Many children experience inattentiveness or let their behavior veer out of control. However, for some children, these behavioral issues occur so frequently and severely that they interfere with their day-to-day lives.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a chronic neurobehavioral condition that affects the areas of the brain associated with focus, organization, planning and vigilance.
Dr. Sarah Jerstad, associate clinical director of psychological services at Children’s, explains what parents need to know about ADHD and how best to support your child with ADHD.
In order to diagnose ADHD, a clinician will:
- Interview the parents to obtain a clinical history.
- Supplement interviews with questionnaires given to parents and teachers.
- Complete an observation of the child.
- Often use computerized testing.
“A good clinician will obtain enough history and conduct enough testing to rule out other clinical concerns that could also account for the symptoms the child is experiencing,” Dr. Jerstad said.
How ADHD presents in children
Children who experience symptoms related to inattention may:
- Find it difficult to sustain attention in tasks or activities.
- Fail to finish work they have started.
- Often make careless mistakes.
- Be very forgetful.
Children who display hyperactive or impulsive behavior may:
- Fidget or squirm often.
- Have trouble playing quietly.
- Feel the need to frequently get up and move around.
- Often interrupt and/or talk excessively.
“Kids with combined presentation can show symptoms of both,” explained Dr. Jerstad.
Supporting your child with ADHD
Kids who have symptoms of ADHD may feel very frustrated when they see their peers have success while they are struggling with day-to-day tasks, which can lead to low self-esteem.
“Kids with ADHD are more likely than kids without the diagnosis to have co-occurring learning disorders, anxiety disorders and depression,” said Dr. Jerstad, “These vulnerabilities make it that much more important to closely monitor kids with ADHD for other mental health concerns.”
Parents should provide structure and routine as much as possible at home, such as having a consistent time to get homework done, using a planning tool and providing reminders about what is coming up. It’s also recommended that families work with an educational specialist to get an individualized education plan (IEP) or 504 plan at school. These plans will provide extra support to students, helping them succeed inside and outside of the classroom.
Kids with ADHD experience a number of barriers to accomplishing success at home and at school compared to their peers, but they are often energetic, spontaneous, willing to take risks and are remarkably resilient. With the right resources and support of family, friends and teachers, kids with ADHD show great success in the face of adversity.