How to Know if Your Child Has ADHD
Nowadays, it seems like every child with some sort of behavioral problem is blanket-diagnosed with ADHD. Although frequently misunderstood, misrepresented, and misdiagnosed, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a legitimate mental health concern for millions of children across the country. Children diagnosed with ADHD may have difficulty forming relationships, struggle with concentrating in school and develop low self-esteem. If you start to notice your child’s behavior start to change, you may want to take them to a mental health provider.
What is ADHD?
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a behavior disorder marked by inattention and/or hyperactivity. A lot of times, the children considered “the bad apples” in the classroom need a closer look--their behavior may be a symptom of a deeper issue, such as ADHD. The mental health condition affects everyday life, such as school, homework, or extracurricular activities. For most children, it is normal to be inattentive, hyperactive, or impulsive every so often. This is expected and can be gauged on their level of interest in a particular subject or activity. Those suffering from ADHD experience symptoms in all their interactions.
Some children with ADHD struggle with focusing at school, acting out in public places, or blurting out things that are deemed socially inappropriate. Children with ADHD typically cannot help poor behavior or control urges. If left untreated, ADHD can lead to a host of behavioral problems, relational rifts, and regrettable choices.
There are three categories of ADHD: inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. Children diagnosed with ADHD may struggle with any or all categories of symptoms. The three major types are 1) ADHD, predominantly impulsive/hyperactive type; 2) ADHD, predominantly inattentive and distractible type; and 3) ADHD, combined type.
#1. Examples of inattention: being unable to complete homework, frequently “spacing out,” poor time management and/or planning skills, having difficulty focusing, having trouble multitasking, frequently forgetting things, frequently losing things, easily distracted, avoid tasks that require disciplined focus
#2. Examples of impulsivity: being impatient, having a low tolerance for frustrating circumstances, acting without thinking, making poor decisions, interrupting others, has a hard time playing quietly
#3. Examples of hyperactivity: being unable to sit still in class, interrupting others, constantly fidgeting, excessively running around and/or jumping up and down, being unable to wait, excessively talking
Symptoms of ADHD
Symptoms of ADHD can start as early as the age of 7. ADHD symptoms can be broken down into three categories: cognitive, behavioral, and mood. Cognitive symptoms include difficulty focusing, inability to pay attention, quickly forgetting instructions, and absent-mindedness. Behavioral symptoms of ADHD are excitability, hyperactivity, impulsivity, irritability, frequent mistakes, and aggression. Mood symptoms of children with ADHD include anxiety, excitement, anger, boredom, or depression.
How is ADHD Diagnosed?
Pediatricians, child psychiatrists, and certified mental health counselors can diagnose children with ADHD. Typically, the provider will go over your child’s history in detail, often focusing on their behavior. Questions the provider may ask are: How does your child act in behavioral settings? Does your child frequently lose their temper? How does your child respond to authority figures, such as coaches, parents, and teachers? How long does it take for your child to complete their homework every night? Does your child complete chores, homework, and other tasks in a timely manner? Your doctor may also encourage you to consult with your child’s teacher, babysitter, or any other individual who frequently watches over your child. They may request that you ask this person if they notice any unusual behavior from your child. In addition, “healthcare providers use the guidelines in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth edition (DSM-5)1, to help diagnose ADHD.”
How to Treat ADHD
The most popular form of treatment for ADHD is medication. Doctors typically prescribe one of two different types of medication: stimulants and non-stimulants. It is said that “between 70-80% of children with ADHD have fewer ADHD symptoms when taking [stimulants].” non-stimulant medications can be just as effective, although not as fast-acting as stimulants. Of course, as with any drug, prescription medications can alter your child’s sleep pattern, food intake, and mood. Your doctor will work with you and your child on managing these and other potential side effects. Other forms of treatment for ADHD include behavioral therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (used for adults), dialectical behavior therapy (used for adults), ADHD coaching, play therapy, music therapy, art therapy, and brain training or neurofeedback. It is important to note that behavioral therapy is recommended for preschool-aged children before resorting to prescribing any form of medication.
As a parent, it’s important to pay attention to the way your little one interacts with the world around them. Start to pay attention to the way they act around their friends, family members, classmates, coaches, and teachers. Their behavior can be a cue for you to inquire into their world. It may become frustrating watching your child fail to finish their homework, forget to do chores, or interrupt their teachers. Remember that these may be symptoms of a need for treatment. ADHD is a serious behavior disorder that, left untreated, can lead to a variety of problems for your child. If you are in the California, Oregon, and Alaska regions, Achieve Medical Center may be right for your child. At Achieve Medical Center, we provide comprehensive, compassionate mental health and wellness services to adults, adolescents, and children. We offer a variety of treatment options for children with ADHD. Call us at (619) 375-3977 to schedule a free consultation.