Does your child have a hard time concentrating? Does he squirm and fidget in his chair when asked to sit at the dinner table? Can he complete a simple task without getting distracted? Does he get frustrated easily, and lose his temper because of his frustration? All children have trouble focusing or sitting still from time to time, but if your child frequently displays these behaviors, it may be time to consult with your doctor.
The symptoms you are seeing in your child may be indicative of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder; one of the most commonly diagnosed brain disorders in children. According to the National Center for Health Statistics and the CDC, the number of children between the ages of 5-17 diagnosed with ADHD increased from 7.2% to 10.2% between 1997-1999 and 2012 -2014. Boys are three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls are.
There is no single test to diagnose ADHD. A combination of factors can be tracked and subsequently reviewed by your pediatrician to determine if treatment or medical intervention is indicated for your child.
Common Behaviors in Children with ADHD
Some children with ADHD spend a lot of time gazing out the window, or focusing on a picture on the wall when he should be completing an assignment or taking a test. The daydreamer has difficulty focusing on tasks, such as household chores, homework, or requests to take a bath or brush his teeth. His mind wanders with the slightest distraction, and he forgets what he set out to do. This child requires persistent reminders, verbal prompts and encouragement to finish the simplest tasks.
The Child Who Cannot Stop Fidgeting
Restlessness is a common characteristic in children with ADHD. This child slides around in his seat, taps his pencil, rocks back in his chair and bounces his knee up and down to the point of disturbing others. The restlessness is so extreme it prohibits the child from concentrating and often becomes a discipline problem in the classroom.
The Non-Stop Talker
This child shouts out the answer before the teacher has time to finish the question. He interrupts in the middle of a sentence, and can’t seem to wait his turn when engaged in classroom question and answer games. The non-stop talker disturbs others with his incessant desire to make himself heard. If he tries to resist the urge to talk inappropriately, he often disappoints himself by blurting out an untimely comment or remark. He may even look around as if to say, who said that?
The “I Can’t Find My Homework, Pencil, Jacket, Lunch Money, Shoes…” Child
Disorganization is one of the most widespread symptoms of ADHD. The inability to get organized leads to frustration and failure in the classroom environment. This child searches frantically through his backpack to find the elusive homework assignment that took a week to complete. His desk is a disaster. He fails to get the permission slip signed, so he ends up in study hall instead of on the bus with his classmates for the class field trip. The problems intensify as the child gets older and expectations are higher. Middle school teachers expect students to be organized and responsible enough to turn in assignments, finish projects, and keep up with their belongings without constant meltdowns and requests for help.
The Misunderstood Bully
Kids with ADHD or often mistaken for bullies. The misunderstood bully is the kid who runs to the playground, shoving others out of the way to get to the slide first. The impulsivity of ADHD drives him to cut to the front of the line when choosing sides in team games, resist taking turns, and to push another child out of the ice cream line when he notices there is only one container of his favorite flavor left in the ice cream freezer. These kids are reprimanded and placed in time out for their behavior, which leads to other children teasing and ostracizing them. The constant urge to shove his way in to the forefront of every activity does not help him win popularity contests. He leaves school each day wondering why no one likes him.
The Explosive Child
Many children with ADHD are so frustrated by their inability to organize, focus and maintain self-control that they lose their temper and have a full-blown ADHD meltdown. “I’m never going back to school! I hate my teacher and those stupid kids in my class!” he screams out. He may throw himself down and refuse to get in the car when it’s time to leave for school. He may have an outburst in the classroom, leading to misbehavior such as shoving a desk or saying things he should not say to the teacher.
Does My Child Have ADHD? What Can I Do?
Parenting is challenging in the best of circumstances. Parenting a child who has ADHD can be difficult and as frustrating for you as it is for your child. If you notice any of these symptoms are prevalent in your child, you should seek the advice of your health care professional.
Diagnosing ADHD is a process. If a child displays some or all of the symptoms of the disorder for a period longer than six months, and the symptoms are present in one or more settings, it may be time to consider treatment options. Your health care professional should complete a physical exam and consider other factors, such as death in the family, divorce, or medical conditions that can mimic the symptoms of ADHD. ADHD does not have to be a barrier to learning, socializing or success in life. With the proper diagnosis, treatment and support ADHD is manageable. Early detection and intervention is the key to a successful outcome for the child with ADHD.