Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in Children
ADHD is the one of the most commonly diagnosed psychiatric disorder in children. Children with ADHD typically have difficulty paying attention, staying organized and controlling impulses and behaviors. The average age of onset of ADHD symptoms is 7 years old. The disorder affects 9.0% of American children age 13 to 18 years. Boys are four times at risk than girls. ADHD also affects about 4.1% American adults age 18 years and older in a given year.
There are three types of ADHD:
- Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive: Most symptoms (six or more) are in the hyperactivity-impulsivity categories, with some symptoms of inattention still present.
- Predominantly inattentive: The majority of symptoms (six or more) are in the inattention category and fewer than six symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity are present, although hyperactivity-impulsivity may still be present to some degree. Children with this subtype are less likely to act out or have difficulties getting along with other children. They may sit quietly, but they are not paying attention to what they are doing. Therefore, the child may be overlooked, and parents and teachers may not notice that he or she has ADHD.
- Combined hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive: Most children have the combined type of ADHD, which includes six or more symptoms of inattention and six or more symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity are present.
Signs and Symptoms of ADHD
Children with ADHD display characteristics of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. While it is normal for children to exhibit those behaviors from time to time, the severity of these behaviors is greater in children with ADHD. To be diagnosed with the disorder, a child must have symptoms for 6 or more months and to a degree that is greater than other children of the same age.
Symptoms of inattention may include:
- Being easily distracted, missing details, forgetting things, and frequently switching from one activity to another
- Have difficulty focusing on one thing
- Become bored with a task after only a few minutes, unless they are doing something enjoyable
- Have difficulty focusing attention on organizing and completing a task or learning something new
- Have trouble completing or turning in homework assignments
- Not seem to listen when spoken to
- Daydream, become easily confused, and move slowly
- Have difficulty processing information as quickly and accurately as others
Symptoms of hyperactivity may include:
- Fidgeting and/or squirm in their seats
- Trouble sitting still during dinner, school, and story time
- Being constantly in motion
- Difficulty doing quiet tasks or activities.
Children who have symptoms of impulsivity may:
- Be very impatient
- Blurt out inappropriate comments, show their emotions without restraint, and act without regard for consequences
- Have difficulty waiting for things they want or waiting their turns in games
- Often interrupt conversations or others’ activities.
Treatment for ADHD in Children
Research has shown that the most effective treatment is a combination of medication, behavioral therapy, parental support and education. Behavioral therapy is valuable in helping the child work through emotions and learning organization and social skills.
Parent education is vital to treating ADHD in children. When parents understand the child’s diagnosis, they can better manage the symptoms and practice techniques at home that support the child’s treatment such as keeping the child on schedule and helping them to stay organized. An important part of supporting the child’s treatment is encouraging positive behaviors and redirecting poor behaviors.
What can I do at home to help my child cope with ADHD?
Establishing consistent practices at home will help your child to stay organized and follow directions.
- Schedule. Keep the same routine every day, from wake-up time to bedtime. Include time for homework, outdoor play, and indoor activities. Keep the schedule on the refrigerator or on a bulletin board in the kitchen. Write changes on the schedule as far in advance as possible.
- Organize everyday items. Have a place for everything, and keep everything in its place. This includes clothing, backpacks, and toys.
- Use homework and notebook organizers. Use organizers for school material and supplies. Stress to your child the importance of writing down assignments and bringing home the necessary books.
- Be clear and consistent. Children with ADHD need consistent rules they can understand and follow.
- Give praise or rewards when rules are followed. Children with ADHD often receive and expect criticism. Look for good behavior, and praise it.