Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is neurodevelopmental condition that develops when the brain and central nervous system suffer impairments related to growth and development. A child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may struggle throughout the day to maintain their attention. He or she may appear restless and engage in hyperactive or impulsive behaviors.

For kids, ADHD can interfere with their school work, their relationships with other people, and how they view themselves in the world. These symptoms can persist into adulthood, causing work and relationship problems.

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Symptoms have been detected in children as young as 3, and they typically start before the age of 12. ADHD is more common among boys than girls, and the symptoms can be mild, moderate, or severe.  The condition may also manifest differently depending on the individual. Some people experience mainly symptoms of inattention, which is known as the predominantly inattentive subtype of ADHD. The predominantly hyperactive-impulsive subtype describes individuals who mainly experience symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity. Finally, most people with ADHD experience a combination of all symptoms and fall under the combined subtype.

What does inattention look like?

Inattention symptoms can look different depending on the situation, but common symptoms in children include:

  • being easily distracted.
  • forgetting to do chores, disliking homework, losing items or assignments.
  • struggling to follow instructions and have trouble paying attention to details.
  • difficulty following through with tasks or with managing their time.
  • easily frustrated with difficult tasks; trouble coping with stressful situations.

Parents and teachers might feel like a child isn’t listening to them even when they are speaking to them.

What do hyperactivity and impulsivity look like? 

Although all children may be impulsive or hyperactive at certain times, a child who is hyperactive and impulsive will frequently:

  • fidget or squirm when trying to be still. They may have trouble staying in their seat in class, or run around and climb on or under things.
  • find it difficult to participate quietly in activities, often talking too much, interrupting others, or blurting out answers when it’s not their turn.

How does a child get diagnosed with ADHD?

A child needs to have experienced symptoms for at least 6 months, and these symptoms must disrupt life in multiple settings. For example, a child’s inattention and/or hyperactivity would be causing problems both at home and school. The symptoms also must not match behavior for most children in their age group. For example, all 3-year-olds have short attention spans and can be very energetic at times.  It’s also important to remember that all children are different. Just because one child is more animated than a sibling does not mean they have ADHD.

What challenges does a child with ADHD experience?

ADHD poses unique challenges for young people. These can include trouble with academic work or negative stereotypes that teachers and other students may express about ADHD. They also may experience poor self-image as they struggle to master tasks at home and school. A child with ADHD is also at risk for accident and injury due to inattention and impulsivity. As a child with ADHD becomes older, they may also be at risk for experimenting with drug and alcohol use and other risky behaviors.

 What will happen when we see a doctor?

Your family doctor or your child’s pediatrician is an excellent first stop for evaluating and treating possible ADHD. They may choose to refer you to a clinician who specializes in the condition or to an evaluator for future assessment. They may also recommend coordination with school counselors and psychologists to tailor your child’s behavioral and educational plan in a way that serves them best. A clinician will also rule out other causes of symptoms, which can include conditions such as anxiety, depression, oppositional defiant disorder, learning disabilities, conduct disorder, etc.

While there is no cure for ADHD, symptoms can be managed with the right treatment and support team. Treatment typically includes medication to help reduce symptoms, and cognitive behavioral therapy which teaches coping skills for day-t0-day challenges. Starting treatment early can have a huge impact in the life and self-esteem of a child.With a combination of medication and/or self-management techniques, children can learn to build the life skills necessary to thrive in school, build healthy relationships, and foster a positive self-image that will serve them well into adulthood. Consider what steps you can take today to help your child build a healthy and happy future.

 

Last Updated: Sep 12, 2017