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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

by | Jan 2, 2020 | Children, Family matters, Parenting

It is normal for children to lose interest quite quickly in activities and forget an instruction a few seconds after it has been issued. But when do you concern yourself that your child, more easily than other children, struggles to concentrate, becomes agitated easily and quickly forgets things? When do we identify that these children are not merely naughty, but may be struggling with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD is a complex but relatively common disorder, affecting more boys than girls. By the age of four or five, most children are able to pay attention, sit quietly for a period of time and to measure what they say. So, by that age, those with ADHD will be easily identifiable through the three behaviours that characterise ADHD, which are inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.

ADHD makes it hard for children to hold back on their spontaneous responses, which can be anything from movement to speech to attentiveness. It can become confusing though because children with ADHD are able to pay attention sometimes, for instance, when they are doing a task that they enjoy or learning about a topic in which they are interested. The problem arises when the task or topic does not interest them, is repetitive or is boring, or if there is a lot of activity going on around them; then they quickly lose interest and/or become distracted. It is also difficult for children with ADHD to complete a task. They move from task to task without completing any of them, or they skip a crucial step in the process. Organisation does not come easily to a child with ADHD either – which means that organising homework and schoolwork becomes extremely difficult.

ADHD does not present in the same way in all children. Most commonly, children with ADHD cannot pay attention, are hyperactive and impulsive. However, some children may not be able to pay attention but are not hyperactive or impulsive and others may be hyperactive and impulsive, but are able to pay attention. It is important that those children that present differently are not dismissed as ‘just being unable to concentrate’, but are given the help that they require 

It is important to note that intelligence and ability have nothing to do with ADHD. Children with ADHD often exhibit great creative ability and imagination. They are also more emotionally flexible and open to many different ideas. These children are also very enthusiastic and energetic. They are interested in many different things and also work hard to succeed.

Here is a list of the three main symptom clusters and what to look out for in each cluster:

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Inability to pay attention

  • Difficulty staying focused
  • Easily distracted
  • Easily bored before completing a task
  • Seems not to listen when being spoken to
  • Difficulty remembering things
  • Struggles to follow instructions
  • Makes careless mistakes
  • Difficulty staying organised or planning things
  • Does not finish tasks
  • Often loses things
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Hyperactivity

  • Ongoing fidgeting and moving

  • Difficulty being quiet, calm and still

  • Talks excessively

  • Is easily angered and has a temper

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Impulsivity

  • Acts without thought

  • Does not think through things and just blurts out answers

  • Interrupts others conversations and games

  • Has angry outbursts or temper tantrums

What to do if you think your child has ADHD?

Some medical conditions such as epilepsy or thyroid problems, other psychological disorders such as learning disabilities, anxiety and depression, traumatic experiences or behavioural disorders may cause symptoms similar to ADHD. Therefore, it is important that a diagnosis of ADHD be made by a qualified professional, such as a Clinical Psychologist, a Child Psychiatrist, a Paediatrician or a General Practitioner. ADHD cannot be cured but there are many things one can do to help the child deal with the symptoms of ADHD. Your health professional may prescribe medication. However, it is also important for a parent to take control of the situation at home. Children with ADHD need structure, consistency, clear communication, rewards and consequences for their behaviour. They also need love, support, and encouragement. Here are some things you can do at home that will make a big difference:

  • Make sure that you are healthy, well rested, are managing your stress effectively and have a good support structure. If you as a parent are not doing well yourself, it will be much harder for you to create an environment that is conducive to your ADHD child living their best life
  • Create a structure for your child and assist your child in following the structure and completing daily activities, no matter how small you may think they are
  • The structure should include a routine which has a fixed bedtime, bath time and play time
  • Set clear boundaries. Make sure that your child knows which behaviours are acceptable and which are not and what the consequences are for poor behaviour
  • Make sure that your child engages in physical activity and exercise every day
  • Ensure that your child is eating a healthy diet, free from fast foods, refined foods and sugars
  • Teach your child the nuances of effective interaction with others, including good listening skills and effective communication
  • Provide a calm and quiet environment in which homework and other tasks that require concentration can be done

Some final tips

  • If you suspect your child has ADHD, get him or her diagnosed as soon as possible by one of the health professionals identified above – the sooner the diagnosis is made, the quicker you can start managing the ADHD, helping your child to live their best life
  • Take care of yourself – you need to be physically and emotionally healthy to help your child
  • Implement boundaries, create structure and create a fixed routine
  • Encourage and support your child
  • Help your child with interactional skills
  • Recognise that ADHD does not indicate anything about intelligence

Acknowledge your child’s unique talents, such as creativity, imagination and emotional flexibility