When a child has trouble finishing something, gets distracted from a task, can’t sit still or acts without thinking, parents and teachers often correctly perceive it as part of being a kid. But when a child does some or all of these things often, and it causes problems at home or in school, it may be an indication of something else.
The term attention–deficit hyperactivity disorder actually encompasses three variations of the disorder:
- Poor attention span (inattention and distractibility)
Hyperactivity: Hyperactive children spend a lot of time running around, climbing and struggling to remain seated. Hyperactivity is excessive body movement, more than most children display. Hyperactive children may talk nonstop, repeatedly interrupt people, and fidget and squirm much more than most kids their age. Waiting – whether it’s to take turns or ride on a roller coaster – can be almost impossible for hyperactive children.
Poor attention span (inattention and distractibility): Kids with major attention problems find it difficult to focus on daily tasks and responsibilities. They may find it difficult to complete schoolwork or household chores. They also need reminders to complete basic tasks such as handing in homework, brushing their teeth and getting dressed. If a task involves concentration, such as a long multiple–choice quiz, they’ll often rush through it. Some parents have to break down each step in a process and repeat each part several times as their child completes each step. For example, a parent might instruct their child: “Empty the wastebaskets into a trash bag, and then take the trash bag outside and put the trash bag in the trash can.” Don’t be confused by the fact that children with ADHD can focus, for extended periods, when they find the task to be exciting or rewarding. The excitement of a fun activity, such as video game, overrides the attention problem, helping the child focus. Even children with severe ADHD can focus in these circumstances.
Lack of control (impulsivity): Interruptions, trouble waiting to take a turn, and answering questions before they're finished are all signs of impulsivity. Such behavior may sound like hyperactivity, but there is one major difference: Hyperactivity pertains exclusively to physical movement, while impulsivity implies broader symptoms of impatience. It’s as if the world doesn’t move quickly enough for the impulsive child; everything has to be now, now, now.
Many children have limited attention spans and self–control, and some parents and professionals question whether ADHD is real. But a growing body of research offers evidence that ADHD is a true disorder. Possible causes include genetics, premature birth, low birth weight, smoking or alcohol abuse during pregnancy, prenatal infections, lead exposure and a resistance to thyroid hormone.
How is it diagnosed?
If ADHD is suspected, the diagnosis should be made by a professional with training in ADHD. This includes child psychiatrists, psychologists, developmental/behavioral pediatricians, behavioral neurologists, and clinical social workers. After ruling out other possible reasons for the child’s behavior, the specialist checks the child’s school and medical records and talks to teachers and parents who have filled out a behavior rating scale for the child. A diagnosis is made only after all this information has been considered.
Effective treatments for ADHD are available, and include behavioral therapy and medications. Some treatments for ADHD are medication–based; others involve skill–building and behavior modification. Children don’t grow out of ADHD, evidence suggests, but kids can learn to cope with it and reduce its disruptiveness.
Tips to Help Kids Stay Organized and Follow Directions
Schedule. Keep the same routine every day, from wake-up time to bedtime. Include time for homework, outdoor play, and indoor activities. Keep the schedule on the refrigerator or on a bulletin board in the kitchen. Write changes on the schedule as far in advance as possible.
Organize everyday items. Have a place for everything, and keep everything in its place. This includes clothing, backpacks, and toys.
Use homework and notebook organizers. Use organizers for school material and supplies. Stress to your child the importance of writing down assignments and bringing home the necessary books.
Be clear and consistent. Children with ADHD need consistent rules they can understand and follow.
Give praise or rewards when rules are followed. Children with ADHD often receive and expect criticism. Look for good behavior, and praise it.
Your program is here to help you along the journey of life. No situation is too big or too small. When you and your household members need assistance, reach out anytime and we will help get you on the right path to meet your needs.
Print this article
Option 1: With your mouse, right click and select “Print.”
Option 2: With your keyboard, first press and hold down the “Ctrl” key or "Command" key, then press and hold down the “P” key.