See that jumpy, overactive child who is pushing and shoving other kids at the playground? Does your son’s teacher routinely complain about him wandering in class, refusing to take his seat or wait for his turn to answer? It could be that the child has some form of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD as it is commonly called.
What is ADHD?
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a disorder that is more commonly diagnosed in children. It is a genetic disorder likely to be passed on from one generation to the other and is characterised by the following:
- Inattention or lack of attention: This happens when a child is not able to concentrate on the task at hand, finds it hard to focus and is disorganized.
- Hyperactivity: This is when a child finds it hard to sit still and moves about constantly, fidgets a lot or talks constantly. The child may try to do many things at once, moving from one activity to the next without completing any. They find it hard to sit still even when forced to and keep their foot-tapping, leg shaking, or fingers drumming.
- Impulsivity: Is when the child jumps at decisions or activities without thinking of their consequences or when he’s unable to wait for rewards and always wants immediate gratification. They have poor self-control – they will interrupt conversations, ask irrelevant questions and make tactless observations, and ask overly personal questions.
This does not mean that adults do not have ADHD. Many children with ADHD, continue to have ADHD as adults. However, the symptoms of ADHD in older children and adults are different, maybe less serious and the treatment varies.
Also read: Does Your Child Have ADHD?
Doesn’t every small child behave this way?
Parents of every small child at some point complain of their child’s lack of attention or hyperactivity. While it is normal for small children to have some inattention, hyperactivity or be unfocused, in children with ADHD:
- These behaviours are more severe
- They occur more often
- They interfere with the child’s school performance or social interactions.
Research has indicated that about 9.2% of all children have some form of ADHD with 3 times as many boys as girls being diagnosed for ADHD.
Is every child who is diagnosed with ADHD the same?
Every child with ADHD is different. Much like a fever which can be mild to high and has to be treated accordingly, ADHD can be present as a mild to serious condition and has to be treated so. The degrees of various symptoms can vary. Some kids might get into more physical fights, but not have trouble paying attention while some might be angry. ADHD varies from child to child and has to be diagnosed and treated by a qualified doctor.
Is ADHD more common in boys than in girls?
Earlier it was believed that ADHD is more common in boys than girls during childhood since boys are 3 times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with ADHD during childhood. This is not necessarily true. The difference in the rate of diagnosis could be because:
- ADHD is harder to spot in girls than in boys. It does not mean that girls are less affected by ADHD as a gender, but since the symptoms of ADHD generally differ from boys to girls with boys having a higher likelihood of being diagnosed with ADHD.
- Boys have more physically viable symptoms like aggression, hyperactivity which makes spotting ADHD in boys easier.
- Another reason for more boys being diagnosed than girls is that more research has been done in ADHD in males.
Also read: Stress In Kids: Who Is At Fault?
How are symptoms of ADHD different in boys and girls?
Boys show more external symptoms of ADHD and girls show more internal symptoms of ADHD, leading to more boys being diagnosed.
Symptoms of ADHD in boys
- Hyperactivity and impulsivity are the most common and visible symptoms in boys.
- Constant Fidgeting, drumming of fingers, shaking legs
- Running around and difficulty in sitting still
- Display Physical aggression
- Boys with ADHD are more likely to get into fights in the playground and vent out their frustration physically
Symptoms of ADHD in girls
- Lack of attentiveness is the most common ADHD symptom in girls and it is relatively hard to spot.
- Girls with ADHD are also easily distracted, make careless mistakes, are disorganised, and frequently forget and lose things.
- Have low self-esteem
- Display verbal aggression
- Girls with ADHD are more likely to internalise their frustration and have trouble settling in school, social settings and personal relationships.
Do children outgrow ADHD?
Earlier it was thought that children simply outgrow ADHD once they became adults. Researchers have indicated that it might not necessarily be true.
ADHD presents itself differently from person to person and between genders. In some people, some of the symptoms like hyperactivity and fidgetiness may reduce with age. Early diagnosis and treatment also goes a long way in managing the symptoms of ADHD. Children who are given the resources and training to deal with ADHD early on are better at managing the symptoms as adults.
What to do if you suspect your child has ADHD?
In case your child’s behaviour is making you wonder if it is ADHD or simply a part of growing up you can take these steps:
- Start by speaking to your child’s pediatrician. In case the doctor is not familiar with diagnosing ADHD, they will refer you to a mental health professional like a psychiatrist or psychologist who has the right experience.
- A qualified mental health professional will collate information from the child’s medical and school records and by speaking to you as the first step.
- They will then talk to your child, and if possible their teachers and observe them in the classroom and various settings to form an evaluation.
- An FDA approved non-invasive scan, the Neuropsychiatric EEG-Based Assessment Aid (NEBA) System, can also be conducted. It measures the theta and beta brain waves. The theta/beta ratio has been shown to be higher in children and adolescents with ADHD than in children without it. The scan is approved for use in those aged 6 to 17 years.
- The treatment plan can include both medication and therapy:
- Medication should be given strictly with the doctor’s approval and only in the recommended doses.
- Therapy can be a system of rewards for good behaviour and consequences for inappropriate behaviour, help to get them organised and pay attention. The school and teachers might also need to get involved to accommodate your child’s needs.
- You can make positive changes in your child’s life by making small changes at home:
- Helping them form a routine and posting that routine for them to see and follow.
- Setting expectations and rewarding them when expectations are met.
- Help them get organised by setting a place for all their things including books, toys and clothes.
- Set an example with your behaviour since your children are most likely to emulate you.
ADHD is a frequently occurring, common childhood disorder. If you suspect your son or daughter has any form of ADHD, focus on your energy on getting them treatment from the right professional. Children who receive help, support and the means to cope early on will grow into successful, confident adults.
Also read: 10 Effective ways to handle a hyperactive child
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