Janet’s son John had forever been a handful. Even as a preschooler, he could tear through the house like a tornado, yelling, roughhousing, and going up the the furniture. No toy or activity ever held his interest for over a few minutes and he would often dart off with no warning, relatively unaware of the hazards of a busy street or a crowded place.It was stressful to parent John, but Janet had not been very worried at that time. Boys will be boys, she thought. But at age 8, he wasn’t any better to handle. It was challenging to get John to settle down long enough to accomplish even the most basic tasks, from chores to homework. When his teacher’s remarks about his poor attention and disruptive conduct in class became far too frequent to disregard, Janet took John to the doctor, who suggested an evaluation for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).ADHD is a very common behavioral condition that affects about 10% of school-age children. Boys are about three times very likely than girls to be clinically determined to have it, though it’s not yet understood why.
Children with ADHD act without thinking, are hyperactive, and have trouble focusing. They might have an understanding of what’s expected of them but find it difficult following through simply because they can’t sit still, pay attention, or focus on details.
Obviously, all kids (especially younger ones) act in this way sometimes, especially when they’re anxious or excited. However the difference with ADHD is that symptoms exist over a extended period of time and happen in different settings. They hurt a child’s capability to function socially, academically, and at home.
The great news is that with proper treatment, kids with ADHD can learn to successfully live with and manage their symptoms.
Symptoms of ADHD
ADHD used to be known as attention deficit disorder, or ADD. In 1994, it was renamed ADHD and broken down into three subtypes, each with its own pattern of behaviors:
1. an inattentive type, with signs that include:
trouble paying attention to details or a tendency to make careless errors in schoolwork or other activities
difficulty staying focused on tasks or play activities
apparent listening problems
difficulty following instructions
problems with organization
avoidance or dislike of tasks that require mental effort
tendency to lose things like toys, notebooks, or homework
forgetfulness in daily activities
2. a hyperactive-impulsive type, with signs that include:
fidgeting or squirming
difficulty remaining seated
excessive running or climbing
difficulty playing quietly
always seeming to be “on the go”
blurting out answers before hearing the full question
difficulty waiting for a turn or in line
problems with interrupting or intruding
3. a combined type, a combination of the other two type, is the most common
Although it can be challenging to raise kids with ADHD, it’s important to remember they aren’t “bad,” “acting out,” or being difficult on purpose. And they have difficulty controlling their behavior without medicine or behavioral therapy.
Causes of ADHD
ADHD is not caused by poor parenting, too much sugar, or vaccines.
ADHD has biological origins that aren’t yet clearly understood. No single cause has been identified, but researchers are exploring a number of possible genetic and environmental links. Studies have shown that many kids with ADHD have a close relative who also has the disorder.
Although experts are unsure whether this is a cause of the disorder, they have found that certain areas of the brain are about 5% to 10% smaller in size and activity in kids with ADHD. Chemical changes in the brain also have been found.
Research also links smoking during pregnancy to later ADHD in a child. Other risk factors may include premature delivery, very low birth weight, and injuries to the brain at birth.
Some studies have even suggested a link between excessive early television watching and future attention problems. Parents should follow the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) guidelines, which say that children under 2 years old should not have any “screen time” (TV, DVDs, videos, computers, or video games) and that kids 2 years and older should be limited to 1 to 2 hours per day, or less, of quality television programming.
ADHD can’t be cured, but it can be successfully managed. Your child’s doctor will work with you to develop an individualized, long-term plan. The goal is to help your child learn to control his or her own behavior and to help families create an atmosphere in which this is most likely to happen.
In most cases, ADHD is best treated with a combination of medicine and behavior therapy. Any good treatment plan will include close follow-up and monitoring, and your doctor might make changes along the way. Because it’s important for parents to actively participate in their child’s treatment plan, parent education is also an important part of ADHD management.
Sometimes the symptoms of ADHD become less severe as a person grows older. Hyperactivity tends to ease as kids become young adults, although the problems with organization and attention often remain. More than half of kids who have ADHD will continue to have symptoms as young adults.