Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders – it is usually first diagnosed in childhood, and often lasts into adulthood.
Children with ADHD may have trouble paying attention and controlling impulsive behaviour; they may act without thinking about what the results will be, or be overly active.
Symptoms of ADHD in Children
A child with ADHD may display the following symptoms:
- hyperactivity and restlessness – they always seem to be on the move;
- compulsive aggression – this behaviour is disruptive at home and in school;
- excitable, impulsive and unpredictable behaviour – easily becoming over-excited, with over-the-top reactions;
- difficulty with tolerating failure or frustration – leading to temper tantrums, or crying often and easily;
- short attention span – difficulties with concentration and focus, easily distracted;
- poor muscle and eye-hand co-ordination;
- poor sleeping habits;
- normal or high IQ – yet experiences difficulties at school.
Reading through the above list, it may seem that it is normal for any child to have trouble focusing, sitting still, and behaving at times! However it doesn’t mean that the child has ADHD.
Most children will grow out of these behaviours, however in children with ADHD the symptoms continue, usually leading to difficulties at school, at home and with friends.
The only way to establish if a child does indeed have ADHD is through a diagnostic assessment by a mental health professional. This takes the form of an interview with the child, his/her parents, teachers and other care givers.
Causes of ADHD
Research indicates that ADHD may develop as a result of traumatic brain injury, lack of oxygen, neurological damage or infection, prematurity, or parental exposure to substances such as alcohol, or nicotine.
It is not caused by poor parenting or by psychological stress, although raising an ADHD child can be both challenging and stressful.
However, environment can impact the expression and progression of ADHD. Health professionals may recommend adaptations at school (or in the workplace in the case of adult ADHD), and educating and empowering the patient and/or their parents to be able to better manage and reduce problematic symptoms.
Research indicates that ADHD medication is quite effective; it works along the same lines, as glasses do for those with vision problems. It can help improve the brain’s ability to focus, and improves the flow of signals along synapses allowing better information transmission. Medication may cause side effects such as decreased appetite and troubles with sleep, or becoming quiet, sad or irritable when the medication wears off.
However medication is only one aspect of successfully treating ADHD.
In the case of a child or adolescent, the parent, child, and school must work together to understand that an ADHD diagnosis is not “an excuse”, but will require the implementation of tailored learning strategies and new parenting methods. Access to resources such as training for parents, and focused phycological intervention is highly recommended.
Some parents have found that changing the child’s diet improves the symptoms.
What can you do to help your child?
- Contact your GP and discussed your concerns for your child;
- Attend a support group, for a chance to chat with other parents dealing with similar difficulties;
- Attend training in parenting skills;
- Learn how to advocate for your child effectively with school and health professionals;
- Build your own support network of family members, friends, other families with ADHD, counselling and other professional services – don’t try to cope alone.
If you are raising a child with ADHD, I welcome you to make an appointment with me.
Author: Vishal Patel, M Social Work, AASW, AMHSW.
Vishal Patel is an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker, with significant experience in working with victims of trauma, abuse and violence. His area of interest includes addressing significant complex and challenging behaviours in children under the age of 12 years. He is able to provide therapy in English, Gujarati, Hindi and Urdu.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3067 9129.