By Angela Tzelepis, Ph.D.-Senior Director, Psychological and Clinical Training
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. ADHD. You’ve heard of it; but what do you really know about this disorder? If you’re wondering about whether your child is struggling with ADHD, you probably have lots of questions. Our experts at The Children’s Center have compiled this list of 5 Things You Need to Know About ADHD — and we also offer an ADHD Clinic to help children — and their parents — cope with the effects of the disorder.
1. ADHD is a very real and common disorder that affects children, adolescents and adults of every background. It is a childhood problem that continues into adulthood.
People withADHD act without thinking, are hyperactive and have difficulty staying focused and paying attention. Nearly 8-10 percent of children have ADHD and boys are often diagnosed up to three times as often as girls — and nearly 5 percent of adults continue to struggle with ADHD.
2. Genetics, pregnancy factors, high levels of exposure to toxic lead may be contributing factors in development of ADHD.
There is no single cause of ADHD. Scientists have found that genetics and inheritance is likely the most important link in developing ADHD. This means that ADHD runs in families. Research also has shown that smoking and drinking alcohol during pregnancy may lead to having a child with ADHD. Another risk factor may be premature birth and low-birth weight. And young children may be at a greater risk of ADHD if they were exposed to toxic levels of lead, such as from paint in old homes.
Scientists have also found that ADHD is not caused by poor parenting, sugar, food additives or vaccines.
3. The key symptoms of ADHD are hyperactivity, inability to pay attention and being impulsive — but many children with ADHD also experience other illnesses and conditions as well.
- Common accompanying conditions include:
- Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Conduct Disorder
- Learning disabilities
- Substance and alcohol abuse
- Anxiety, including Social Anxiety
- Bipolar Disorder
- Sleep disorders
Because ADHD can become complicated with other behaviors, it’s important to properly diagnose and treat ADHD. In some cases, a child’s behavior may look like ADHD, but the behavior may be due to stress, trauma, and depression or sleep problems. That’s why a thorough evaluation is important. A proper evaluation involves understanding the child’s behavior in school, home, and other situations, as well looking the developmental and medical history.
4. The average age of ADHD diagnosis is 7 — but symptoms usually start to appear between the ages of 3 and 6.
Does it seem like your child is out-of-control, or perhaps just can’t sit still long enough for you to cook dinner? That may be normal; or it may not be. Kids are known for their exuberance and constant motion — and the symptoms of ADHD appear in many different ways for each child. You may have a nagging suspicion in the back of your mind, but you don’t know. And once your child reaches school age, a teacher may notice the inability to pay attention is more prevalent than it should be at that age.
Making a diagnosis of ADHD is often difficult because there’s no one “test” to determine it. You can ask your pediatrician for advice and an assessment, and possibly a referral to a children’s mental health specialist for further testing. The sooner a diagnosis is made, the sooner treatment can begin and your child can live up to his or her full potential – with less of a struggle.
5. YOU can help your child manage his or her ADHD, stay focused and be more organized.
- Have consistent rules and consequences to follow. It’s easier for kids to follow through when they know exactly what is expected of them.
- Keep a written schedule, so he or she knows what is expected — in the morning, at school and at home.
- Become more organized yourself. Children learn by example and you’ll be less frazzled and on top of things, too.
- Praise, praise, praise. That is, praise your kids when they follow directions or complete a project. And express encouragement, not criticism, when they need a little help.
THE CHILDREN’S CENTER
The 5 Things You Need to Know About ADHD is just the beginning. The Children’s Center is here to help children and their families in the Detroit area to shape their own futures in so many ways! For more information, visit us at www.thechildrenscenter.com or call us at (313) 831-5535.