ADHD used to be known as attention deficit disorder, or ADD. In 1994, it was renamed ADHD and broken down into three subtypes, each with its own pattern of behaviors:
- an inattentive type, with signs that include:
- inability to pay attention to details or a tendency to make careless errors in schoolwork or other activities
- difficulty with sustained attention in tasks or play activities
- apparent listening problems
- difficulty following instructions
- problems with organization
- avoidance or dislike of tasks that require mental effort
- tendency to lose things like toys, notebooks, or homework
- forgetfulness in daily activities
- a hyperactive-impulsive type, with signs that include:
- fidgeting or squirming
- difficulty remaining seated
- excessive running or climbing
- difficulty playing quietly
- always seeming to be “on the go”
- excessive talking
- blurting out answers before hearing the full question
- difficulty waiting for a turn or in line
- problems with interrupting or intruding
- a combined type, which involves a combination of the other two types and is the most common
Although it can be challenging to raise kids with ADHD, it’s important to remember they aren’t “bad,” “acting out,” or being difficult on purpose. And they have difficulty controlling their behavior without medication or behavioral therapy.
Because there’s no test that can determine the presence of ADHD, a diagnosis depends on a complete evaluation. Many children and adolescents diagnosed with ADHD are evaluated and treated by primary care doctors including pediatricians and family practitioners, but your child may also be referred to one of several different specialists (psychiatrists, psychologists, neurologists) especially when the diagnosis is in doubt, or if there are other concerns, such as Tourette syndrome, a learning disability, anxiety, or depression.
To be considered for a diagnosis of ADHD:
- a child must display behaviors from one of the three subtypes before age 7
- these behaviors must be more severe than in other kids the same age
- the behaviors must last for at least 6 months
- the behaviors must occur in and negatively affect at least two areas of a child’s life (such as school, home, daycare settings, or friendships)
- The behaviors must also not only be linked to stress at home. Kids who have experienced adivorce, a move, an illness, a change in school, or other significant life event may suddenly begin to act out or become forgetful. To avoid a misdiagnosis, it’s important to consider whether these factors played a role in the onset of symptoms
ADHD can’t be cured, but it can be successfully managed. Your child’s doctor will work with you to develop an individualized, long-term plan. The goal is to help a child learn to control his or her own behavior and to help families create an atmosphere in which this is most likely to happen.
In most cases, ADHD is best treated with a combination of medication and behavior therapy. Any good treatment plan will require close follow-up and monitoring, and your doctor may make adjustments along the way. Because it’s important for parents to actively participate in their child’s treatment plan, parent education is also considered an important part of ADHD management.
Sometimes the symptoms of ADHD become less severe as a person grows older. Hyperactivity tends to get less as people grow up, although the problems with organization and attention often remain. More than half of kids who have ADHD will continue to have symptoms as young adults.
Neurofeedback has also been shown to be a non-medication based physiological treatment that assists with reduction of ADHD symptoms. For further information please contact www.sandiego-neurofeedback.com