From time to time, all kids act like troublemakers; they can’t stay focused at school, don’t pay attention to what their teacher, or ignore parents’ instructions. Being impulsive and hyperactive is a normal part of growing up and all children occasionally act undisciplined, unfocused, or overly energetic. However, if you notice your child is inattentive, forgetful, unable to concentrate, impulsive, or hyperactive most of the time, he/she may be suffering from attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
What are the signs of ADD/ADHD?
ADD and ADHD are neurodevelopmental disorders, manifested through impulsiveness, hyperactivity, and problems with attention. The symptoms usually start to show by the age of six to twelve. Basic characteristics of ADD/ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity and symptoms vary depending upon which characteristic behavior is predominant. These symptoms may be difficult to define and distinguish from normal behavior, but if your child shows some of the following symptoms constantly for more than six months, maybe it’s time to take a closer look and seek help from a child therapist:
-Inattention symptoms: poor focusing and concentration, being easily distracted, inability to remember things (EX: losing personal belongings, toys, pencils, or forgetting instructions no matter how clearly or frequently they’re presented), frequent switching from one task to another without finishing any of them, becoming easily confused, appearing not to listen when spoken to, frequent daydreaming, lack of motivation.
-Hyperactivity symptoms: having trouble being still or silent, being in almost constant motion (running and jumping rather than walking, touching everything in sight, squirming while sitting, climbing things), excessive talking.
-Impulsivity symptoms: impatience, interrupting others while talking (unable to listen), talking without thinking (saying wrong things at the wrong time, blurting inappropriate comments without considering consequences), guessing rather than thinking about possible solutions to a problem.
Children with ADD/ADHD are usually less successful at school, have problems with social skills, often can’t control anger, and tend to develop depression or substance use later through life.
How to help a child suffering from ADD/ADHD?
It’s often difficult to distinguish ADD/ADHD from other medical conditions and psychological disorders (EX: anxiety or depression; bipolar, conduct or learning disorder; thyroid or sleep disorder; epilepsy), so diagnosing ADHD must be made through thorough assessment of the child’s mental and behavioral development. Although some pediatricians and family care doctors can make good ADD/ADHD assessments, due to the complexity of this disorder, it’s best to seek help from a specialized psychiatrist, psychologist, or neurologist. Treatment of ADD/ADHD is usually through behavioral therapy and medication if necessary.
Parenting kids with ADD/ADHD can be very challenging, stressful, and overwhelming; however, with proper education and training, parents can learn to help their child overcome difficulties caused by this disorder, minimize symptoms, and reduce the impact of problematic behavior to the whole family. Children suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder need structure and consistency. They need to learn about consequences of both good and bad behavior, but most of all they need love and support from their parents. Remember to keep things in perspective, your child has a disorder and most of the time her/his behavior is unintentional. Adjust your expectations: avoid being a perfectionist and keep your focus on big tasks your child manages to do successfully. Know that your child, with the right help and encouragement, can overcome difficulties and grow up into a successful adult.