ADHD - Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a chronic condition that may affect children all the way into adulthood. ADHD is characterized by difficulties concentrating for any significant length of time and impulsive behavior. Children suffering from ADHD may experience developmental problems in their social relationships and their ability to learn at school. ADHD cases vary in their severity, but with treatment (which includes medications and behavioral therapies) many children with this condition grow up to be well functioning adults. ADHD statistics indicate that more and more children are being diagnosed with the condition, but this may be because doctors and psychologists are becoming more aware of the problem, rather than because ADHD is becoming more common. In the past, when awareness was poor, such children may simply have been classed as "bad" kids.
Because almost all kids exhibit some ADHD behaviors at some point during childhood, diagnosing ADHD may not be a straightforward process, particularly in very young children who aren't yet able to articulate their feelings or needs clearly. A team of specialists may be involved in the diagnosing process. These may include doctors, pediatricians, psychologists, psychiatrists and speech therapists.
The ADHD test is not a medical test, but rather a process of observing a child's behaviors and comparing them to the criteria for an ADHD diagnosis as outlined by the American Psychiatric Association in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. These criteria are complex, and focus on the problems of inability to pay attention and impulsive behaviors. If a child is diagnosed with ADHD, he or she may have primarily inattentive ADHD, primarily impulsive ADHD, or a combined version of both types. It's also possible for a child to have ADHD and another disorder at the same time. Of course, it may be that a child doesn't have ADHD at all, and there is another (perhaps even medical) reason for her behavior.
ADHD symptoms vary in boys and girls. Boys are more likely to exhibit hyperactivity symptoms, while girls are more likely to have trouble paying attention. The symptoms described below may indicate an ADHD problem if: they continue for more than 6 months; they happen in several different settings (school, home, etc.); they disrupt daily activities on a regular basis; they cause problems in your child's relationships with kids and other adults.
Kids with ADHD-related attention problems may:
- Be always on the move
- Make careless mistakes in their schoolwork
- Appear not to listen even when you speak to them directly
- Fail to finish tasks
- Lose important items (school books, pencils, etc.)
- Be easily distracted and forgetful
- Struggle to organize his own school work or other activities
Kids with hyperactivity and impulsive behavior problems related to ADHD may:
- Have trouble sitting still (a tendency to fidget constantly)
- Have difficulty playing quietly
- Talk all the time
- Struggle to wait for his or her turn (in school or play activities)
- Blurt out the answers to questions in school before the teacher has finished asking them
- Interrupt others when they're speaking
ADHD treatment consists of psychological therapies, lifestyle changes and medications. All ADHD children are different, so there is no one-size-fits-all treatment. Not all ADHD kids need to use medication. To find the right balance for your child, you need to consult with your health care provider, your child's teachers, and any other education or health professional who's involved in your child's case.
ADHD medications are primarily stimulants. Ritalin is probably the most well known drug for kids with the condition. Other commonly prescribed ADHD meds include: Concerta, Daytrana, Adderall, and Dexedrine. The experts don't really know exactly why these drugs (which are also called psychostimulants) are effective for ADHD, but it's believed that they help to balance the brain's chemicals, and thereby help ADHD children to concentrate and control their impulses.
These drugs come in different doses and work for varying lengths of time, so it may take a while to find the right dosages for your child. All these medications can have side effects. You should discuss the pros and cons of ADHD drugs with your doctors.
Non-Medical ADHD Treatment
Behavioral therapies, as well as education and psychological support, can go a long way towards treating ADHD without resorting to medication. Some researchers believe that a special ADHD diet can help improve the behavior of kids who are affected. There is no definitive proof as yet that diet can influence ADHD, but generally speaking, a healthy, balanced diet, combined with exercise and a regular sleeping routine, certainly won't do an ADHD child any harm.