Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, can be a challenge to understand and manage.
As a parent you may feel stressed or frustrated, thinking that your child is misbehaving, while your child may be equally struggling to control their frustration when they find tasks difficult or boring to complete.
However, children with ADHD aren’t misbehaving on purpose. ADHD is a medical condition that can affect your child’s attention span and self-control as well as other behaviours.
In fact, about 5 per cent of children are diagnosed with the disorder, with the actual number likely higher as the condition is often unrecognised and undiagnosed, especially in older children. Children with ADHD continue to have symptoms throughout adulthood.
Learning about ADHD and approaches to better manage the condition can help you and your child build a strong relationship and develop strategies to overcome the challenges of living with ADHD.
What is ADHD?
ADHD is a mental disorder that primarily affects your child’s ability to regulate their attention, impulses and hyperactivity.
Children with ADHD often find it challenging to focus on tasks, follow instructions and control their impulses, leading to difficulties in both school and social settings.
The disorder exists along a spectrum with three main presentations: predominantly inattentive, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, and a combined presentation of both.
- Predominantly Inattentive Presentation: Imagine a child who often seems to have trouble focusing, staying on task, or paying attention to details. They might daydream frequently, miss out on instructions, and struggle with organization. This presentation primarily highlights difficulties related to attention and concentration. It’s like the child’s mind wanders off in its own direction, making it challenging for them to engage fully in tasks or conversations.
- Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation: Now, picture a child who’s always on the go, fidgeting, and unable to sit still for long. They might also act on impulse, without considering the consequences. This presentation emphasises hyperactivity and impulsivity. It’s as if the child’s energy is always bubbling over, causing them to engage in actions without pausing to think about the potential outcomes.
- Combined Presentation: Lastly, think of a child who exhibits a mix of both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive behaviours. This is a combined presentation, where a child’s experience of ADHD incorporates elements from both presentations. It might be like a blend of a wandering mind and boundless energy, leading to a range of challenges in various aspects of their life.
Signs of ADHD
Recognising the signs of ADHD can assist with early intervention and effective management.
Children with inattentive ADHD might have difficulty organizing tasks, be forgetful, lose items frequently and struggle to follow instructions. On the other hand, those with hyperactive-impulsive ADHD may often be restless, impulsive, have difficulty waiting their turn and frequently interrupt others. A combined presentation may include a blend of these symptoms.
How to Get a Diagnosis of ADHD
If you suspect that your child might have ADHD, it’s important to seek a professional diagnosis.
In general, an assessment is usually carried out by several professionals with training and experience in ADHD, with their findings put together to make a diagnosis.
Start by consulting your child’s paediatrician, who will assess their medical history, behaviour and symptoms. Often, a diagnosis will involve gathering information from teachers and parents to form a comprehensive view of your child’s behaviour across different settings.
The diagnostic process might also involve evaluating the duration and severity of symptoms, ruling out other possible causes and ensuring that the symptoms are consistently present for at least six months.
Contact us to find out more details about how ADHD is diagnosed.
What Causes ADHD?
The exact cause of ADHD is not fully understood. Genetics plays a significant role, as ADHD tends to run in families. Neurological factors, such as differences in brain structure and neurotransmitter activity, are also believed to contribute. Environmental factors, including exposure to toxins during pregnancy, premature birth and low birth weight, have been studied as potential contributors. However, no single cause has been definitively identified.
How is ADHD Treated?
Currently, there is no cure for ADHD. However, there are treatments and interventions available that can help manage the symptoms and improve the quality of life for children with ADHD. Treatments can help children learn strategies to better regulate their attention, impulses, and behaviours.
Managing ADHD involves a combination of strategies that can be tailored to each child. Behavioural interventions often include strategies like creating structured routines, setting clear expectations and using positive reinforcement for desired behaviours.
In more severe cases, medication might be considered. However, medication decisions should always be made in consultation with a medical professional.
Why do Children with ADHD have behavioural Challenges?
Children with ADHD often have behavioural challenges that are tied to the core characteristics of ADHD. Some of the factors which contribute are:
Difficulty with Tasks and Boredom: Children with ADHD frequently struggle with tasks that require sustained attention, organisation and focus. These tasks might seem mundane or uninteresting to them. As a result, they may avoid or resist engaging in activities that they perceive as boring or challenging. This can lead to frustration and refusal to comply with requests, even if they are reasonable.
Impulsivity and Emotional Regulation: ADHD can impair a child’s ability to regulate their impulses and emotions effectively. This means that they might act on their immediate feelings without considering the consequences. When faced with a situation that triggers frustration or anger, they may react impulsively by becoming angry quickly, throwing tantrums or refusing to cooperate. Their emotional responses can often be intense and difficult for them to manage.
Executive Functioning Challenges: Executive functioning refers to a set of cognitive skills responsible for tasks like planning, organizing, initiating tasks and problem-solving. Children with ADHD often have lack executive functioning skills, which can hinder their ability to follow through with tasks, transition between activities and complete assignments. These difficulties can lead to behavioural problems, as they may not have the tools to effectively navigate these situations.
Sensory Overload: Children with ADHD might also be more sensitive to sensory stimuli, such as sounds, lights and textures. Everyday sensory experiences that might not bother other children can overwhelm them. In response, they might exhibit behaviour problems to cope with the sensory overload they are experiencing.
Communication Challenges: Children with ADHD may struggle with verbalizing their needs, emotions and frustrations effectively. This communication difficulty can lead to misunderstandings and further exacerbate behavioural problems. If they feel misunderstood or unable to express themselves, they might resort to behaviours like tantrums or refusal to convey their emotions.
Struggle with Transition: Transitions from one activity to another can be particularly challenging for children with ADHD. They might become resistant or agitated when asked to switch tasks or environments. The need for predictability and difficulty adapting to change can contribute to behavioural problems during transitions.
Understanding the underlying factors that can impact your child’s behaviour can help parents and caregivers develop strategies to better manage and reduce perceived behavioural problems.
5 Tips for Parents to Help Manage Children with ADHD
- Establish Routine and Structure: Children with ADHD thrive in structured environments. Create a consistent daily routine, including set times for meals, homework, play, and bedtime. Clearly communicate expectations to help your child transition smoothly between activities.
- Use Visual Aids: Visual cues can aid in keeping your child organised and focused. Use charts, checklists and calendars to help them understand tasks and deadlines visually.
- Encourage Physical Activity: Regular physical activity can help channel excess energy and improve focus. Engage your child in sports, dance or other activities they enjoy.
- Practice Positive Reinforcement: Reward your child for completing tasks and exhibiting positive behaviour. This can boost their self-esteem and motivation to succeed.
- Effective Communication: Keep the lines of communication open. Listen to your child’s concerns and frustrations and work together to find solutions to challenges they face.
How a Psychologist Can Help Manage ADHD
Psychologists play a vital role in managing ADHD by providing comprehensive assessments, therapy and support for a child and their family.
A psychologist can help identify specific strengths and challenges, offer coping strategies, and teach parents how to create a supportive environment.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can be effective, as it teaches children skills to manage their thoughts, emotions and behaviours. Additionally, psychologists can collaborate with teachers to create tailored strategies for the classroom.
Every child is unique and with patience, understanding and the right tools, managing ADHD can help lead to a successful future for your child.
If you would like to know more about ADHD, getting a diagnosis for your child or want help with treatment or management strategies for a child with ADHD contact our professional team.