Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – ADHD – is the most common neurobehavioral disorder of childhood. Children with ADHD have trouble paying attention, and are overactive and impulsive. They act without thinking about the result and consequences of their actions. ADHD is usually first diagnosed in childhood and often lasts well into adulthood.
Inattention, overactivity and impulsivity are the hallmarks of ADHD in children. It can be normal for children to be occasionally inattentive, overactive and impulsive. However, in ADHD, these behaviours interfere with the child’s functioning. The child is unable to sit in class, and disturbs other students. Their academic performance deteriorates. At home, family life is disrupted. The child also has difficulty making friends and is avoided in the playground. It is essential to distinguish between normal childhood exuberance and ADHD as an illness. Some of the features seen in ADHD are listed below.
Some children have ADD, the inattentive subtype of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. These children with Attention Deficit Disorder do not manifest hyperactivity related symptoms and so the diagnosis is often missed. These ADD children may be labelled as lazy or ‘dreamers’. Treatment for children with ADD is often delayed.
ADHD is a clinical diagnosis. The diagnosis of ADHD is made during the consultation with the child and the parents. This is the most important part of the treatment plan and the family should make it a point to arrive at the appointed time so as to be ready for this session. There is no single test to diagnose Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Many other childhood problems, like anxiety, depression, or learning disabilities, can have similar symptoms. A complete developmental, behavioural and psychosocial history of the child from parents, teachers, or caregivers is the first step. Psychological testing establishes a base-line measurement for the degree of inattention and hyperactivity. Testing excludes commonly associated academic problems or specific learning disorders like dyslexia. To make sure your child reaches their full potential, it is very important to get help for ADHD as early as possible.
Behaviour Modification and ADHD medications are the current modes of therapy recommended worldwide. Behaviour modification and parent management training is administered for all age groups of children diagnosed with ADHD. Behaviour modification for ADHD helps the child adapt better to their environment. It helps the child to focus on required tasks and to channelises their hyperactivity. The parents learn techniques that encourage the child to perform to their potential without disrupting the family routine.
ADHD Medication is essential in primary school children with ADHD and may be given in younger children if indicated. Medication, behaviour modification and parent management training helps the child to focus and act constructively.
Treating ADHD is a partnership between the doctor, parents and child. For therapy to succeed:
Set specific and appropriate goals
ADHD is a brain disorder. Your ADHD child needs medication to correct neurochemical imbalances.
Start medication and behaviour therapy. The combination works best.
Follow-up regularly to check on goals, results and any side effects of medication.
Alternative treatments for ADHD are popular, but there is no scientific evidence they work. Avoid tedious, ineffective diets that are frustrating for the family
What causes ADHD?
As yet we do not know just what causes ADHD. However, researchers believe that some people with ADHD are unable to transport a certain chemical (dopamine) from the blood into the brain cells. This chemical helps the brain control behaviour. ADHD medication facilitates the transport mechanism and increases the availability of dopamine in the child’s brain.
What you can do for your child with ADHD
Consult with a psychiatrist who is experienced with children.
Be regular with the medication prescribed for your child.
Keep a consistent daily schedule with regular times for homework, play and meals.
Learn about strategies for managing your child’s behaviour. These include valuable techniques such as: charting, having a reward program, ignoring behaviours, natural consequences, logical consequences, and time-out.
Limit distractions in the child’s environment. (Avoid switching on the TV during homework/ mealtimes)
Be clear, be consistent, and be positive. Set clear rules for your child. Tell your child what he or she should do, not just what he shouldn’t do. Be clear about what will happen if your child does not follow the rules.
Praise your child when he or she does well. Build your child’s abilities. Talk about and encourage his or her strengths and talents.
Learn about ADHD. The more you know, the more you can help yourself and your child.
What happens if ADHD is left untreated?
ADHD is a very respsonsive condition. However, if left untreated it has an adverse impact that can extend into adult life. The immediate impact is seen on academic functioning. A child who is doing well in primary school shows a deterioration in academic performance when their attention capacity is overwhelmed with the increasing syllabus. These poor performers are often relegated to the back benches where they are easily influenced by peers with no interest in academics and no regard for rules. They are introduced to smoking and other gateway drugs to which children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder are highly susceptible. Conduct issues with absenteeism and low attendance add to the problems. Poor performance in board exams leads many teenagers to drop-out or not get into the career streams for which they are otherwise capable. Antisocial or even criminal traits are markedly increased in adulthood. Children with ADHD are prone to accidents and physical injury. In adulthood they have frequent driving accidents. Psychological disorders like social anxiety and depression are also common. Relationship difficulties are common as are marital problems. Hence it is important to initiate treatment and therapy for ADHD at the earliest.