Most kids have experienced moments where they find it difficult to concentrate on a boring task or feel full of nervous energy that leaves them unable to focus. However, children with an attention deficit disorder experience these states more frequently and over a longer period of time, leading to problems at home and at school.
Though in the past this neurobehavioral condition in children was referred to as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), it is officially recognized by the American Psychiatric Institute as Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Because it can sometimes be difficult to tell if a child is behaving normally or exhibiting a symptom of ADHD, it is important to understand what challenges the child is facing. If a child only shows symptoms occasionally or in specific situations, then they likely don’t have ADHD.
Because some symptomatic behavior can be a normal part of growing up, some can be the result of a recent or ongoing trauma and some behavior can manifest due to a separate medical or psychological problem, neuropsychologists will be able to work children and their parents to determine a diagnosis and plan for treatment in those kids that are suspected of being at risk for ADHD.
What Are the Symptoms of ADHD?
One common misconception is that children with ADHD are full of energy and prone to hyperactivity. While this is true in some cases, ADHD has three major components: inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsivity. These components can be present in different levels, or not at all, in a child with ADHD.
Children with ADHD often have problems staying on task, organizing their work or finishing projects. They may have difficulty following instructions or paying attention to details.
Children tend to be active and move around a lot as part of their natural growth and development. Kids with ADHD are often even more active, trying to multiple things at once. Even when at rest, they may tap their feet or hands compulsively. They talk a great deal and can sometimes be quick to anger.
Self-control is often an issue for children with ADHD, as they may have a limited ability to control their impulsive behaviors. Children with impulsive behavior issues often act out inappropriately in groups, invade the personal space of others, interrupt conversations and emotionally overreact.
These three types of symptoms appear differently in different children with ADHD. Some children may show only signs of hyperactivity and impulsivity, while others show only signs of inattentiveness.
Treatments for ADHD
Just as no two children are exactly alike, treatment plans for ADHD are designed to address the specific needs of each child. Plans often include special education programs, behavior therapy and drug treatment. Most kids respond well to a combination of behavioral therapy and medicine, along with the support of their family and pediatric neuropsychologist.
Public schools in the United States are required to make accommodations for children with ADHD in order to ensure they receive as good an education as other students. This can take the form of special classes to address the specific needs of children that have ADHD, teacher and counselor training and special programs within general classrooms to ensure children with ADHD don’t fall behind or get left out.
Children who take part in behavior therapy learn how to better control their impulses and how to get along with others better. Treatments like these can be both ongoing in the form of speaking regularly with a therapist, or periodic as with special summer camps designed to help kids with ADHD. Parents are also often part of the therapy as they learn skills to help their child at home.
Though only part of a child’s overall therapy for learning to overcome ADHD, medication has been the focus of public scrutiny in the past and has benefitted in the increased research into more effective medicines.
Though most ADHD medicines are stimulants, promising non-stimulant medications have been gaining ground in the last several years. Pediatric neurology team and doctor will work with your child to determine the most effective medication to treat their ADHD.
Most treatment plans for children with ADHD contain all these elements, though the degree to which each is used depends on the needs and challenges of each child. Some children may respond well to medication and need only minimal behavior therapy, while other children benefit a great deal from therapy and special education. However, what all children with ADHD need is the love, support and stability of their family while they work to overcome their problems.