ADHD is considered a neurodevelopmental disorder that impacts behaviour and is usually detected in childhood (around 3-7 years old), particularly during transitional periods (like when starting school). However, it can go undetected until adulthood – please see our article about ADHD in adulthood here. Individuals who experience ADHD may experience impulsive behaviours, restlessness, trouble focusing, sleep problems, and possibly anxiety. These symptoms often improve over time, but not always, which means that difficulties relating to ADHD can persist into adulthood.
There are two types of behavioural problems that derive from ADHD. These are inattentiveness (difficulty concentrating and focusing) and hyperactivity and impulsiveness. It’s true that often people who have ADHD experience both types, but not always. For example, around 20-30% of people experience difficulties with concentration and focusing and not with hyperactivity and impulsivity. These individuals are experiencing a form of ADHD known as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) but because ADD is not as obvious as ADHD it can go undiagnosed. Also, because girls are socialised to behave less overtly than boys, they often go undiagnosed, unlike boys. It can be helpful therefore to notice inattentiveness in girls.
Symptoms In Children & Teenagers
The symptoms of ADHD in children have been well documented and are usually noticed before 6 years of age. Children might experience inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness, or just one of these behaviours, which occur across situations (such as at home and school).
Sadly these behaviours can make life considerably problematic for children, for example they can experience underachievement at school, unsatisfactory interaction with others, and issues with discipline. This is especially true when ADHD or ADD are undiagnosed, because the child is likely to be met with a lack of understanding and support.
What Does Inattentiveness Look Like?
ADHD inattentiveness manifests in children in the following ways:
- Not staying on task;
- An inability to listen to or follow instructions;
- A short attention span;
- Being easily distracted and side-tracked;
- Making careless mistakes;
- Mislaying things;
- Problems with organisation;
- Shifting activities constantly;
- Not being able to complete tasks that are tedious or take time.
ADHD hyperactivity and impulsiveness show as:
- Being restless and unable to sit still;
- Excessive bodily movement;
- An inability to concentrate on things;
- Talking a lot;
- Interrupting when others are speaking (blurting out answers for example);
- Being impatient and unable to wait one’s turn;
- Acting without thinking;
- Having little to no sense of danger
Associated Conditions With ADHD In Children & Teenagers
Although it is not always the case, some children and teenagers may experience other problems or conditions alongside ADHD. For example: mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, or sleep issues. Also developmental difficulties such as dyslexia or dyspraxia, epilepsy, or Tourette’s syndrome, or oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), conduct disorder; and autistic spectrum disorder (ASD).
There is no definitive known cause for ADHD however some connections have been observed.
The brain: studies have identified several possible brain differences in those with ADHD compared to those without it. For instance, scans have revealed the brains of people who experience ADHD are smaller in some areas, and larger in others, than the brains of people who do not experience ADHD. Studies have also shown that there may be a neurotransmitter imbalance, or malfunction in those who experience ADHD.
Genetics: ADHD has been observed in families and tends to be found in the parent(s) and siblings of those who experience it.
Potential risk factors: include being born prematurely (pre 37th week of pregnancy); Being low birthweight; Being born to a mother who took substances (including cigarettes and alcohol) during pregnancy; Experiencing learning difficulties; Having epilepsy; Or brain damage that occurred in the womb or later in life.
How To Get Help
It’s normal for children to experience times of restlessness or lack of concentration, this is part of being a child and does not necessarily indicate ADHD. If however, you believe your child’s behaviour is different to other children of similar age, it might be helpful to discuss these concerns with your child’s teacher, the school Special Education Needs Coordinator (SENCO), or your GP. Even though your GP will be unable to offer a formal diagnosis, they can carry out a preliminary assessment and refer your child for specialist assessment if appropriate. Seeking help can rule out ADHD at the very least, or lead to getting the appropriate support, should a diagnosis emerge.
What Are The Treatment Options?
There is no cure for ADHD, however there is support available. Children can be supported by their schools via interventions like Social Skills Training, and parents are often provided with advice and guidance or Parent Training Education Programmes. Where deemed necessary, medicine is also offered, something that would have to be carefully considered. Therapies can also benefit. For example, Psychoeducation, Behaviour Therapy, or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which teach individuals how to better manage symptoms and day to day challenges. Other things that might help include reviewing diet and supplementation, something Phinity can offer.
Parenting A Child Who Is Affected By ADHD
Parenting is difficult at the best of times, throw ADHD into the mix and it becomes even more challenging. However having a diagnosis can remind you that your child cannot help their behaviour. You may struggle with things like getting your child to sleep at bedtime, getting them ready for school on time, with shopping, organisation, social events, or getting your child to listen to you and carry out your instructions. Your child’s reckless, disorganised, and daring behaviours can be stressful and exhausting, which is why it is important to remember that there are reasons for it, and that there is support available to you and your child.
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