Thursday, June 5, 2008

How Do I Know If My Child Has ADD?

School is back in session and the kids are settling into their academic routines with vigor and gusto. They eagerly prepare for school the night before, completing their homework, doing their chores, and even laying their cloths out for the next day. Standing at the front door, a gentle breeze blowing, bells in the distance chiming, you bid them good bye with a small kiss and pat on the head as you send them off to another perfect day of school. No arguments, no nagging, it’s just those darn bells keep ringing and getting louder and louder. You awaken suddenly. Dazed and confused. Oh no! It’s 7:00 AM!

It’s Monday. “Kids!” you scream. “Get up!” “Hurry, we’re late for school!” A flurry of activity springs into action and Monday mayhem begins all over again. “Why didn’t you tell me that your school report was due today?” can be heard over the din of activity. The flush of panic grips your heart. You wonder how will this kid ever make it if he doesn’t follow through with his homework and pay attention in school. Is there something wrong with him? Is there something wrong with you?

Children who experience difficulty finishing tasks, who are easily distracted, who squirm or fidget, talk excessively, appear to not be listening, are often forgetful, interrupt others and exhibit a greater than average amount of body movement are possible candidates for a diagnosis of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

It runs in families because it has a very strong link to genetics.
More often than not, if a child in the family has ADHD, there is a good chance that at least one parent experiences it as well. In reality, approximately 3% to 5% of school age children can be diagnosed with ADHD. Up to 70% of those children will continue to experience ADHD into adulthood.

It is very difficult to diagnose ADHD in someone younger than the age of 6. Often, what appears as ADHD in a young child is the result of environmental factors at home such as lack of structure and/or poor diet. Once those factors are remedied, the disruptive ADHD like behaviors frequently clear up.

ADHD in a child can be diagnosed by a psychiatrist, child psychologist or other licensed mental health professional. Generally, the child must be showing six or more specific symptoms on a regular basis over a period of six months or longer. Although recent developments have been made in identifying the differences between and individual with ADHD and an individual without ADHD in Magnetic Brain Imaging, it is still a diagnosis more commonly made through behavioral observation by a qualified professional.

There are three subtypes of ADHD:

Combined Type (Inattentive/Hyperactive/Impulsive). Children of this subtype experience all three symptoms. Children experience this form of ADHD the most.

Hyperactive/Impulsive Type. Children of this group exhibit both hyperactive and impulsive behavior; however, they are able to focus their attention.

Inattentive Type. This subtype was once known as attention deficit disorder (ADD). These children are not impulsive or hyperactive, however, they have great difficulty staying focused and on task. Because they are not disruptive, their symptoms frequently go unnoticed.
ADHD is most commonly, and effectively, treated with stimulant medications along with educational programs and behavioral interventions. The list of stimulant medications used for treating ADHD include: Ritalin, Adderall and Concerta. These stimulants are designed to help the ADHD child ignore distractions and focus his or her attention on the task.

A new, non-stimulant, medication has entered the market called Strattera. Its effectiveness is not yet fully proven; however, the early results are quite promising. All medications come with the possible risk of side effects, so be sure to speak with your physician about those possibilities.

Children with ADHD benefit greatly from structure and routine. They would rather play than do homework. They have more difficulty with the rules that govern behaviors. They tend to drift away from following established rules which can put them at odds with the people around them.

ADHD often becomes apparent in the fourth grade. This is a time emphasis is place on working alone while sitting quietly at a desk. This can be an incredibly difficult task for children with ADHD.

Accurate diagnosis and treatment for a child with ADHD is critical. Children with ADHD are frequently suffer the brunt of jokes and teasing at school. Their impulsivity can draw attention to themselves making them targets of negative attention from other children, teachers and authority figures. Their behavior affects their social and emotional development and can cause them to lag behind other children their own age. Children with ADHD have a higher incidence of learning disabilities and conduct disorders. They are also at much greater risk of experiencing anxiety and depression than the general population. Thus, early diagnosis and treatment is important for the well-being of the child.

Once the symptoms of ADHD have been addressed and treated, the natural energy, creativity and drive of the individual can be transformed into something wonderful and fully appreciated. According to, Ansel Adams, George Burns, Jim Carrey, Cher, Bill Cosby, Walt Disney, Albert Einstein, John F. Kennedy and many, many other famous, and highly successful people, have used their symptoms of ADHD make our world a better place.

If you suspect that your child might have ADHD please seek out a psychiatrist, child psychologist or other qualified licensed professional in your area for an accurate diagnosis and treatment. If you child has been diagnosed with ADHD, you may want to speak with the school counselor for further information on resources and programs that may be available to your child through the school. For the parents of a child with ADHD, is a good resource for current information and support.

For more information on ADD and childhood issues, and a free personality profile go to For more information on self-help downloads, and to listen to free samples, log onto The Dr. Walton Series.

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