ADHD in children- Identifying the signs & symptoms

Radhika could not believe it when her daughter Neeru failed in her school test, moreover, her teacher complained that she was unable to complete any work in the class….What is the problem with Neeru…?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is common childhood behavioural disorder, but it can be difficult to diagnose and even harder to understand.

Children who have ADHD may know what to do, but they are always unable to complete their tasks because they are unable to focus, are impulsive, or are easily distracted.  For example, children with ADHD often cannot sit still or pay attention in school.

All children have difficulty paying attention, following directions, or being quiet from time to time, but for children with ADHD, these behaviours occur more frequently and are more disturbing to the children and those around them.

ADHD has a biological origin.  Research shows that some children may have a genetic predisposition toward ADHD; it is most common in children who have close relatives with the disorder.  Recent research also links smoking during pregnancy to later ADHD in a child, and there is a strong possibility that other substance use may have the same effect.

Although not proved whether this could be a cause of the disorder, it has been found that certain areas of the brain, in the frontal lobes and basal ganglia are about 5% to 10% smaller in size and activity in children with ADHD.

Hyperactivity and poor impulse control can also occur in response to significant family stress.  Children who have experienced a divorce, a move, a change in school, or other significant life events may display impulsive and overly active behaviour, forgetfulness, and absentmindedness, which may be misdiagnosed as ADHD.  It is important to rule out these factors when considering a diagnosis of ADHD.

Many children with ADHD also have a specific learning disability, which means that they might have trouble mastering language or other skills, such as math, reading, or handwriting.  The most common learning problems are with reading and handwriting.  Although ADHD is not categorized as a learning disability, its interference with concentration and attention can make it even more difficult for a child to perform well in school.

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ADHD affects all aspects of a child’s home and school life.  Parent education and support groups to help family members accept the diagnosis and to teach them how to help the child cope with frustrations, organize his environment, and develop problem-solving skills are recommended.

Tips to help children with ADHD     

  • Modify the environment in an effort to reduce distractions.
  • Provide clear instructions.
  • Focus on success. Provide formal feedback, such as a star chart to reinforce your child’s positive behaviours and reward his progress even if it falls little short of the goal.
  • Provide structure for the child.
  • Help the child organize.
  • Encourage the child to control impulses.
  • Encourage performance in the child’s areas of strength, and provide feedback to him in private. Do not ask the child to perform a task in public that is too difficult for him.
  • Consult a specialist, a special educator, or psychologist to help design behavioural programs to address specific problems in the classroom.

Encourage active learning.  Teach the child to underline important passages as he reads and to take notes in class.  Encourage him to read out at home if fluency and comprehension are a problem.

 Also read: School refusal in children and what to do 

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