What does ADHD look like?

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common neuro-developmental disorder. It is characterised by inability to pay attention, impulsive behaviour and hyper-activity. People with ADHD may seem restless, may have trouble concentrating on a task and may act on impulse.

ADHD usually starts in childhood and often persists into adulthood. Most cases are diagnosed during the age of 6 to 12 years old. The symptoms of ADHD usually improve with age.  People with ADHD may also experience other problems, such as anxiety disorders.

Causes and risk factors

Causes and risk factors of ADHD are largely unknown. However, research indicates that genes play a major role and ADHD tends to run in families. Experts believe that ADHD is mostly hereditary i.e. children with family members similarly affected are at greater risk than other children. 

Other factors suggested as potentially having a role in ADHD include: 

  • Stress during pregnancy 
  • Alcohol consumption or smoking during pregnancy
  • Premature birth
  • A brain injury or a brain disorder (especially damage to frontal lobe)
  • Poor  nutrition 
  • Exposure to toxins, such as lead may affect a child's brain development.

A common misconception is that excessive screen time, too much sugar consumption, poverty, chaos at home or poor parenting may cause ADHD. However, these factors may worsen symptoms of ADHD but are not known to cause ADHD. 

Symptoms

There are three different types of ADHD. A person can be predominantly inattentive, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive or both. 

Predominantly Inattentive Presentation: 
  • Have a short attention span.
  • Easily distracted.
  • Have trouble organizing or finishing a task.
  • Make careless mistakes.
  • Usually lose things.
  • Don’t follow instructions. 
  • Forgetful about routine activities.
  • Doesn’t like to do things that require sitting still.
  • Tends to daydream.
Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation:
  • Have trouble sitting still.
  • May run, jump or climb constantly (especially in smaller children). 
  • Interrupts others.
  • More accident prone.
  • Have trouble waiting their turn. 
  • Talks excessively or speak at inappropriate times.
  • The individual seems restless. 
  • Grab things from people.

Symptoms of the above two types may be equally present in the person as well.

Treatment 

There is no absolute cure for ADHD however with therapy and medications presentation of symptoms can be reduced and functioning can improve. 

Medication: Medication is usually prescribed by a doctor after consultation with the parents. It can help control hyperactive and impulsive behaviour and also improve attention span. 

Mental-Health Counselling: It is a common treatment for ADHD. Therapy helps people manage their emotions in a better manner and also improves self-esteem.

Speech-Language Therapy: An SLP can work with children with ADHD on speech, language, and social problems. The SLP can help a child learn how to plan and organise everyday tasks.

Occupational Therapy: An OT might help people with ADHD develop the essential skills needed to function independently in daily lives e.g. organising, planning, self-regulating etc.

Parent coaching and education programs aim to teach parents and caretakers about behaviour management and increases their ability to help their children while improving their relationship.

How can I help my child?
  • Learn all you can about ADHD. 
  • Ask questions from your child's health care provider in order to understand the problems your child has.
  • Discuss your child’s progress with the therapist.
  • If your child is prescribed ADHD medicine, administer them safely.
  • Discuss your child’s situation at their school and with family members and work with your child's school.
  • Learn which parenting approaches are best for a child with ADHD. 
  • Talk openly and supportively about the condition with your child. 
  • Focus on your child's strengths. 
  • Be an example of calm, focused behaviour.

A few lifestyle changes can also help your child manage symptoms:

  • Eat a healthy and balanced diet.
  • Get some exercise daily.
  • Limit screen time and time spent on electronic devices.
  • Keep a clear schedule and fixed routines.

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