Understanding ADHD in Children
Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, referred to as ADHD, affects between 4%- 12% of our nation's youth. Commonly occurring in boys, though girls are not impervious, symptoms can take a severe toll on their normal social and academic development. It is essential for parents to treat the illness and not to treat the child like he/she is difficult or a problem child. Therefore, parents of these children must adopt qualities of patience and understanding, even though the symptoms may be enough for any parent to call Nanny 911.
- Have difficulty following directions and paying attention at school or at home
- Are disorganized, and lose school papers
- Seem not to listen, or forget things, or are easily distracted
- Gloss over details or find difficulty planning ahead
- Are fidgety, climbing or running where they shouldn't be, or can't stay seated
- Interrupt people, blurt answers, or talk excessively
Children who are displaying symptoms of ADHD should not be left untreated. Parents should make an appointment with their family doctor for an official diagnosis, and the doctor will be able to discuss treatment options once ADHD is diagnosed. Children and parents affected by ADHD should understand its origins, and that both genetics and environment play a role in its onset. Studies show that brain structure and chemistry in ADHD patients differ from those who do not have ADHD (1). Areas of the brain that function to regulate behavior, mood, and attention span are noticeably smaller and have less activity and blood flow in those who have ADHD; namely, the prefrontal cortex, the basal ganglia, and the cerebellum. Environmental contributors to ADHD include toxins during pregnancy, and other external stimuli. Cigarettes, alcohol, and other drugs such as cocaine can lead to ADHD-like symptoms if the mother uses while pregnant. Exposure to lead during the pregnancy may also cause ADHD.
Research also suggests (1) that cultural components like poor nutrition, lack of a nurturing environment, and too much T.V. may lead to ADHD. Parents and teachers should cooperate to find the best method of teaching a child with ADHD. Parents will want to select teachers who are optimistic, flexible, and solution-finders. Teachers who praise often and are willing to work hard to help the student achieve are a wise choice. Special education may be a helpful option; if the child is not eligible, parents should not be discouraged. Students with ADHD can still find success with the right treatment and teachers to guide them. Research has also shown (2) that children who have ADHD that have grown into successful adults have triumphed ultimately because someone believed in them. While mostly parents, all adults the child interacts with have the potential to instill the self-esteem it takes to help win the battle. Several parent support groups are available to keep parents aimed at this goal.
Parents can guide their ADHD afflicted child by doing any of the following:
- Help the child identify areas of strengths as well as weaknesses; focus on the good and brainstorm ways to improve weaknesses.
- Encourage sports, extra-curricular activities, or other special interests.
- Give the child opportunities to achieve success (i.e. special chores) and encourage him/her to seek and pursue opportunities on their own.
- Be a constant cheerleader.
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