ADHD: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment
Does your child find it hard to finish tasks?
Does focusing on one thing at a time require all their willpower and then some? Or maybe it’s just close to impossible for your child to sit still for long. If so, you may have wondered if your child could have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But what is ADHD? And how can you be sure that your child has it? Read on to find out.
What is ADHD?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common neurodevelopmental childhood disorders. Often, ADHD makes it hard for children to pay attention, control impulsive behavior, or sit still.
While usually first diagnosed in childhood, the condition typically continues through adolescence and lasts into adulthood. Although hyperactivity tends to improve as the child becomes a teen, other problems like inattention, disorganization, and poor impulse control remain through to adulthood.
What causes it?
While the causes of ADHD are currently unclear, available research does indicate that genetics have a role to play. For example, many parents of children with ADHD also experienced symptoms when they were young. ADHD is also commonly found in siblings within the same family.
Besides genetics, researchers are studying other possible causes and risk factors including:
- Cigarette smoking, alcohol use, or drug use during pregnancy
- Exposure to environmental toxins (like high levels of lead) during pregnancy or at a young age
- Premature delivery
- Low birth weight
- Brain injury
Available research also does not support popularly held views that eating too much sugar or watching too much television causes ADHD.
While these, among other factors, might worsen symptoms, the evidence is simply not strong enough to conclude that they are indeed the main causes of ADHD.
Who typically gets ADHD?
Symptoms of hyperactivity almost always appear by the age of 7 and may even be present in pre-schoolers. Symptoms of inattention may not surface until a child faces the expectations of elementary school.
ADHD has long been thought of affecting mostly males. Researchers estimate about 4% to 12% of children have ADHD and that boys are 2 to 3 times more likely than girls to have ADHD of the hyperactive or combined type.
But as the condition becomes more understood, more girls are being diagnosed. They are more likely to have inattentive ADHD, in which daydreaming and shyness are common.
Nevertheless, living with undiagnosed ADHD can cause disadvantages such as a lack of accommodation in the classroom, low self-esteem, and self-blame. If left undiagnosed, ADHD can affect mental health well into adolescence and adulthood.
Being educated on the different ways ADHD can present in your child can help you identify the right time to see a doctor for an evaluation.
How can I identify ADHD? What are the signs and symptoms?
There are currently three recognized types of ADHD. These are:
- Predominantly inattentive – describes those who find it hard to pay attention but aren’t hyperactive or impulsive.
- Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive – describes those excessively restless, rash, and fidgety, but without lacking focus.
- A combination of the above
The symptoms of ADHD usually fall under two major categories:
The symptoms under inattention include:
- Short attention span for age; difficulty sustaining attention
- Difficulty listening to others
- Difficulty attending to details
- Easily distracted
- Poor organizational skills for the age
- Poor study skills for the age
The symptoms under hyperactivity-impulsivity include:
- Often interrupting others
- Has difficulty waiting their turn in school and/or social games
- Tends to blurt out answers instead of waiting to be called upon
- Takes frequent risks, often without thinking first
- Seems to be in constant motion; runs or climbs, at times with no apparent goal except motion
- Has difficulty remaining in their seat, even when expected
- Fidgets with hands or squirms when in their seat; fidgeting excessively
- Talks excessively
- Has difficulty engaging in quiet activities
- Loses or forgets things repeatedly and often
- Inability to stay on task; shifts from one task to another without bringing any to completion
It is normal to have some inattention, unfocused motor activity, and impulsivity, but for people with ADHD, these behaviors:
- are more severe
- occur frequently
- interfere with or reduce the quality of how they function socially, at school, or in a job
Note that the symptoms listed above may also resemble other medical conditions or behavioral problems and may occur in children and teens who do not have ADHD.
Always consult a doctor for a proper diagnosis.
How is ADHD treated?
While there is currently no cure for ADHD, there are available treatments that can help reduce symptoms and improve functioning. These include:
This is not a permanent cure. Rather, it is to help your child improve concentration, impulsivity, and restlessness, as well as learn and practice new skills.
There are several types of therapy and programs available for both you and your child to manage living with ADHD.
This therapy encourages you and your child to discuss ADHD and its effects. It can help those with ADHD make sense of being diagnosed and can help you better cope and live with the condition.
- Behavior therapy
This provides support for carers of children with ADHD and usually involves behavior management, which uses a system of rewards to encourage children to try to control their ADHD.
- Parent training and education programs
This is a specially tailored parent training and education program that teaches specific ways of talking to your child and playing and working with them to improve their attention and behavior.
- Social skills training
This involves role playing situations and aims to teach your child how to behave in social situations by learning how their behavior affects others.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
In CBT, a therapist will try to change how your child feels about a situation, which could potentially change their behavior.
3) A combination of treatments
As each child has different needs, it’s important to speak to your doctor for a personalized treatment plan.
How can I manage my child’s ADHD?
Looking after a child with ADHD can have challenging moments, but it’s important to remember that they cannot help their behavior.
As such, observing their patterns and developing ways to cope can be useful in easing the situation.
Some ways to cope include:
- Setting routines
Breaking common activities down into structured steps can help how a child with ADHD copes with everyday life.
- Being specific
When giving praise or instructions, being clear helps your child better understand your intentions. Say “Good job putting your books away and making your bed!” instead of just “Good job!”, for example.
- Creating an incentive scheme
Consistently reinforce good behavior with praise or rewards to ensure your child knows what behavior is expected.
Use points or stickers to keep track of and reward good behavior with a privilege, like extra screen time. Try to focus on just one or two behaviors at a time.
Get your child involved in the process by letting them be a part of the privilege decision process.
- Intervening early
Do not shy away from social situations. Instead, keep playtime short and sweet, while ensuring your child has the energy to enjoy themselves.
Be watchful for warning signs. If your child looks increasingly frustrated, overstimulated, or about to lose self-control, step in, and act.
Distract your child and remove them from the situation to help calm them down.
- Ensuring your child gets adequate exercise
Take your child to the park during the day for games and fresh air as physical activities like walking, skipping, and playing sports can help wear your child out and improve their quality of sleep. Just be sure they’re not doing anything too strenuous near bedtime.
- Creating a bedtime ritual
Sleep problems and ADHD can become a vicious circle – ADHD can lead to sleep problems, which in turn can worsen symptoms. Children with ADHD might repeatedly get up after being put to bed and have interrupted sleep patterns.
Steer clear of overstimulating activities, such as computer games or watching TV, several hours before bed. Set a specific time for your child to go to bed and wake up and make sure they stick to it.
- Getting help at school
Children with ADHD often have behavioral problems at school, which can negatively affect their academic progress. Speak to your child’s teachers about providing extra support for your child.
How Halza helps
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