Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common childhood disorders and can continue through adolescence and adulthood. Symptoms include difficulty staying focused and paying attention, difficulty controlling behavior, and hyperactivity.
ADHD has three subtypes:
Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive is when most symptoms (six or more) are in the hyperactivity-impulsivity categories. Fewer than six symptoms of inattention are present in this subtype, although inattention may still be present to some degree.
Predominantly inattentive is the next subtype. In this the majority of symptoms (six or more) are in the inattention category and fewer than six symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity, although hyperactivity-impulsivity may still be present to some degree. Children with this subtype are less likely to act out or have difficulties getting along with other children. They may sit quietly, but they are not paying attention to what they are doing. Therefore, the child may be overlooked, and parents and teachers may not notice the symptoms.
Combined hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive is the third subtype. This happens when there are six or more symptoms of inattention and six or more symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity present. Most children with this condition are diagnosed with the combined type of ADHD.
What are the symptoms of ADHD in children? Inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity are the key behaviors of ADHD. It is normal for all children to be inattentive, hyperactive or impulsive sometimes, but for children with ADHD, these behaviors are more severe and occur more often. To be diagnosed with the disorder, a child must have symptoms for 6 or more months and symptoms must be more severe than they would be in typical children of the same age.
Children who have symptoms of inattention may be easily distracted, miss details, forget things and frequently switch from one activity to another. Other symptoms are having difficulty focusing on one thing, trouble staying seated, trouble completing a task, trouble following directions or non-stop talking. They often have trouble waiting their turn and will interrupt conversation in order to talk. This makes school and social settings often difficult. Often these symptoms are missed or the child may be diagnosed as simply having emotional or behavior problems. These behaviors make it very difficult for teachers and parents because ADHD children cannot control these impulsive behaviors without the correct treatment.
Although there is no definitive known cause, studies have shown a link between ADHD and genetics. Other studies show a link between cigarette smoking during pregnancy and this disorder. Children who have suffered a brain injury may show some behaviors similar to those of ADHD. However, only a small percentage of children with ADHD have suffered a traumatic brain injury. Recent British research indicates a possible link between certain food additives like artificial colors or preservatives, and an increase in activity. Research is ongoing to confirm the findings and to learn more about how food additives may affect hyperactivity.
Because there is no cure, currently available treatments focus on reducing the symptoms of ADHD and improving functioning. Treatments include medication, various types of psychotherapy, education or training, or a combination of treatments. With treatment, most people with ADHD can be successful in school and lead productive lives. Researchers are developing more effective treatments and interventions, and using new tools such as brain imaging, to better treat this condition.
The most common type of medication used for treating ADHD is called a “stimulant.” Although it may seem unusual to treat ADHD with a medication considered a stimulant, it actually has a calming effect on children with ADHD. Many types of stimulant medications are available. A few other ADHD medications are non-stimulants and work differently than stimulants. For many children, ADHD medications reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity and improve their ability to focus, work, and learn.
Medication also may improve physical coordination. The most common medications include Adderall (approved for age 3 and up) and Ritalin (approved for age 6 and up). Often finding the correct dosage or medication makes take time.
If you notice these symptoms in your child, consult your pediatrician. It’s always better to have it checked out by a professional.
For more information, visit http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder.
Pam Rasmussen is a resident of LaFayette and mother of a child with Spina Bifida. She is an advocate for children and adults with special needs. Contact is email@example.com