Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Sarah Orr, D.O.
ADHD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) is a neuro genetic disorder that causes difficulties and deficits in self-control, or the ability to stop and think. Difficulties with self-control cause deficits in several areas including sustained attention and resistance to distraction, the ability to regulate activity level (hyperactivity) and the ability to stop one's immediate response to an event or situation (impulsivity).
ADHD can be identified in children based on behavioral tendencies, such as inattention in school, speaking out of turn, excessive energy, inability to focus, etc. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, ADHD affects an estimated 4-12 percent of children.
ADHD comes in different forms, and symptoms vary from child to child. At this time there is no known way to prevent ADHD, but if your child is affected by ADHD you should talk with their pediatrician to create an individualized plan to manage the symptoms.
What are the signs and symptoms?
Children with ADHD typically exhibit behavioral symptoms that impact their school and family functioning and peer relations. Common behavioral symptoms include:
- Hyperactive and Impulsive Behavior: The child often makes snap decisions, does the first thing that comes to mind, exhibits frequent interruptions, and has difficulties waiting their turn and difficulties remaining seated or still.
- Inattentiveness: The child may have difficulties resisting distractions, staying on task and paying attention. The child may also daydream, exhibit difficulties following through on tasks and assignments and make frequent careless mistakes such as losing and misplacing items.
When does the child begin to exhibit symptoms of ADHD?
Symptoms of ADHD typically become more apparent when the child enters a more structured educational setting – especially for the subtypes associated with hyperactive and impulsive behavior. Individuals who have the predominantly inattentive ADHD may appear to develop attention problems in middle or later childhood. The vast majority of those with the disorder have had some symptoms since before the age of 13 and therefore, the disorder is believed to be one of childhood onset.
ADHD Treatment Options
There are a variety of treatment options when it comes to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children. Treatments vary according to age and the severity of a child's case of ADHD.
Approaches for treating ADHD include the following:
Sometimes addressing ADHD symptoms can be as simple as changing a daily habit.
- Eating a healthy diet, exercising consistently and following a regular sleep schedule can help a child manage ADHD symptoms such as an inability to maintain focus or sit still.
- Limiting screen time for your child may also help reduce the symptoms of ADHD.
- Family mealtime may help a child with ADHD if the mealtime is a sit-down event with clearly established guidelines, such as:
- Turning off the television.
- Focusing on conversation that includes all family members (limiting adult-only conversation).
- Avoiding using the time to punish your child for behaviors that aren't related to mealtime.
Classes focused on helping parents work with children who have ADHD can be extremely beneficial to the child, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. When parents know how to ensure that family life will help teach positive behavioral skills, the child may be able to perform better in high-stress social situations like school or group sports.
These classes often encourage parents of children who have ADHD to support one another, helping them to cope with their children's symptoms.
Behavior therapy can assist a child in learning to control certain behavioral tendencies associated with ADHD. In addition, the social skills taught in behavior therapy can help a child adapt to challenging social situations.
There are several types of medication that can help alleviate a child's ADHD symptoms, especially when used in combination with other methods of addressing symptoms and behaviors.
According to the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP), many children rely on psychostimulant medications that allow them to perform better in social situations like school. Medications like Adderall and Ritalin stimulate the brain by stabilizing its chemicals. This can help reduce symptoms such as inattention and hyperactivity. These medications are a common option for many people affected by ADHD and have been studied for many years.
It is vital to have an open discussion with your child's pediatrician if you would like to consider psychostimulant medication for a child who has ADHD.
What should I do if I suspect my child has ADHD?
If you notice that your child is exhibiting symptoms that interfere with their academic development, friendships or family functions, schedule an appointment with your pediatrician. If your pediatrician suspects that your child may have symptoms of ADHD, it is helpful to obtain a referral to a psychologist so the child may receive a thorough assessment prior to initiating any treatment.