. The world abounds with ideas that create mis-understanding and controversy about ADHD. It is important to gain knowledge of your own and advice from those you trust. In doing so, your inattentive youngster has a much better chance of paying attention to the really important things of life!