What is attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD?
ADHD is a common neurobiological condition beginning in childhood and can continue through adolescence and adulthood. It makes it hard for a child to focus and pay attention. Some children may be hyperactive or have trouble being patient. For children with ADHD, levels of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsive behaviors are greater than for other children in their age group. ADHD can make it hard for a child to do well in school or behave at home or in the community.
ADHD can be treated. Doctors and specialists can help.
Who can develop ADHD?
Children of all backgrounds can have ADHD. Teens and adults can have ADHD too.
What causes ADHD?
No one knows for sure. ADHD probably stems from interactions between genes and environmental or non-genetic factors.
ADHD often runs in families. Researchers have found the likelihood of having ADHD has to do with genes. Many genes are linked to ADHD, and each gene plays a small role in the condition. ADHD is very complex and a genetic test for diagnosing the disorder is not yet available.
Among the non-genetic factors that may increase a child’s risk for developing ADHD are:
- Smoking or drinking during pregnancy
- Birth complications or very low birth weight
- Exposure to lead or other toxic substances
- Extreme neglect, abuse, or social deprivation.
- Food additives like artificial coloring, which might make hyperactivity worse.
Some studies suggest that artificial food additives and dyes may worsen hyperactivity and inattention, but these effects are small and do not account for most cases of ADHD.
What are the symptoms of ADHD?
ADHD has many symptoms. Some symptoms at first may look like typical behaviors for a child, but ADHD makes them much worse and occur more often. Children with ADHD have at least six symptoms that start in the first 12 years of their lives.
Children with ADHD may:
- Get distracted easily and forget things often
- Switch too quickly from one activity to the next
- Have trouble with directions
- Daydream too much
- Have trouble finishing tasks like homework or chores
- Lose toys, books, and school supplies often
- Fidget and squirm a lot
- Talk nonstop and interrupt people
- Run around a lot
- Touch and play with everything they see
- Be very impatient
- Blurt out inappropriate comments
- Have trouble controlling their emotions.
A few things to look out for;
- The behaviour in question occurs more frequently in the child, than in other children at the same developmental stage.
- At least some of the symptoms were evident prior to age 7.
- Symptoms have been present for at least six months prior to the evaluation.
- The symptoms are present in multiple settings.
Supporting your child helps everyone in your family. Also, talk to your child's teachers.
Some children with ADHD can get special education services.
Dyslexia is a language-based LD which results in individuals experiencing difficulties acquiring and using language. For example, common problems include learning the sounds of letters, accurate and fluid word recognition, spelling, comprehending what is read, copying letters and numbers, retrieving words, organizing thoughts into spoken or written form, and associated memory difficulties.
How do I know if my child has ADHD?
Your child’s doctor may make a diagnosis. Or sometimes the doctor may refer you to a paediatrician or psychiatrist who is more experienced with ADHD to make a diagnosis.
There is no single test that can tell if your child has ADHD. To make a diagnosis, several rating scales can be used to evaluate ADHD symptoms. The doctor/specialist will also collect information from you, your family, and your child’s teachers.
Sometimes it can be hard to diagnose a child with ADHD because symptoms may look like other conditions. For example, a child may seem quiet and well-behaved, but in fact they are having a hard time paying attention and is often distracted. Or, a child may act badly in school, but teachers don't realize the child has ADHD.
If your child is having trouble at school or at home and has been for a long time, ask their doctor about ADHD.
It is important to focus on your childs strengths - first. Highlight what they are good at and start from there.
Parents play a key role in assisting children to manage ADHD symptoms along with a range of treatments. Developing parenting skills effective with ADHD children, will be beneficial alongside a range of treatments. Making fully informed decisions about multi modal treatment options is essential.
There are three basic types of treatment:
Medication. Several medications can help, but are not necessarily recommended as the first or only treatment. The most common types are called stimulants. Medications may assist children to focus, learn, and stay calm. Sometimes medications cause side effects, such as sleep problems or stomachaches. Your child may need to try a few medications to see which one works best. It's important that you and your doctor watch your child closely while he or she is taking medicine.
Therapy. There are different kinds of therapy. Behavioral therapy can help teach children to manage their behavior and learn coping strategies, so they can do better at school and at home.
- Medication and therapy combined. Many children do well with both medication and therapy.
Sleep, nutrition and exercise contribute to the effectiveness of any treatment.