Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a disorder in which a child’s behaviour is largely characterised by inattention hyperactivity and impulsivity. It is thought that ADHD affects approximately 5% of the general population, and that about 50% of children who are diagnosed with the disorder will continue to exhibit these behaviours as adults. ADHD is also about three times more common in males than females.
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Signs/Symptoms of ADHD
There are some common signs/symptoms of ADHD in children (see our questionnaire Does Your Child Have ADHD? in this section). Many children who are later diagnosed with ADHD are unable to make decisions, get bored with an activity after a short period, are inattentive to details, are disorganised and/or forgetful, can’t seem to sit still, fidget often, do not think about the consequences of their actions and find it very hard to wait their turns which often leads to interrupting others. Of course, these signs/symptoms do not necessarily indicate ADHD in a child, and may well just be down to immaturity in the child, a lack of sleep, an underlying learning disorder or simply the child’s personality.
Parents who are concerned that their child has ADHD should ask the child’s teachers to observe their behaviour and analyse how these behaviours affect the child’s learning and relationships. Children are diagnosed with ADHD only by qualified professionals, such as a child psychiatrist or child psychologist, who have experience with children and behavioural disorders. A diagnosis will be based on a child’s behavioural patterns that signify inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity, where these behaviours occur (they must be present in at least two different settings), and how these behaviours affect the child’s educational and social lives.
There is no known, guaranteed “cure” for ADHD, but there are a variety of ways in which the signs/symptoms can be treated. Behavioural management options allow specialists to devise programmes to replace negative behaviours with more positive behaviours. Parents often prefer this option as it allows them to work with their child and watch their growth in their behaviours. Counselling is also an option and may be carried out with the child individually or with parents. This allows everyone a chance to work through their emotions to understand their behaviours. Finally, medication may also be an option.
Stimulants are considered at least 75% effective in controlling the behaviours associated with ADHD and work by stimulating the brain to better able to identify and control behaviours relating to attention, activity and impulsivity. When a child is diagnosed with ADHD, the professional involved will likely advise the parents and child of their options and what may be best for their specific situation.
ADHD and the Family
In addition to any formal treatment undertaken for ADHD, there is much that families can do to support members with ADHD. Parents can ensure that all of their children Eat A Healthy Diet and have ample opportunities to exercise and burn off their excess energy. All members of the family can exhibit patience and acceptance with the child who has ADHD, and everyone should celebrate everyone else’s skills and talents. A general sense of humour and positive outlook will also help families dealing with ADHD get through the rough patches and come out the other side.
ADHD can be a frustrating disorder both for the child experiencing it and everyone who interacts with him/her. If a parent suspects a child of having ADHD, they should begin speaking with the child’s teachers and carers immediately. The sooner a diagnosis of ADHD can be made, the sooner treatment can be started and the happier and healthier everyone involved will be.