What Parents Need To Know About ADHD
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As a parent, it can be scary, frustrating, and stressful if your child behaves differently, especially if you think the problem is due to misbehaviour and poor discipline. For many parents, ADHD isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when children exhibit symptoms. This is why ADHD is frequently misunderstood and why many ADHD children are labelled as naughty or problematic.
Parents might also feel ashamed or embarrassed by their child’s behaviour and look for solutions centred on discipline. The reality is that empathy is needed, the opposite of discipline. For a child with ADHD to thrive, they need support and understanding.
Our goal is to educate parents about ADHD, so they’re better equipped to support their children. With supportive parenting, children can adjust to their differences and be the best they can be.
We Cover The Following Topics In This Article
- What is ADHD?
- What Causes ADHD?
- Signs That Your Child Might Have ADHD
- Diagnosing ADHD
- ADHD in Adults
- Treating ADHD
- Managing Symptoms of ADHD
- Tips For Parents
- You Owe It To Your Kid To Get Help
What is ADHD?
ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is a common childhood neurodevelopmental disorder. People with ADHD typically battle to maintain attention and sit still. In many cases, they also exhibit poor self-control, which can affect their relationships.
Typically, ADHD is diagnosed in childhood and can last into adulthood. Although ADHD is most commonly diagnosed in children, adults can also be diagnosed with it later on in life.
Teachers are usually the first people to bring ADHD into the minds of parents. This is because ADHD is easily identified in the controlled environment of the classroom. But, if you’re reading this and have a child who battles to pay attention, can be disruptive, and often can’t sit still or fidget, it might be time to assess them.
Interestingly, it is easier to diagnose ADHD in boys because of how the symptoms present themselves. This is why many believe that boys are more likely to have ADHD. In actual fact, it’s just that girls are less likely to present with the most common symptom– hyperactivity. A lot of girls with ADHD actually tend towards inactivity.
What Causes ADHD?
It’s difficult to know what causes ADHD. Scientists have been trying to find out for decades, and there is no clear reason for the disorder. That said, more and more evidence is appearing suggesting genetics may have something to do with it. Some genes have been linked to ADHD, but nothing that’s definitive enough to indicate a clear cause.
So far, evidence shows that if a relative has ADHD, it’s likely to be passed down. Studies also show anatomical differences in the brains of ADHD kids.
Children with ADHD have less grey and white brain matter volume and use different regions of their brains during some tasks. Factors such as low birth weight, premature birth, exposure to toxins, substances, and/or extreme stress during pregnancy may also have an effect.
Signs That Your Child Might Have ADHD
“Kids will be kids.” Most children fidget and get “ants in their pants.” Children are notorious for having trouble waiting their turn, especially if something exciting is coming up. And many children act impulsively because they’re still learning about consequences.
Children with ADHD differ because they experience heightened levels of hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention compared to their peers. Their symptoms are also different because they can cause social problems. It’s not that a child with ADHD is purposefully ignoring instructions or being defiant. It’s just that they may not know how to cope with certain things.
ADHD has three main types:
If you suspect your child may have ADHD, review the list below to see which type of ADHD they present with.
1. Inattentive Type
- Frequently makes careless mistakes when completing tasks and generally battles to pay close attention to details.
- Drifts off and battles to focus on tasks or activities, especially for sustained periods.
- Drifts off when being spoken to.
- Battles to complete schoolwork, chores, and projects, often because of their inability to focus.
- Battles with time management and are disorganised with tasks and work management.
- Avoids anything that requires sustained focus.
- Has the tendency to lose things needed for daily life (keys, papers, cellphones, wallet).
- Loses focus and is easily distracted.
- Is forgetful, forgetting things such as chores, errands, appointments, deadlines, etc.
2. Hyperactive/impulsive type
- Excessive fidgeting and/or the inability to sit still.
- Can’t stay seated.
- Runs and climbs in places or contexts where it’s inappropriate.
- Battles to do anything quietly.
- Always busy and moving about.
- Extremely talkative.
- Inability to wait to talk and will often interrupt or speak out of turn.
- Inability to take turns or wait for something.
- Interrupts and intrudes without permission.
3. Combined type
The child or adult exhibits symptoms from both the inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive types.
If you suspect your child has ADHD you will need to consult with a medical professional.
In most cases, the first step is to chat with your child’s doctor. A doctor will generally go through your child’s overall health to rule out other possibilities. After that, they’ll have a conversation about your child’s behaviour. They may go through a checklist with you to see how many symptoms your child has and how prominent they are.
Doctors will diagnose ADHD if it’s very clear that a child’s attention span, hyperactivity, and/or impulsivity are beyond the curve of what’s usual in their peer group. If a child’s behaviour has been consistent and ongoing and interferes with their school or home life, then a doctor will usually diagnose ADHD.
