The child with ADHD who is inattentive will have 6 or more of the following symptoms:
- Has difficulty following instructions
- Has difficulty keeping attention on work or play activities at school and at home
- Loses things needed for activities at school and at home
- Appears not to listen
- Doesn't pay close attention to details
- Seems disorganized
- Has trouble with tasks that require planning ahead
- Forgets things
- Is easily distracted
Causes of ADHDChildren with ADHD have less activity in areas of the brain that control attention. They may also have imbalances in brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. It’s unclear what causes these irregularities, but ADHD runs in families, so many experts believe genetics play a role.
Diagnosing ADHDThere are no lab tests to detect ADHD. Instead, doctors rely on the patient’s response to questions, the family’s description of behavior problems, and a school assessment. With ADHD, a child must display some combination of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity for at least six months to a degree that is maladaptive and inconsistent with his or her age. Some of the symptoms need to have appeared before age
Types of ADHDThere are three forms of ADHD:
- Combined type is the most common and applies to children who display inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness.
- In the hyperactive/impulsive type, children are fidgety and can’t control their impulses, but they are able to pay attention.
- Kids with the inattentive type, formerly called attention deficit disorder, have trouble focusing. But they are not overly active and usually don’t disrupt the classroom.
Medications for ADHDStimulant medications, such as Ritalin, can help increase a child’s attention span while controlling hyperactivity and impulsive behavior. Studies suggest these drugs work in 70% to 80% of patients, although they have some troubling side effects. Non-stimulant medications, including Strattera, are also options for some children.
Counseling for ADHDCounseling can help a child with ADHD learn to handle frustrations and build self-esteem. It can also provide parents with supportive strategies. A specific type of therapy, called social skills training, can help kids improve at taking turns and sharing. Studies show that long-term treatment with a combination of drugs and behavioral therapy is more effective than medication alone.
Special Education for ADHDMost children with ADHD are educated in standard classrooms, but some do better in a more structured environment. Special education is a type of schooling that is tailored to meet the specific needs of children with learning disabilities or behavioral disorders. Not all children with ADHD qualify for special education.
The Role of RoutineParents can give kids more structure at home by laying out clear routines. Posting a daily schedule will remind your child of what he or she is supposed to be doing at any given time. This can help a child with ADHD stay on task. The schedule should include specific times for waking up, eating, playing, homework, chores, activities, and bedtime.
ADHD DietsStudies on ADHD diets have produced mixed results, but many health experts believe foods that are good for the brain could reduce symptoms of ADHD. High-protein foods, including eggs, meat, beans, and nuts, may improve concentration. It’s also helpful to replace simple carbs, like candy and white bread, with complex carbs, like pears and whole-grain bread. Talk to your pediatrician before making any dramatic changes to your child’s diet.
ADHD and Junk FoodWhile many kids bounce off the walls after eating junk food, there is no evidence that sugar is a cause of ADHD. The role of food additives is less
certain. Some parents believe preservatives and food colorings worsen the symptoms of ADHD, and the American Academy of Pediatrics says it’s reasonable to avoid these substances. One brain researcher recommends kids with ADHD steer clear of red and yellow food colorings, MSG, and aspartame.
ADHD and TelevisionThe link between television and ADHD is unclear, but the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests limiting young children’s exposure. The group discourages TV viewing for kids under 2 and recommends no more than two hours a day for older kids. To help your child develop attention skills, encourage activities like
games, blocks, puzzles, and reading.
Preventing ADHDThere is no surefire way to prevent ADHD in children, but there are steps you can take to reduce the risk. You can increase your chance of your child not having ADHD by staying healthy during pregnancy. Start by avoiding alcohol, drugs, and tobacco during pregnancy. Children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy are twice as likely to develop ADHD.
Outlook for Children With ADHDWith treatment, a large majority of children with ADHD improve. They should continue to undergo regular follow-up since many kids grow out of the disorder as they get older. But more than half of patients continue experiencing symptoms once they reach adulthood.