ADHD – Its Challenges Can Be Overcome

ADHD is an abbreviation for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. It’s also the official name for what is sometimes referred to as attention-deficit disorder (ADD). This common disorder can impact focus, impulse control, and emotional responses. It is often diagnosed in childhood, but sometimes not until the teen years or later. ADHD involves a group of key skills known as executive function. Often it runs in families. From organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is estimated that, as of 2016, 6.1 million children ages two to 17 in the United States have been diagnosed with ADHD.

Many children diagnosed with ADHD have symptoms that persist into adulthood. If your child has ADHD, you know how real it is and how big an impact it can have on everyday living.

ADHD is caused by differences in brain anatomy and wiring, and is not simply all about hyperactivity or laziness. For children who have ADHD, they often struggle with getting and staying organized, managing time, focusing on what’s important, staying on task, managing emotions, following directions, and shifting focus from one thing to another.

Initial ADHD Symptoms Parents Should Out for and at What Age

Difficulties in the areas of inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity can be observed in children of almost any age, and it’s important to understand that these areas are part of every child’s development.

“Parents should begin to get concerned if any of those things are getting in the way of their child’s overall well-being,” said Bob Cunningham, Ed.M, advisor-in-residence on learning and attention issues for Understood, a non-profit organization that empowers parents to propel their children to thrive.

“Parents can start to think it through by talking to the adults who interact most with their child, like teachers, to see if they are concerned or to ask them to observe the child more closely.”

It’s important to be specific about their concerns. If their child is more active than peers or frequently gets in trouble for calling out or acting out physically, it should be handled seriously.

“Inattention is trickier because many people believe that a child with ADHD can’t focus or pay attention,” said Cunningham. “This isn’t the case. Kids with ADHD can pay attention, sometimes with extreme focus, to things they really enjoy. But it can be extremely challenging for them to selectively pay attention to what others believe is important. Parents who have concerns about ADHD can ask their child’s pediatrician or teacher about getting a professional evaluation.”

ADHD frequently co-occurs with other conditions. The Centers for Disease Control reports that in 2016, 64 percent of the 6.1 million children aged two to 17 diagnosed with ADHD also had another disorder, such as anxiety, depression, or autism. It’s also well established that ADHD and learning disabilities like dyslexia co-occur at a high rate. Therefore, parents whose child has been diagnosed with other conditions, need to consider ADHD as well. If their child has been diagnosed with ADHD, it is important to consider other conditions that could also impact the child.  A comprehensive evaluation that includes assessments of attention, academic skills, cognitive functions, and emotional functioning conducted by qualified professionals at school or independently can help determine how best to help the child.

Repercussions of Missing the Diagnosis

ADHD can easily go undiagnosed. Its symptoms can be impacted by many things.  Everything from nutrition and sleep to emotionally charged or traumatic experiences can have an impact. A kind, intelligent, and interested kid with ADHD often does things that get on people’s nerves not because he is trying to be a pain, but because he is not able to effectively control his brain or body.  When it comes to anger and other strong emotions, kids with ADHD can sometimes be less restrained than others because it is difficult for them to control their initial impulses.

“This reinforces the need for a thorough evaluation by qualified professionals to identify ADHD accurately,” said Cunningham.

Undiagnosed ADHD can have serious consequences. The biggest issue is that the child may not get the kind of help and support needed to manage ADHD effectively. Even with proper diagnosis, graduation rates are lower and substance abuse rates are higher for kids with ADHD.

“In addition, we know that later in life, employment rates are lower and incarceration rates are higher,” added Cunningham. “Effective intervention for ADHD in the form of therapy, behavioral help, and medication are well understood, and the child’s school and doctor can work with parents to determine which interventions best suit the child.”

How Do Parents Help Their Child Who Has ADHD?

The best way for parents to help their child with ADHD is to become a knowledgeable advocate and source of understanding and support.

“Professionals, like educators and physicians, can help in many important ways,” said Cunningham.”

He also said that professionals can have open conversations with parents about what they see as a child’s strengths and challenges and if they suspect ADHD, they can encourage parents to seek an evaluation for the child.

If a child has been diagnosed with ADHD, professionals can plan for that child by anticipating how ADHD might impact what they expect the child to do during a particular class, lesson, or activity.

“It’s so important that educators think about the individual child they are teaching and how he or she will interact with the content, teacher, and other students,” added Cunningham. “Once they attain this mindset, they can make a huge and positive impact on a child with ADHD.”

Educators can help by writing key concepts on the board, allowing some movement during class, tapping into students’ interests, and reducing the amount of talking the teacher does.

Other ways parents can help their children are as follow:

  • Investigate behavioral therapy: it can help kids get organized and replace negative behaviors with positive ones.
  • Ask a doctor about medications: there are specific medications that can reduce symptoms.
  • Explore classroom accommodations: these include taking movement breaks, getting extended time on tests to stay seated. Speak to your child’s school administration to explore options.
  • Find a fidget that suits your child’s needs.
  • Assign chores designed to help your child focus and complete tasks.
  • Help your child manage time and cell phone use.
  • Help your child manage anger and frustration.
  • Find ways to help your child slow down on homework.

“One of the most important things parents can do is to educate themselves about how a child’s brain is impacted by ADHD and what that means in terms of how the child interacts with other people and daily activities,” said Cunningham. “Parents can find that information presented in many different ways, through articles, videos, and graphics at Understood. Once parents have the facts and some good ideas for how to help, they can advocate for their child’s success. They can do this by sharing that information with the people who spend time with their child at home, school, in after-school activities, and in the community. This enables parents to make sense of their child’s challenges and figure out how to respond effectively without being negative.”

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