Have you ever wondered, “Does my child have ADHD?” No one wants to hear that their child has Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). But what is ADHD, and is your child displaying common symptoms? Will they grow out of it or need treatment for the rest of their lives?
Most people are unaware of their child’s ADHD symptoms. Alternately, you may be aware of your child’s behavior and are chalking it up to the conduct of an average grade-school-age child. ADHD is more common than most people realize, and the condition is manageable with treatment and learned behavioral skills.
Causes of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Many people have heard of Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADD), but fewer people have heard of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). ADD used to be the term psychologists used to refer to anyone with a mental health condition who lacked focus and displayed disorganization. ADHD, however, now includes ADD symptoms, but also hyperactivity (fidgeting) is present – although, your child may be diagnosed with ADHD without hyperactivity as an issue.
To note, ADHD can coexist with other mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, Tourette’s Syndrome, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and more. Certain genetic factors play a role in developing ADHD as a child.
Other factors include:
- Low birth weight
- Exposure to lead during pregnancy or as a newborn
- Premature birth
- Brain injury
- Use of alcohol or tobacco during the pregnancy
Some parents may believe they are to blame for their child’s ADHD diagnosis. However, parenting styles, excessive screen time, and the overconsumption of sugar do not appear to cause ADHD. Instead, healthy lifestyle changes can alleviate some of the symptoms.
Consider planning and prepping healthy meals and snacks for your child, avoiding added sugars, promoting physical activity, and reducing the amount of time your child spends in front of a screen (television, tablet, cell phone, and more). Adding “Green Time” (time spent outdoors) can also be beneficial for children with ADHD. These small changes will not only provide your child with a sense of well-being but also keep them physically fit and healthy.
If you are the parent of a young child and you suspect ADHD symptoms, speak with your pediatrician. Most doctors and psychiatrists will not immediately try a medication to control symptoms. Your physician may refer you to a therapist specializing in children’s mental health disorders.
This therapist can teach the parents and guardians how to help their child manage his or her symptoms. Family talk sessions are common in psychotherapy as the family learns to navigate through this season.
As your child matures, the doctor may prescribe medication depending on the severity of the condition. The physician and pharmacist can go over what to expect, the scheduling of the drug, and the side effects. You may need to keep a labeled bottle of the medication at the school to be administered by the school nurse if the dose falls during the day.
Does My Child Have ADHD? Symptoms in Children
ADHD symptoms in children and teens are similar, so if your child is between the ages of four and 18, you may notice one or more of the following:
Easily distracted. Children with ADHD have trouble focusing on a task or lesson. They may become easily distracted by things in the room or outside the window. Even small items such as a loose thread on their shirt can pull them away from the task at hand. It may seem as if your child has a shorter attention span than other children his age. This is the trait most commonly described in ADHD and ADD.
Forgetting and losing things. Another common symptom is forgetting and losing items. Your child may forget their homework or lose the house keys or glasses. Even if something is important to them, their mind becomes so busy that they do not realize where they have set something down.
Without a constant reminder and an organized plan, deadlines will come and go. This is most noticeable at school, but most ADHD children will show symptoms at both home and school.
Hurrying and making careless mistakes. Due to their tendency to be easily distracted, rushing around becomes a way of life. Children with ADHD want to move on to the next thing. They may make careless mistakes in their rush to join a friend for a game or play outside.
They may fly through standardized testing, guessing at the answers, simply because they want to do something else less demanding of their time and attention. Slowing down can be challenging, but it is part of managing ADHD behaviors.
Not listening to instructions. Children with ADHD struggle with long lists of instructions. Your child may smile and nod at you, but not recall all of the things on your list of to-dos. This makes school very difficult. Some teachers now implement assignment sheets to help students stay on track and may break assignments down further into written steps. Verbal instructions with several steps can confuse your child as they try to recall the directions.
Unorganized. You are not alone if lost homework and other items are common in your household. Organization is a challenge for children with ADHD. Clutter in their bedrooms, lockers, and desks can also be problematic. You may be able to help your child by creating assignment notebooks and household chore charts to help them remember what tasks to complete and when. As they grow older, these tools will become helpful to keep them on track as adults.
Unable to sit still with fidgeting. Fidgeting has always been considered an annoying symptom of ADHD to those without the condition. However, researchers have learned that fidgeting actually increases chemicals in the brain that help a child with ADHD sharpen their focus.
Even moving their hands can give a child with ADHD the upper hand in concentration. You can now find toys on the market geared toward fidgeting. Check with your child’s school, as some allow students to bring these fidget devices into the classrooms, especially during tests.
Excessive talking. ADHD makes controlling responses difficult. This can lead to children excessively talking at school or at home or blurting out rude remarks without thinking about how their words may offend someone else. Psychotherapy can help a child with learning to think over their responses before speaking and manage empathy for others.
Unable to wait or impatience. This inability to control their responses and impulsiveness will result in a child being unable to wait patiently in line for their turn. They may react with a meltdown or temper tantrum if they cannot get what they want immediately.
Some children react with violence, including yelling, hitting, or throwing things to get their way. A child must learn to control these impulses before they reach adulthood. Psychotherapy teaches a child new skills to control their emotions and responses.
Interrupting others. In extension to being unable to control impulses, a child with ADHD may interrupt others to get their point out before they forget. They may not be aware that others are still speaking.
Since ADHD children also tend to not listen to everything being said, they may focus on what they want to say next or only catch part of what a teacher or parent was saying. A therapist can introduce you to behavior therapy that will reward a child for not interrupting in small increments of time that can eventually be extended.
It is important to note that only a medical professional can make an ADHD diagnosis. Seek help from your pediatrician, pediatric psychiatrist, or a therapist specializing in ADHD symptoms in kids.
ADHD is not a terminal disease. Your child can change their behavior by learning coping skills as they mature. If you’re still wondering, “Does my child have ADHD?” contact one of the counselors at our office today to discuss your child’s progress.
We customize our clients’ treatment and work closely with the parents and guardians of the child. There is hope. Your child has a bright future awaiting, and we want to see him or her succeed at everything they decide to do. Let us work with you today.
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