Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, which is more commonly known as ADHD, continues to gain greater awareness. It is characterized by impulsive, inattentive, or hyperactive behavior in children as well as adults.
ADHD is classified as a Biopsychosocial disorder. A growing body of research has found that it appears to be linked to genetics, as well as certain life experiences, and other social factors. It’s estimated that ADHD affects roughly 3% to 5% of individuals.
Symptoms of ADHD tend to make it difficult for the individual to remain attentive. Symptoms tend to worsen when performing repetitive tasks. Individuals with ADHD, particularly children, often struggle to effectively manage emotions and often respond inconsistently to consequences. They also tend to struggle with inhibition.
Early detection and effective treatment can help to significantly reduce negative educational, behavioral, and psychosocial issues. Accurate diagnosis and treatment in children helps reduce academic problems and dropout rate. It can also reduce the chances of your child struggling with things like depression, behavioral disorders, vocational skill training issues, and relationship problems. An effective ADHD treatment plan can also help reduce substance abuse problems in adolescents and young adults.
Identifying ADHD In Children
Symptoms of ADHD-related behavior tend to manifest in early childhood. They tend to develop over the course of six months or more with onset before the age of seven.
There are essentially four defined subtypes of ADHD.
ADHD-Inattentive Type is typically classified in individuals with at least six of the following symptoms or behaviors:
- Failing to pay close attention to details
- Making careless mistakes
- Struggling to maintain attention
- Appearing not to listen
- Struggling to follow instructions
- Difficulty organizing tasks
- Avoiding or strong dislike of performing tasks that require sustained mental effort
- Losing items
- Being distracted easily
ADHD-Hyperactive/Impulsive Type is classified in an individual with at least six of the following characteristics:
- Fidgeting with hands or feet
- Inability to sit still
- Difficulty staying on task
- Struggling to stay quiet
- Talking excessively
- Blurting out answers to questions
- Difficulty waiting their turn
- Interrupting others
Individuals with ADHD-Combined
Individuals with ADHD-Combined Type, demonstrate both the inattentive and the hyperactive/impulsive criteria.
ADHD-Not Otherwise Specified,loosely defined by an individual who displays characteristics of ADHD, but not a sufficient number of symptoms to classify as a fully confirmed diagnosis. Yet their symptoms also prove disruptive to a healthy life.
Children with ADHD are more likely to not advance to the next grade level. They also demonstrate consistent academic underachievement, as well as social and emotional problems. All these factors lend themselves to an increased chance of dropping out of school before graduation.
ADHD is sometimes inaccurately portrayed as being a learning disability. However, it is technically classified as a type of performance disorder. A child with ADHD is still able to learn, yet their symptoms and behavior make it hard for them to perform well in school.
It’s estimated that approximately 20% to 30% of children with ADHD do have some type of learning disability, which can potentially obscure the diagnosis or complicate treatment goals.
Children with untreated ADHD tend to be at increased risk of developing problems related to oppositional defiance, delinquency, conduct disorder, depression, and anxiety. This can be even more pronounced in adolescents who struggle with academics and social interaction.
A growing body of research has shown a significant difference in the function and structure in the right hemisphere of the brain of an individual with ADHD. This includes the pre-frontal cortex, basal ganglia, and corpus callosum, as well as the cerebellum.
Effective diagnosis of ADHD requires several key facets. The first step is a comprehensive evaluation, which can be performed by the physicians and specialists at The Pediatric Group. This includes collecting a detailed life history.
In many cases, the ADHD evaluation will also assess things like intellectual, academic, social, and emotional abilities. A thorough medical exam is also called for to rule out other potential symptomatic causes such as an adverse reaction to certain medications, or an undiagnosed thyroid problem. It might also be necessary to collect information from teachers and other adults who interact routinely with your child.
Developing An Effective ADHD Treatment Strategy
An effective ADHD treatment plan often involves a coordinated effort on multiple fronts including medical intervention, mental health services, educational professionals, and of course significant engagement from the parents.
In some cases, prescription medication might also be recommended to treat certain symptoms. A type of drugs known as psychostimulants are the most commonly used medications to help manage symptoms of ADHD symptoms. They are considered to be performance enhancers.
The majority of children with ADHD respond positively to psychostimulant medications. These medications, and efforts made by parents, educators, and health care providers have been shown to help children with ADHD to improve their attention span, control of inhibitions, and hyperactive behavior.
Behavior management is also a very important treatment aspect in helping children with ADHD. Parental training that helps parents with consistent and fair consequences has been shown to be effective.
A child with ADHD can be taught in a conventional classroom with minor adjustments made to the classroom environment. This might include adding support personnel, as well as engaging in special education programs provided outside of the classroom. Children who are struggling with severe ADHD symptoms may require a specialized classroom setting. A personal ADHD “coach” or tutor who specializes in executive function management (organizational skills) may be helpful, expecially in older kids who are self motivated.
The Pediatric Group can work with you, your child, and other specialists to help develop the most effective treatment strategy for your child. We can answer any of your questions, and help you understand things you can do to fine-tune your child’s experience at home as well as improve their behaviors in school, and in social settings. We also can provide prescriptions as needed, which now can be e-prescribed in many cases. In order to perform these services we require at least two dedicated ADHD visits per year, one of which can be your child’s annual Physical Exam. Call us if you have specific questions or to set up an ADHD talk.