By Gariane Phillips Gunter, M.D.
What is ADHD?
There is a lot of talk in the media, schools and community about ADHD, but what exactly is it? ADHD which stands for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is one of the most common mental disorders affecting children. ADHD is a brain condition that is often first identified in school-aged children when it causes a disruption in the classroom or problems with school work. An estimated 3 to 7 percent of school –aged children have symptoms of ADHD.
What are the Symptoms?
Many of the symptoms of ADHD such as high activity levels, difficulty remaining still for long periods of time and limited attention spans are common in young children in general. However, the difference in children with ADHD is that their hyperactivity and inattention are noticeably greater than expected for their age and interfere with functioning in more than one environment i.e. at school, at home or with friends.
A child with ADHD may:
*squirm and fidget
*daydream a lot
*have difficulty following instructions
*appear not to listen when spoken to
*not be able to stay seated
*talk too much or interrupt
*be easily distracted
What Causes ADHD?
The specific causes of ADHD are not yet determined however there is evidence that genetics do play a part. Other factors that may contribute include being born prematurely, brain injury, and the mother smoking, using alcohol or having extreme stress during the pregnancy.
What is the Treatment?
The most effective treatment for ADHD is the combination of behavioral therapy as well as medication if needed.
What can Parents do to Help?
Children with ADHD perform much better with structure, established routines and clear expectations. It can be helpful to:
• Maintain routines
• Make sure instructions are understood-use simple words to describe
• Focus on your child when talking to them
• Maintain communication with the child’s teacher
• Model calm behavior
• Focus on effort and reward good behavior
What are the Consequences if Left Untreated?
Sadly, if left untreated, children with ADHD are at greater risk for potentially serious consequences including school failure and dropout, social difficulties, family problems, alcohol and drug abuse and depression. These problems or the consequences of them can persist into adulthood, including relationship and employment problems.
Does my Child have ADHD?
Simply having the above symptoms does not mean that a child has ADHD as these symptoms can be normal childhood behavior or could be due to another disorder. Symptoms differ from child to child and there is no lab test for ADHD.
Diagnosis involves gathering information from parents, teachers, and others often filling out checklists and a medical evaluation to rule out medical problems. If you feel that your child is at risk, talk to your doctor about your concerns.