If your child does not seem to have grown out of the “I want it NOW” phase, and seemingly does not have the self-control they should, they may have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This may lead them to act very compulsively, get into trouble at school and at home, or even with their peers. In order to help your child with ADHD, it is necessary to understand what the disorder is all about.
What Is ADHD?
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), also known as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is a disorder that generally appears in early childhood, mostly in boys. ADHD makes it very difficult for the child to inhibit their spontaneous responses, which includes sitting still, speech and paying attention. This may lead them to interrupt a conversation, blurt out inappropriate comments, not follow instructions and generally be disruptive. Conversely, they could also become very quiet and just sit and stare into space dreamily.
There are three types of ADHD in children:
1. Inattentive Type – This was formerly referred to as ADD because children with this type of disorder are not overly-active and are not disruptive, which often leads to their symptoms not being noticed. They are disorganized, make careless errors, miss homework assignments, cannot sustain attention for any period of time, and struggle to follow directions.
2. Hyperactive/Impulsive Type – Children with this type of ADHD display both impulsive and hyperactive behavior, but generally do not have much problems in paying attention. They seem to be driven to be constantly in motion, interrupt others, get pushy in line, and blurt out anything that comes into their heads.
3. Combined Type (Inattentive/Hyperactive/Impulsive) – This is the most common type of ADHD, wherein children display hyperactivity-impulsivity and inattention regularly.
Some children with ADHD sit quietly dreaming; others focus too hard on one task and find it very difficult to shift their attention to another task; some are inconstant motion, bouncing off the walls and being disruptive, whilst others are overly impulsive but only mildly inattentive.
Signs And Symptoms Of ADD/ADHD
It is sometimes difficult to distinguish between “normal” childhood behavior and attention deficit disorder. Just because your child is a bit fidgety, is sometimes hyperactive, sometimes impulsive, or occasionally does not do their homework does not mean that they have ADHD.
If, however, your child displays many of the ADHD behaviors over a period of time and both at school and at home, it may be time to seek professional advice.
Some of the symptoms to look out for are:
Symptoms Of Inattention In Children
- Making careless mistakes
- Lack of attention to details
- Inability to focus and easily distracted
- Appearance of not listening when spoken to
- Difficulty in remembering facts and following instructions
- Getting bored with a task before it is completed
- Trouble in being organized, planning ahead for anything and completing projects
- Frequency in misplacing or losing toys, books, their homework or anything else
Symptoms Of Hyperactivity In Children
- A quick temper or short fuse
- Always on the go, as if driven by a constant engine or motor
- Constant squirming or fidgeting
- Excessive talking
- Inability to relax or play quietly
- Constant movement, running or dangerous climbing
- Inability to sit still in a seat where circumstances dictate it, such as in class or church
Symptoms Of Impulsivity In Children
- Acting without thinking
- Uttering inappropriate things at the wrong time
- Constantly interrupting others
- Inability to wait his or her turn in line or games
- Constant blurting out answers in class before the question is finished or without waiting to be called on
- Constant interruption and intrusion on other people’s games or conversations
- The inability to control emotions, which could result in temper tantrums, neediness, moodiness, disrespect, or angry outbursts
- Often guessing answers instead of taking the time to solve the problem
How Is ADHD Diagnosed?
ADHD is only diagnosed by a doctor when a child displays six or more specific symptoms on a regular basis over a period of 6 months or more in more than one setting. The doctor will use a specific set of guidelines or criteria developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics to make the diagnosis, as there is no one test for ADHD.
It is very difficult to diagnose ADHD in children, as some of the behaviors displayed by preschool children often change as they get a bit older. The process of diagnosing ADHD will include garnering information from the child, parents, caregivers and teachers, and comparing the child’s behavior with that of his or her peers.
Before an accurate diagnosis of ADHD can be made, a mental health professional will need to conduct some research and tests to ensure that certain other possibilities are not the cause of your child’s behavior, such as:
- Traumatic or Major Life-Events such as a divorce, a death in the family, being bullied, or moving to another area.
