By Paula Rainer, Ph.D.
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common childhood disorders and can continue through adolescence and into adulthood. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that 3 to 5 % of school-age children have ADHD. It is not clear what causes ADHD, although there is substantial research indicating genes play a large role. There is also considerable evidence that environmental factors may contribute to the disorder.
There are numerous symptoms indicating possible ADHD but the symptoms fall into three categories; hyperactivity, impulsivity, or inattentiveness.
Hyperactive children appear to be in constant motion and reach out and touch everything. They talk nonstop, fidget, squirm, and have a need to engage in continuous activities.
Impulsive children speak at inappropriate times, have emotional melt downs, don’t consider consequences, have difficulty waiting their turn, and make choices that have immediate satisfaction, without regard to long-term negative consequences.
Inattentive children bore easily, have difficulty organizing and completing tasks, forget things, make careless mistakes, become distracted easily, and can’t follow multiple instructions.
ADHD impacts a child’s ability to filter impulses, problem solve, and execute goals. Symptoms are typically apparent early in a child’s life; before the age of seven. However, many times the symptoms are there but are not noticed until later on, particularly with children who are predominantly inattentive. There are numerous conditions that may appear to be ADHD. Sometimes, difficult children are incorrectly labeled with ADHD. On the other hand, there are children who legitimately have ADHD who go undiagnosed. To ensure a correct diagnosis, a child suspected of having ADHD should be carefully examined by a medical doctor and tested by a psychologist to rule out conditions other than ADHD.
A psychiatrist can help determine if medication would be beneficial and a qualified psychotherapist can help a child with ADHD change behavior, develop coping skills and build on his or her strengths.
Behavior therapy helps children to manage and develop controlling, relaxing, and goal motivated behavior.
Talk therapy can help children to develop coping skills, and validate and manage thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
Social skills training provides a method for children to learn social cues about other people’s feelings, sharing with others, when to seek help, and to ask questions before acting out.
Note-taking and lists helps children to improve comprehension, eliminate distractions, and stay on track.
Family-based interventions are beneficial in providing wrap around support and processing for the family.
ADHD is not just a problem for children, it is a long-term chronic condition. Research indicates that adults with untreated ADHD have to higher rates of failure to complete school, job loss, alcohol, cigarette and drug addiction, divorce, and driving accidents and tickets. Fortunately, with the right combination of medication, therapy, and educational support, the symptoms of ADHD can be effectively managed.