Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a prevalent neurodevelopmental disorder that may cause your child to exhibit symptoms such as lack of focus, motivation, and attention. They might frequently forget things, places, and people and find it challenging to keep up with school work. If you have noticed these behaviors in your child, they may be suffering from ADHD, a condition that affects over 6 million children between the ages of 2 and 17.
If left untreated, ADHD can continue to affect your child’s life as they grow into adulthood. However, there are various treatment options available that can help alleviate the symptoms and improve their quality of life. If you are concerned that your child may have ADHD, it’s crucial to seek professional help to ensure an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plan.
Executive functioning skills are a group of cognitive abilities that are necessary for daily living and are commonly affected by disorders such as ADHD. These skills include working memory, following directions, understanding complex instructions, impulse control, attention, perspective-taking, making connections between concepts, emotional regulation, and organization and prioritization.
Although these skills are not innate, we acquire and develop them during childhood to prepare us for adulthood. However, children with ADHD may experience delays in the development of these skills, which can result in difficulties during adolescence and potentially require more intensive support to catch up. It is essential to provide appropriate interventions and support to help children with ADHD develop these skills and reach their full potential.
Executive dysfunction is a common struggle for children with ADHD, and it can impact many aspects of their lives. In school, they may face challenges such as being reprimanded for being too active, struggling to follow instructions, forgetting homework assignments and test preparation, finding it challenging to comprehend abstract concepts like math, being easily distracted by their surroundings and classmates, lacking the necessary study skills to achieve good grades, and difficulty retaining newly learned information.
In terms of relationships, children with ADHD may experience difficulties such as emotional outbursts leading to fights with friends, talking excessively in social settings, interrupting others, struggling to follow conversations and pay attention, and forgetting important dates like birthdays.
At home, executive dysfunction may manifest in conflicts with siblings, difficulty sharing toys and games, forgetting to complete chores or help the family, and having a messy room. These skills are essential for university, careers, and adult relationships, highlighting the importance of addressing and developing them early on.
While children with ADHD can develop these skills, they may require additional support to do so. By providing the necessary interventions and assistance, children with ADHD can improve their executive functioning skills, leading to improved quality of life and better long-term outcomes.
According to the DSM-5, a widely used clinical guide to mental health disorders, ADHD can be classified into three categories: combined type, hyperactive/impulsive type, and inattentive type.
Combined ADHD is the most common type in children and is characterized by both inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity. Children with this type may experience difficulties in paying attention and sitting still.
Hyperactive/impulsive type is the least common of the three categories. Children with this subtype generally have good attention spans, working memory, and emotional regulation. However, they struggle with remaining still, avoiding distractions, and controlling impulsive behavior.
Inattentive type is also uncommon, and children with this subtype can typically control their impulses and sit still. However, they struggle significantly with focus, following directions, and working memory.
Symptoms of each type of ADHD can vary from child to child, and even children with the same subtype can exhibit different symptoms. Gender can also influence symptom presentation, with boys and girls often displaying ADHD symptoms in distinct ways.
Symptoms of ADHD in Children
It’s important to note that only a qualified mental health professional can diagnose ADHD in a child. However, if you suspect that your child may have ADHD, it may be helpful to look out for the following symptoms and compare them to your child’s behavior.
Hyperactive/impulsive type of ADHD is primarily related to control and action. Some of the typical symptoms associated with this type of ADHD include constant fidgeting, inability to sit still for extended periods, talking excessively and interrupting others, speaking impulsively without thinking, difficulty in sharing or waiting for their turn, being in constant motion, low tolerance for patience, emotional outbursts, and inability to stay focused and complete tasks. Diagnosis for hyperactivity/impulsivity ADHD typically requires the presence of at least six of these symptoms. However, only a qualified mental health professional can provide an accurate diagnosis (especially the right kind) is in high demand. Without insurance, prescription drugs can come with a high cost. Also, following the law, some prescribers require proof of injury by way of x-ray and MRI. This is when doctor shopping can be lucrative. If a patient finds a buyer, they’ll work hard, visiting doctor after doctor to receive illegal prescriptions in order to make cold hard cash. Unfortunately, this is most often seen in the world of opiate prescriptions. More than 2 million Americans abuse opioids on a daily basis.
This type of ADHD is characterized by difficulty with attention and focus. Some common signs of inattentive ADHD include:
For a diagnosis of inattentive ADHD, your child will need to display at least six of these symptoms.
It’s crucial to keep in mind that many of the behaviors associated with ADHD are common in children. For instance, running around, talking excessively, and having a short attention span are typical childhood behaviors and may not necessarily indicate ADHD.
To receive an official diagnosis of ADHD, the symptoms should significantly affect the child’s school or home life. Therefore, it’s necessary to look for specific signs and observe how they impact your child.
While the specific cause of ADHD is yet unknown, research has identified several risk factors associated with the development of the disorder, including genetic and environmental factors, brain injuries, and gender.
Twin and adoption studies, as well as brain research, have shown a correlation between ADHD and certain genes, suggesting that the disorder may be genetic or influenced by brain structure.