- Psychological Disorders such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder.
- Medical Conditions such as neurological conditions, undetected seizures or epilepsy, thyroid problems, or sleep disorders.
- Behavioral Disorders such as oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder.
- Learning Disabilities or problems with language, reading, writing, or motor skills.
Positive Effects Of ADHD In Children
Although ADHD can be very challenging, it is not all doom and gloom, as there are also many positive traits associated with the disorder:
- Energy and Drive – Children with ADHD will work hard and play hard when motivated, and they will strive to succeed, especially at interactive or hands-on activities.
- Flexibility – Children with ADHD don’t become set on one alternative, but consider many options, which means that they are far more open to different ideas.
- Creativity – Children with ADHD can be very imaginative and wonderfully creative. They may be easily distracted, but on the other hand they often see what other miss, and so a child who is a daydreamer could well become the next inventive artist or master problem-solver. Because they have ten different thoughts at once, they can become a fountain of ideas.
- Spontaneity and Enthusiasm – The one thing that children with ADHD are not is boring. They tend to have lively personalities and interests in many different things, which means that they are a lot of fun to be with when they are not exasperating you.
ADHD Treatments And Remedies
The basis of any type of ADHD treatment is educating both the child and the family about ADHD. Treatment can consist of drug treatment, psychological intervention, and/or special education programs.
Treating ADHD With Drugs
Treating ADHD with medication has often proven to be highly effective:
- Treatment often includes a class of medical drugs called stimulants or psycho-stimulants, and includes medications such as Quillivant XR, Ritalin, Daytrana, Concerta and Adderall. These drugs assist the child to ignore distractions by focusing their thoughts.
- Non-stimulant medication such as Kapvay, Strattera, and Intuniv are also used to treat ADHD in children.
- These medications are available in short-acting or immediate-release, intermediate-acting, and long-acting formats, and it may take a while for the physician to find the right medication, dosage and schedule to suit the individual.
- Some ADHD drugs do have side-effects, but these generally occur early during treatment and are short-lived and mild.
Treating ADHD With Behavioral Treatments
Behavioral treatments for ADHD that may prove to be very beneficial are:
- Adjusting the Environment by clearly stating the expectations of the child with ADHD, creating structure, and introducing routines will promote more successful social interactions.
- Social Skills Training helps the child with ADHD to learn behaviors that will allow them to develop and keep social relationships.
- Coaching is a relatively new field in the treatment of ADHD, but as long as the child is old enough and mature enough to be motivated, coaching can help them to achieve better results in various areas of their life.
Parenting Skills Training and Support Groups are also an integral part of treating a child with ADHD, as is working with your family physician to determine the right treatment or combination of treatments for your child.
Alternative Treatments For ADHD
Many people these days prefer alternative treatments to the prescription medications and standard behavioral treatments generally used to treat ADHD, including Interactive Metronome training, dietary interventions, Kinesiology or Neural Organization technique, and neurofeedback, to mention but a few.
Dietary Interventions – Although some believe that sugar causes hyperactivity, there is no medical proof that a diet high in sugar causes ADHD. Dietary interventions include adding more fiber to a child’s diet via oatmeal, whole grains and berries and other fruit, to help manage glucose levels and keep them even. Some parents try an elimination diet in order to find anything that may increase hyperactivity, but this can be difficult and stressful on both the child and parent, and most studies have disproved theory.
Interactive Metronome Training – Interactive Metronome training involves the child listening to a computerized rhythmic beat that they must mimic by hand or foot-tapping. Proponents of this method believe that Interactive Metronome training can teach ADHD children to filter out distractions and focus for extended periods of time.
Chiropractic Medicine, Kinesiology, Neural Organization Technique – Chiropractors have used various techniques to treat ADHD for years, and many have been helped by them, although there is much skepticism amongst many ADHD doctors who do not support the use of chiropractic medicine.
There are many other treatments for ADHD, including vitamin and supplement regimes; it will depend on you, in conjunction with your child’s physician, to decide on which form of treatment is best for your child.