ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood. There are three different types of ADHD depending on the symptoms.
- Predominantly Inattentive Presentation
- Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation
- Combined Presentation
ADHD is a chronic condition of the brain that makes it difficult to control behavior. Boys are more than twice as likely as girls to be diagnosed with ADHD. Children with ADHD often have trouble getting along with others and struggle with school work. If left untreated, ADHD in some children will continue to cause serious, lifelong problems such as poor grades in school, run-ins with the law, failed relationships and the inability to keep a job.
What are the symptoms?
According to the DSM 5, in order to be diagnosed with ADHD the symptoms have to be present for at least 6 months and they have to have six or more of the following symptoms for children up to 16 years or five or more for those 17 years and older and adults.
- Predominantly Inattentive Presentation
- Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or with other activities.
- Often has trouble holding attention on tasks or play activities.
- Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
- Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (e.g., loses focus, side-tracked).
- Often has trouble organizing tasks and activities.
- Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to do tasks that require mental effort over a long period of time (such as schoolwork or homework).
- Often loses things necessary for tasks and activities (e.g. school materials, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, mobile telephones).
- Is often easily distracted
- Is often forgetful in daily activities.
Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation
- Often fidgets with or taps hands or feet, or squirms in the seat.
- Often leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected.
- Often runs about or climbs in situations where it is not appropriate (adolescents or adults may be limited to feeling restless).
- Often unable to play or take part in leisure activities quietly.
- Is often “on the go” acting as if “driven by a motor”.
- Often talks excessively.
- Often blurts out an answer before a question has been completed.
- Often has trouble waiting their turn.
- Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games)
This presentation is given if there are enough symptoms of both criteria for inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity over the last 6 months.
In addition to the above, the symptoms must be present before the age of 12 years. The symptoms must be present in two or more settings. (home, school, with friends, or in other activities). And there is clear evidence that the symptoms interfere with, or reduce the quality of social, school or work functioning.
How do you get your child tested?
The first step is to talk to your child’s health care provider about your concerns. They will go over the symptoms with you and see if your child fits the criteria. The diagnosis can sometimes be made by a mental health professional, like a licensed therapist, a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist, primary care provider or pediatrician. There is also comprehensive neuropsychological testing that can assess your child’s executive functioning (the brain functions that get impaired with ADHD).
Once the diagnosis is confirmed, the outlook for most children who receive treatment is encouraging. While there is no specific cure for ADHD, there are many treatment options available.
What different treatments are available?
There are a few treatments available for ADHD and depending on the child and how severe the symptoms are, you may need to use several of them at once.
Non-Stimulants are also an option but tend to take longer to start working than stimulants. They do help with improving focus, attention and impulsivity. The last type of medication used are antidepressants. However, they are not approved by the FDA to specifically treat ADHD. They are used mostly with adults and affect the brain chemicals norepinephrine and dopamine.
- Occupational Therapy:
- Parenting Training:
Again, oftentimes a parent will need to use more than one of the above methods to help their child manage their ADHD symptoms. ADHD is completely manageable and doesn’t need to be something that stops your child from learning or being successful at life. While ADHD continues into adulthood, helping your child develop their strengths, structure their environment and using medication when needed, adults with ADHD can lead very productive lives.