ADHD: The Ups & Downs
As many parents know, raising a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can be exhausting. One moment your child is playing with his or her toys, the next they’re flying around the house, unable to focus on a single game, activity or chore for more than a few minutes. In school and during homework and study time, concentration is impossible. These factors can be frustrating, but parenting a child with ADHD doesn’t have to be a chore! The first step is understanding just what ADHD is.
Formerly known as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), ADHD is a common behavioral disorder. It affects approximately 8% to 10% of school-aged children, with boys about three times as likely to develop it than girls.
Is It ADHD or Just Kids Being Kids?
All kids get spurts of hyperactivity. They burst with energy and roughhouse and run around, pretend to be a monster and yell and laugh, refuse to do their homework because they want to play. It’s completely normal! What separates this behavior from ADHD behavior is the frequency of these actions and the impact these actions have on your child’s life.
Children who are living with ADHD have trouble focusing, do not think before they act, and are not able to keep themselves calm (particularly in situations that call for it). This behavior happens over a long period of time and impairs the way your child is able to function in social, academic or home settings.
What Are the Symptoms of ADHD?
There are 3 subtypes of ADHD:
- inattentive ADHD
- hyper-active impulsive ADHD
- a combination of both previous subtypes
When determining if your child should see a doctor to test for ADHD, keep a notebook of any signs your child is exhibiting. It will greatly assist the doctor in their determining which subtype of ADHD, if any, your child falls into. Some of the most common symptoms of the disorder include:
- inability to concentrate on school and homework
- a lack of attention to details in school and homework
- inability to pay attention to chores and activities
- easily distracted, no matter the setting
- fidgeting, squirming and overall inability to sit still
- problems with listening and following instructions
- organizational problems and tendency to lose things
- excessive talking and interrupting
- overall forgetfulness in day-to-day activities
- repelling of mental tasks and problems
- constant running, rough housing and climbing
- impatience when waiting for their turn
- difficulty playing quietly
It is also incredibly important to note of any major changes in your child’s life that may have induced stress, such a move, a divorce, a death in the family, etc. Major life events can cause a child to exhibit similar symptoms to ADHD, but are not the actual disorder.
While there is no one-step-test than can determine whether or not a child has ADHD, a complete evaluation by medical professionals and specialists can lead to a diagnosis. This involves a physical and mental examination that will require your support and knowledge of your child’s life and behavior.
What Causes ADHD?
The research and understanding of ADHD is constantly growing and evolving. While it is accepted that the origins of ADHD are purely biological, they are not yet understood. While no single cause can be put to blame yet, it is important to remember that ADHD is not caused by faults in parenting, “energy”-inducing sugar, vaccines or any other myth that some people believe.
One possible lead in understanding the cause of ADHD lies in our genes and the environments we live in. Researchers have found that many cases of children with ADHD tend to have a close blood relative who is also living with it. While this theory is not yet widely accepted, it shows a forward step in the constant quest for understanding.
How is ADHD Treated?
There is no cure for ADHD. However, with a disciplined and successful long term plan, it is completely possible to manage the disorder and live a happy and healthy normal lifestyle.
Learning how to control their behavior is vital in living with ADHD, and creating a home atmosphere wherein your child can find the peace and support they need is an enormous help. Typically, ADHD is treated with a planned and closely monitored combination of medication and behavior therapy.
How Can I Help My Child?
As a parent, it is important for you to learn all the ins and outs of the disorder in order to best assist your child. While some symptoms of ADHD may decline with age, the disorder never fully goes away, so having a familial support system will make your child’s growing up that much easier.
Remember that a child with ADHD is in no way a bad kid. They simply cannot help their behavior until they are able to get the therapy and medication they need. Being your child’s number one fan, and branching that support to their siblings, teachers, and doctors, can be the difference between your child continuing to struggle and finding their way to a successful and fulfilled lifestyle.