Raising kids is hard enough as it is since each child comes with their own unique challenges. When you find out your child has ADHD, you can’t expect the same types of behavior from them as you would children without ADHD. Here’s what you need to know if your child is diagnosed with ADHD.
What is it?
ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is a condition caused by problems related to the structure and wiring of the brain and can affect one’s ability to focus, sit still, and make appropriate decisions. We still aren’t sure exactly how ADHD is developed, but we know it can be linked to family history as well as brain injury. It is usually diagnosed in childhood but can often continue into adulthood.
What does ADHD look like in children?
Psychologists have categorized ADHD into three groups or “types” based on their symptoms: inattentive type, hyperactive/impulsive type, or combined type.
If your child has been showing six to nine of ADHD symptoms for the past 6 months, it is likely that they could have ADHD. It’s important to note that you as a parent might not see all these symptoms displayed in the home. Be sure to talk to your child’s teachers, parents of friends, and other adults who they interact with to get a better picture of how your child is behaving in various situations.
Here are the two types of ADHD and their corresponding symptoms:
- Doesn’t pay close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in school or tasks
- Has problems staying focused on tasks or activities
- Doesn’t seem to listen when spoken to (seems to be elsewhere)
- Doesn’t follow through on instructions and doesn’t complete schoolwork or chores
- Has problems organizing tasks and work
- Avoids or dislikes tasks that require sustained mental effort
- Often misplaces important things
- Is easily distracted
- Forgets daily tasks, such as doing chores and running errands
- Fidgets with or taps hands or feet, or squirms in seat
- Unable to stay seated (in classroom, workplace)
- Runs about or climbs where it is inappropriate
- Unable to play or do leisure activities quietly
- Always “on the go,” as if driven by a motor
- Talks too much
- Blurts out an answer before a question has been finished
- Has difficulty waiting his or her turn, such as while waiting in line
- Interrupts or intrudes on others
How can I know for sure if my child has ADHD?
Many of the symptoms mentioned might sound like a normal part of growing up for young kids but can also be significantly impairing their day to day tasks. If your child is exhibiting an unusual amount of the symptoms mentioned above, talk to your child’s pediatrician or a therapist who specializes in ADHD. They can help set your child up with a treatment plan. If your child’s pediatrician is unfamiliar in diagnosing and treating ADHD, they may refer you to a child psychologist. Some mental health clinics may even offer ADHD screenings.
You can go to this website to look for psychologists in your area that can better help with diagnosis. You can even go to your child’s school counselor to seek help.
What treatment is available for ADHD?
An ongoing study from the National Institute of mental health has shown that the most effective treatment for ADHD in children is stimulant medication. This type of medication, is designed to help children in their interactions with others, reduce symptoms of hyperactivity, and help them focus more. Ritalin, Adderall, and Vyvanse are some of the common brands of stimulant medication. Talk to your child’s pediatrician or a psychiatrist about whether or not your child can benefit from this treatment.
Psychologists and counselors will not be able to prescribe medication for your child, but they can help your child with behavioral issues that come with ADHD. Studies have shown that a combination of medication and behavioral therapy can significantly improve symptoms, especially if your child is struggling with any other type of emotional disorders.
You should also look into neurofeedback as a non-medication option for ADHD. It has been shown to help kids with ADHD think more clearly.
What can I do to help as a parent?
Catching and treating ADHD early is crucial to your child’s social and educational development. One of the most important things you can do is to praise them for their efforts and notice when they show good behavior. Reinforcing good behavior and appropriately addressing bad behavior will not only help their self-esteem but also help them learn right from wrong.
Additude Magazine has outlined 12 “Dos and Don’ts” for how to best help your child with ADHD. Some of them include punishment and positive reinforcement, avoiding blame, and modeling appropriate behavior.