ATTENTION DEFICIT HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER (ADHD), a behavioral problem, is a condition characterized by an attention span that is less than usual for a child of that age group. These children have trouble controlling their behavior. The disorder is present in 3-5% of all children. Males are affected ten times more often than females.
Symptoms may include:
- Easily distracted and unable to pay attention, maintain attention, or listen for age-appropriate length of time
- Difficulty grasping details or following more than one instruction at a time
- Difficulty organizing or completing tasks
- Moves and squirms constantly
- Wanders from seat
- Talks excessively or out of turn, interrupts others
- Unable to wait for a turn
- Engages in risky activity without considering the consequences to his own personal safety
- Sleeping difficulties
- Socially immature; may have few friends
- Delayed in intellectual developmental milestones or other learning disabilities
- If not hyperactive, may be sluggish or unmotivated
- Signs and symptoms usually appear between ages 3-7 although diagnosis is not often made until the school years, typically age 8-10. The structured environment of school is very challenging for these children.
What your doctor can do:
- Complete a thorough assessment of family and personal history. You are likely to complete one or more questionnaires.
- Administer or arrange for a full clinical evaluation of physical, nutritional, mental, behavioral, and psychosocial areas.
- Communicate with school teachers, counselors and others who interact with your child.
- Rule out other conditions, physical or emotional, before making a diagnosis of ADHD.
- Assess the need and arrange services for various therapies that may be helpful.
- Prescribe medications to reduce or control symptoms. It generally takes time to find the right combination of medications for your child.
What you can do:
- Reward your child when he completes assigned tasks. Avoid giving attention only when your child has done something wrong.
- Maintain a regular daily schedule for your child including meal times, play time, bedtime, and school. If your child is hyperactive, schedule some quiet time every day. Avoid situations where your child may become overly excited (crowded areas with lots of noise).
- Work closely with your doctor, school teachers and counselors to find the best methods for helping and treating your child.
What you can expect:
- With treatment, most children can achieve normal relationships and improve their school performance.
- Complications may include low self-esteem, continued difficulties in school and relationships; this can lead to school failure, delinquency, and other problems.
Contact your doctor if your child demonstrates signs and symptoms of ADD or ADHD.
For more info:
- American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, www.aacap.org
- Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit Disorder, www.chadd.org