Environmental factors, including exposure to nicotine and alcohol during pregnancy, low birth weight or premature birth, childhood diet, and lead exposure, have also been linked to an increased risk of developing ADHD.
Brain injury is a less common cause of ADHD, but studies have found that 62% of children treated for traumatic brain injury later developed ADHD.
Gender also plays a significant role in ADHD diagnosis, with boys being more likely to receive a diagnosis than girls. In a 2016 national survey, the CDC found that 12.9% of boys and 5.6% of girls have ADHD.
This discrepancy may be due to societal gender norms, with girls with ADHD often being described as dreamy or sensitive and therefore less likely to be diagnosed. Boys tend to exhibit more obvious symptoms, such as hyperactivity and impulsivity, making them more easily diagnosed at a younger age. However, research suggests that over 75% of girls with inattention type ADHD go undiagnosed.
Diagnosing ADHD in children is not a straightforward process, and there isn’t a single test that can conclusively diagnose it. Typically, a combination of methods is used by doctors to determine whether or not a child has ADHD.
Firstly, your healthcare provider will perform physical tests to rule out any underlying medical conditions that could be causing the symptoms.
Next, the doctor will conduct behavior observations and utilize ADHD rating scales. They might observe your child’s playtime and interactions with their environment, or use computerized tests that resemble puzzle games.
Based on the severity of your child’s symptoms and the outcome of these assessments, your child may receive a diagnosis. However, ADHD often co-occurs with other disorders, so the diagnostic process may take some time.
The traditional view of ADHD has been that it is a mental health disorder. However, in recent years, the terminology surrounding neurodevelopment disorders has evolved. Many people now prefer to use the term “neurodivergent” to describe children with ADHD. This removes the negative connotations of a disorder diagnosis and acknowledges ADHD as a brain difference.
Neurodiversity recognizes conditions like ADHD and autism as natural variations in brain function, rather than disorders or deficiencies. It celebrates the unique strengths and abilities of neurodivergent children, rather than focusing on their weaknesses.
Neurodivergent children have their own distinct thought patterns and cognitive processes. They think and function differently than neurotypical children, who think and behave in socially acceptable ways.
Using the term “neurodivergent” rather than “disorder” has several benefits. It can increase self-esteem and promote a strong sense of identity among neurodivergent children. It can also foster inclusivity and diversity education, and motivate neurodivergent individuals to succeed.
In fact, many professionals now recognize the benefits of neurodiversity. Neurodivergent individuals tend to be highly creative and excel in problem-solving due to their unique perspectives and approaches.
When it comes to managing your child’s ADHD symptoms, the approach you choose is a personal decision. Some parents opt to use a combination of medication, therapy, and skills training, while others prefer to embrace their child’s neurodiversity without intervention.
Determining the right course of action for your child requires collaboration with your doctor. The treatment plan will be tailored to your child’s specific needs, taking into account factors such as their age, the severity of their symptoms, the type of ADHD they have, their response to medication, and your personal beliefs and opinions.
There are numerous treatment options available, and many parents choose to combine several of the following approaches to best meet their child’s needs.
Psychostimulants are the most commonly used medication for treating ADHD. You may recognize them by their brand names such as Ritalin, Adderall, or Concerta. They have been found to be highly effective for children with ADHD.
These medications work by increasing the levels of brain chemicals needed for attention and focus. Children who take psychostimulants may experience improvements in their attention span, motivation, and ability to concentrate. This can lead to better performance in school and other areas of daily life.
It’s important to be aware that all medications have potential side effects. Some possible side effects of psychostimulants include:
While these side effects can be bothersome, they can be minimized if the medication is carefully monitored by a doctor.
The CDC recommends that therapy be the first intervention for young children with ADHD. Before considering medication, they suggest parent training in behavior management.
Behavior management training is a specialized type of therapy where parents learn tools and skills to better manage their child’s behavior. Teachers can also participate in training courses to learn these tools and use them in the classroom.
For children aged six years and older, medication and therapy together are often the most effective treatment plan. Behavior therapy and cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) are commonly used.
Behavior therapy aims to increase positive behaviors and decrease negative behaviors. Young children can attend therapy sessions with their parents or in group settings. As children get older, they may participate in solo therapy sessions.
Cognitive-behavior therapy focuses on changing negative thought patterns. The therapist can help your child identify, analyze, and understand their emotions and thoughts. They can also teach positive coping strategies and self-help techniques to improve emotional regulation.
Executive functioning skills are essential to managing ADHD symptoms, and this type of treatment focuses on developing those skills. Parents can assist their children by providing a framework for living that incorporates different strategies, such as:
It’s essential to experiment with different strategies to find the best treatment for your child.
If you suspect that your child might have ADHD after reading this article, it is recommended that you schedule an appointment with your doctor for a proper diagnosis. Remember that early diagnosis is crucial in providing early interventions and setting your child up for success.
If you are looking for evidence-based mental health treatment in Whitter, California, contact us today. Our mental health professionals are dedicated to providing a safe and welcoming environment for you and your child. Let us help you navigate your child’s ADHD diagnosis and treatment journey.