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Children and ADHD, Fact or Fiction?

February 02, 2015

Does your child run non-stop?  Going from one toy to the next, flipping TV shows before they even know what’s on them, blurting out questions like a game show host?  Do they sit and listen to you and then when you ask them to do something; they give you a blank stare and claim not to have heard you?  Most children act just this way, but when is it too much?  When does a parent say I think we may have a situation?  Usually when someone else like a teacher tells us that our child is acting out, or not paying attention, until then we as parents generally do not see that our children might need help in learning how to control themselves.  Some children might have ADHD.  ADHD can sometimes be difficult to diagnose. Oftentimes, the question surrounding children who are thought to have ADHD is, “Isn’t that typical kid behavior?” Sometimes the answer is yes. Many young children have a lot of energy and short attention spans, although TV shows and other activities they enjoy can hold their attention for long periods of time—just as with children with ADHD

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity-Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common childhood disruptive behavior disorders and can continue through adolescence and adulthood.   Symptoms include difficulty staying focused and paying attention, difficulty controlling behavior and impulsivity. ADHD begins in childhood, and require that several symptoms be present prior to age twelve.  The average age of onset is 7 years old, this age corresponds to when children enter the school setting.

Some children behave one way at home but then when they are at school or another place their behavior is completely different.  For children with ADHD the behaviors are mostly the same across multiple settings. Often time’s mild delays in language, motor, or social development are known to occur with ADHD.  Inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity are the key behaviors of ADHD. It is normal for all children to be inattentive, hyperactive, or impulsive sometimes, but for children with ADHD, these behaviors are more severe and occur more often. To be diagnosed with the disorder, a child must have symptoms for 6 or more months and to a degree that is greater than other children of the same age.

ADHD has three subtypes; inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity.  Children who have symptoms of inattention may;  be easily distracted, miss details, forget things, and frequently switch from one activity to another, have difficulty focusing on one thing, become bored with a task after only a few minutes, unless they are doing something enjoyable, have difficulty focusing attention on organizing and completing a task or learning something new; have trouble completing or turning in homework assignments, often losing things (e.g., pencils, toys, assignments) needed to complete tasks or activities, not seem to listen when spoken to, daydream, become easily confused, and move slowly, have difficulty processing information as quickly and accurately as others, and struggle to follow instructions.

Children who have symptoms of hyperactivity may; fidget and squirm in their seats, talk nonstop, dash around, touching or playing with anything and everything in sight, have trouble sitting still during dinner, school, and story time, be constantly in motion, have difficulty doing quiet tasks or activities.

Children who have symptoms of impulsivity may; be very impatient, blurt out inappropriate comments, show their emotions without restraint, and act without regard for consequences, have difficulty waiting for things they want, or waiting their turns in games, and often interrupt conversations or others’ activities.

Often time’s parents and teachers can miss children with symptoms of ADHD, especially the inattentive type.  Children with this subtype are less likely to act out or have difficulties getting along with other children. They may sit quietly, but they are not paying attention to what they are doing. Therefore, the child may be overlooked, and parents and teachers may not notice that he or she has ADHD.  ADHD and Anxiety Disorder may also emulate each other with similar symptoms of low concentration, inattention and hyperactivity which can thus lead to another common misdiagnosis.  Therefore, it is very important to rule out some things before running with an ADHD diagnosis and the resulting prescription medications.

Parents and teachers can miss the fact that children with symptoms of inattention have the disorder because they are often quiet and less likely to act out. They may sit quietly, seeming to work, but they are often not paying attention to what they are doing. They may get along well with other children, compared with those with the other subtypes, who tend to have social problems. But children with the inattentive kind of ADHD are not the only ones whose disorders can be missed. For example, adults may think that children with the hyperactive and impulsive subtypes just have emotional or disciplinary problems.

Scientists are not sure what causes ADHD, although many studies suggest that genes play a large role. Like many other illnesses, ADHD probably results from a combination of factors. In addition to genetics, researchers are looking at possible environmental factors, and are studying how brain injuries, nutrition, and the social environment might contribute to ADHD.

Environmental factors: Studies suggest a potential link between cigarette smoking and alcohol use during pregnancy and ADHD in children. In addition, preschoolers who are exposed to high levels of lead, which can sometimes be found in plumbing fixtures or paint in old buildings, may have a higher risk of developing ADHD.

Sugar: The idea that refined sugar causes ADHD or makes symptoms worse is popular, but more research discounts this theory than supports it. In one study, researchers gave children foods containing either sugar or a sugar substitute every other day. The children who received sugar showed no different behavior or learning capabilities than those who received the sugar substitute. Another study in which children were given higher than average amounts of sugar or sugar substitutes showed similar results.

Food additives: Recent British research indicates a possible link between consumption of certain food additives like artificial colors or preservatives, and an increase in activity. Research is under way to confirm the findings and to learn more about how food additives may affect hyperactivity.

If you think your child may show signs of ADHD, early treatment plans can greatly mitigate behavior.  Scientifically approved treatment plans allow for children and adults to be able to cope with undesired behaviors in a positive and healthy manner.

Treatment plans may include, and not limited to, medication assessment and if necessary management, creating a supportive and nurturing family dynamic, and academic setting, utilizing positive behavior/reward charts.    Also, many children with ADHD may not be viewed by their friends, teachers or even other family members as “good” kids, therefore positive reinforcement of their self-worth is very critical if they are to emerge from this condition with healthy self-esteem.  Equally important are learning and implementing positive coping and communication skills.   All of the aforementioned have shown to be successful with producing more managed behaviors, such as being cooperative, respectful and compliant, and ultimately children who can achieve very successful and happy lives.

Nancy G.

About the Author
I have been affiliated with the first responder community for the past 25 years and I am a volunteer member of the Oakland County Critical Response Organization (OCCRO) team. You can read my full profile/bio here!