We are jumping right into our first informational post of the Exploring Neurodiversity and Mental Health series with ADHD!
Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder(ADHD)
Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder(or ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental condition that is characterized by impulsivity, inattention, and hyperactivity. While it is often diagnosed in children and adolescents, ADHD is usually a life long condition. It can be treated with medication, therapy, and accommodations/interventions. On average, about 10 % of children ages 4-17 have been given the diagnosis of ADHD. As one of the most common brain disorders faced by school aged children, it’s important to equip parents. I want to share information on the risk factors, signs/symptoms, and treatments for ADHD.
There is no known cause for ADHD. There are a few factors heighten the risk of a child or adult being diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. The greatest common factor in children and adolescents diagnosed with ADHD is a genetic heritage. Parents who have a family history or diagnosis of ADHD are more likely to produce children with ADHD. Other risk factors include substance or alcohol exposure in the womb, low birth weights, exposure to toxins(such as lead exposure) at an early age, and premature birth.
Much to the chagrin of mommy shaming bands around the world, there is little to no proof that high sugar, television time, or environmental factors such as parenting choices, have any effect on whether a child develops ADHD. While there are behaviors within ADHD that can be affected or worsened by unstructured home lives or high amounts of sugar, these are not risk factors that cause ADHD. Again, most studies point to a hereditary gene, but even if you don’t have ADHD your child may.
The symptoms and signs of ADHD can be broken into two parts: Inattention and Hyperactivity/Impulsivity. The symptoms in both categories can overlap-especially in young children, but are fairly different in how they appear.
- Has trouble maintaining focus on a specific task or goal
- Loses or forgets where they put important items or items neccessary to finishing a task
- Avoids or dislikes activities that require mental concentration for a long preiod of time.
- Often or easily distracted by stimuli unrelated to the task on hand
- Makes or overlooks small and careless mistakes on activities
- Does not appear to be listening when spoken to.
- Distracted easily
- Has trouble organizing, sequencing, and keeping things in the area of which they are meant to be.
- Does not follow through or finish tasks assigned to them
- Unable to sit still (fidgeting, squirming, tapping fingers or feet)
- Runs about or climbs in inappropriate situations(adults and teens may feel the urge to)
- Leaves seat when it is expected of them to stay sitting
- Speaks excessively and without stopping.
- Appears unable to slow down, as if “being run by a motor)
- Unable to partake in hobbies, games, or play quietly
- Interrupts or intrudes in on others conversations and games
- Unable to wait his or her turn
- Answers questions before called on or the question is finished
The above symptoms can be presented in three ways, predominantly inattentive, predominantly hyperactive/impulsive, and combined presentation. ADHD must be diagnosed by a team of professionals. Often it includes working with a psychiatrist, your child’s pediatrician, the teachers they work with, and your own experiences.
This list may be causing you to pause and think “Wow, is that my child?” I urge you to remember that there are developmental and behavioral things that children are capable of doing at each age and some of the above listed “symptoms” can simply be a child at their appropriate level of development. This fact alone is something you must consider. There is also a number of the symptoms a child must present before being diagnosed. There is an amount of time they must be presented for.
But Lauren Jane, now I can’t stop thinking about it. This has crossed my mind before and seeing all these behaviors spelled out. What do I do next to help my child? Or I think I might be dealing with ADHD myself?
The next step is really easy-but can be really hard as well-call yours or your child’s doctor. And if you’re looking at it for your child, contact their teacher as well. Make your worries known to both and request an appointment or an IEP meeting to talk about evaluations being made in school. This sounds really simple; and it should be.
However in this time, it can be hard to make your voice known. While we have covered, true ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder and not caused by bad parenting or too much sugar, there are sadly still doctors and educators out there who are seemingly unaware of this fact. I will be sharing an entire article on advocacy for your children and for yourself. Hopefully that step is easy for you much like it has been for us.
There is no cure for ADHD but it is possible to manage, treat, and reduce behaviors and symptoms. Techniques used to lessen symptoms are often therapy, medication, and interventions or accommodations in school.
As a whole, I am a fan of therapy. I believe it is such an amazing tool for mental wellness. When dealing with ADHD, there are a few different kinds of therapy a family can begin. Behavioral therapy is used to teach those struggling with ADHD techniques to better control their behaviors. Therapy can be used for caregivers as well as those living with ADHD. In a parent/guardian case, therapy is often given to the adult in the relationship to educate them on skills and strategies. A parent will learn how to provide positive communication, positive reinforcement, and structure and discipline.
Behavior therapy can also be used for children. A therapist will work with them to improve functioning in all situations. A therapist may use talk therapy, as well as play therapy. Play therapy is using imaginary play to communicate emotions and circumstances. This is often used for much younger children. It is important caregivers and children are working together within therapy.
Some children and adults are able to fully function and control behaviors without the assistance of medication. For others, it is an integral part of coping with ADHD. I want to be clear when I say this blog will always be a space where I support the usage of medication when prescribed by a medical professional. Simulants are most often used to treat ADHD, though there are on-stimulant options. Since I am not a doctor, I won’t further elaborate my knowledge(or lack thereof) on medications. I will simply leave here that they are an option in ADHD treatment.
Interventions/Accommodations at School
If your child is diagnosed with ADHD and attending a school that recieves federal funding, they may qualify for an IEP(Individual Education Plan). I highly recommend researching what your state offers as far as support within the school systems. Ask your child’s teacher for help and information on contacting a district psychologist and know your rights! (This post will be coming at a later date!)
If you believe that you or a child in your care is struggling with ADHD, pleae contact your doctor! I am not a licensed professional and this is not intended to be used for diagnosis, rather simply a collection of information.