By Gariane Phillips Gunter, M.D.
School started just a month or so ago, but some parents may have already received calls about their child’s “behavior." An article published in USA Today reported on a study conducted at Michigan State University which stated that kids who are the youngest in their grades are 60% more likely to be diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) than the oldest children.
My goal for this blog posting is not to validate nor dispute this data but to offer facts about the diagnosis of ADHD. First and foremost, the diagnosis of ADHD should only be made by a trained professional after a thorough assessment of the child and collateral information.
The main features of ADHD include hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and an inability to sustain attention or concentration. These symptoms occur at levels that cause significant distress, impairment, and are far more severe than typically found in children of similar ages and developmental levels. More common in boys than in girls, ADHD often develops before age seven, but is usually diagnosed between ages eight and ten.
Children with ADHD:
• Have difficulty finishing any activity that requires focus
• Don't seem to listen
• Are excessively active, running, or climbing at inappropriate times, squirming in or jumping out of their seats
• Are very easily distracted
• Talk incessantly, often blurting out responses before questions are finished
• Have serious difficulty waiting their turn in games or groups
• May have specific learning disabilities
Treatment can include the use of medications, psychotherapy, and special educational programs to help a child keep up academically. Psychotherapy enables children to cope with their disorder and the reaction of others to it. An essential component of psychotherapy involves the work of the child psychiatrist with both the child and the parents to develop techniques for behavior management.
If your child is diagnosed with ADHD there are effective treatments and medications available to help him or her have a successful year at school. Please contact your child's doctor for further guidance.