There are some cases where a child may need the additional support of a psychologist or a psychiatrist, especially if they have issues with their behaviour or if their ADHD affects their mood and/or causes anxiety. In such cases, a child will undergo further testing and assessment.
Parents should be aware that there are lots of other disorders that share symptoms with ADHD. ADHD can also exist alongside other conditions, which is why it’s so important to be thorough when diagnosing ADHD.
ADHD in Adults
ADHD can continue into adulthood, or an adult may not have been diagnosed as a child.
As with ADHD in children, ADHD in adults can cause a lot of difficulties. Adults can experience problems at work, at home, and in relationships.
Here are some things to look out for if you think you might have undiagnosed ADHD:
- Difficulty with organisation and time management.
- Difficulty listening and following instructions.
- Difficulty focusing on a task.
- Difficulty completing tasks and projects.
- Anxiety and difficulty dealing with stress.
- Feelings of restlessness and impatience.
- Taking excessive risks and being overly impulsive.
- Struggling with relationships and social interaction.
- Carelessness and lacking attention to detail.
- Inability to prioritise what’s really important.
- Continually losing things or forgetting where you put something.
- Speaking out of turn and interrupting.
- Mood swings and irritability.
Adult symptoms aren’t as heightened as childhood symptoms, so they can be difficult to detect. However, if you recognise that you had similar issues as a child then this can help identify that your parents or teachers might have missed something. The next step would be to chat with a doctor or specialist.
Treating ADHD is usually a combination of therapy and medication. If you’re concerned about the treatment plan your doctor has recommended, it’s always good to remember that a good plan is closely monitored with scheduled follow-ups.
In children under five, the focus should be on behaviour. Parents will be given training and strategies to help manage their child’s ADHD.
Treating ADHD with medication
ADHD can be treated with medicine. Parents and children should be aware that medication isn’t a cure, but it will help manage symptoms. A medical professional will prescribe the medicine and discuss the treatment plan with you. As a parent, monitor your child’s symptoms and check for any side effects.
It’s common for doctors to recommend a treatment break. Treatment breaks assess whether medicine is still needed as part of the treatment plan.
Treating ADHD with therapy
Therapy is vital. For starters, children need to understand what ADHD is and how it affects them. This will give them agency when learning to cope with the challenges they may face.
Some medical professionals may also recommend cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT is a form of therapy that analyses how and why we behave in certain ways. The idea is to change the way we think and behave and to be mindful of our interactions.
As a parent, it can be challenging to support a child with ADHD, especially if you’re juggling a career and other responsibilities. There are wonderful parent training and education programmes that are a great way to learn how to interact with and support your child. Another benefit of these programmes is that they’re often group-based, so you get the support of other parents and guardians.
The bottom line is that whatever treatment your child is on should help with symptoms and allow them to cope better at school and at home.
Managing Symptoms of ADHD
Children need to be healthy. This is even more important for children with ADHD.
- Exercise is one of the best ways to manage the symptoms of ADHD. Not only does it get rid of excess energy, but it also improves focus and discipline.
- Alongside exercise, a healthy diet is also recommended. Children should eat lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein.
- Developing healthy sleep patterns is also imperative. Most children need an absolute minimum of eight hours of sleep. Younger children need up to twelve hours, so make sure you set a routine around bedtime so your child is well rested.
- To promote better sleep and overall well-being, limit your child’s screen time. Your child should have no more than two hours of screen time per day. This may be difficult to implement, but the benefits will far outweigh the effort of enforcing this rule.
Tips For Parents
- Understand what ADHD is and get involved in your child’s treatment.
- Learn specifically how ADHD affects your child.
- Communicate your child’s ADHD to teachers and caregivers, and ask them to work with you to support your child.
- Take control of your child’s medicine so that it’s administered safely.
- Understand the side effects of the medication your child is prescribed and keep an eye on their reaction to the medicine.
- Join a parenting training and education programme or support group.
- Parent with empathy and understanding.
- Teach your child one thing at a time and focus on single tasks.
- Learn to understand your child’s behaviour and how to approach it in the best way.
- Be very clear in how you communicate, and make sure you set clear expectations.
- Spend time together and enjoy fun activities together.
- Above all… COMMUNICATE.
You Owe It To Your Kid To Get Help
Getting help is not a sign of weakness or a poor reflection on your parenting. The most important thing is your child and protecting your relationship by being positive and loving. ADHD can improve dramatically with the right treatment and management plan.
Above all, children with supportive parents cope with ADHD a lot more successfully. If ADHD is ignored, it can lead to low self-esteem, behavioural problems, learning problems, impulsive and risky behaviour, and depression. If you are concerned about your child, even if it’s a mild concern, it’s best to put your mind at ease.
At Welwitschia, we have a specialist paediatric offering with specialists in ADHD.
Alternatively, chat with your doctor or a specialist to get the care that your child deserves.
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