Some children can run and play for hours without getting tired. Some children can’t sit still without fidgeting. However, not all of these children actually have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, better known as ADHD.
A disorder which affects as many as 5 to 10 percent of the population, ADHD is characterized by an inability to stay focused and pay attention. However, many children, such as rambunctious boys, get misdiagnosed with ADHD when they’re simply energetic children. Other children with the disorder don’t get the proper diagnosis and help they need. Here’s how to tell when a child has ADHD or when he or she is just lively.
Types of ADHD
There are three types of ADHD. Children with inattentive ADHD have difficulty paying attention, following through on tasks and completing homework or chores. They get distracted easily, lose homework, pencils or other important items; and don’t listen when someone speaks to them, according tot he fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Girls are more likely to receive this diagnosis. However, many girls with this disorder are dismissed as daydreamers and go unnoticed and undiagnosed because they don’t show symptoms of excessive energy.
Boys are more likely to be diagnosed with hyperactivity-impulsivity ADHD. They squirm and fidget, have difficulty sitting still, often leave their seat in the classroom without permission and run and clumb on furniture. They talk constantly, may interrupt others, often blurt out answers in the classroom and have difficulty waiting in lines and taking turns, according to the DSM-V.
The third type of ADHD, the combined type, is most commonly diagnosed. It affects an equal number of boys and girls. Symptoms include both inattentiveness and hyperactivity.
For all types of ADHD, children must show symptoms for at least six months, and symptoms need to be severe enough to disrupt a child’s life. Symptoms must take place in at least two different places such as school or home. If the problem only occurs in one place, it’s most likely not ADHD but a school or family problem.
Think Medical First
This classic advice given to social workers applies to children suspected of having ADHD. Sometimes a medical condition is causing symptoms that appear to be ADHD. For example, hyperthryoidism or an overactive thyroid may cause children to show signs of ADHD.
Another issue which may cause these same symptoms is inadequate rest. Children need to get at least 10 hours of sleep per night. Children who stay up late may appear to be hyperactive. Or the child may have a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea.
Consider the Child’s Age
Most children in preschool appear to have ADHD. However, most of them don’t. They are simply too young to master skills such as sitting still. Most children can master this skill by age 7. Children older than 7 who still struggle to sit still may have ADHD.
Notice how the child reacts in the classroom, playground or a sports field, if the child plays sports. If a child seems more active than other children, he or she may have ADHD. If one child is unable to follow simple directions given by a coach or gym teach while other children can do this, the child may have ADHD.
What to Do If You Suspect ADHD
Step one is to have the child undergo a thorough medical examination. Be sure to get the child tested for sleep and thyroid disorders.
Then, have the school psychologist or a private psychologist test your child. Testing will not only reveal whether the child has ADHD but also may reveal other problems such as learning disabilities. Some children have difficulty paying attention because they have an undiagnosed learning disability.
Remember, help is available so your child can grow into a healthy adult despite his or her diagnosis. The sooner you seek that help, the better off your child will be.
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, published by the American Psychiatric Association
My own experience working with children with ADHD
This article was based on one I previously published on Wikinut