ADHD in Children

What is ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a widely known condition although there is much speculation over whether there is an over-diagnosis or misdiagnosis of children exhibiting some or all of the signs associated with the condition.

The condition links a group of behavioural signs that include hyperactivity, impulsive behaviour and inattentiveness. These common symptoms mean that those diagnosed may be impulsive when making decisions, may be restless, overactive or fidget constantly. Easily distracted or having a short attention span is another key indicator.

ADHD does not discriminate and it can affect children of all intellectual abilities. ADHD is however, more common in those with learning difficulties and may also be coupled with other conditions related to anxiety or sleep disorders for example.

Many children who are later diagnosed with ADHD, can start to exhibit symptoms early on. The symptoms may become more noticeable if a child’s situation were to change for example when they leave home to start at a childcare setting or school. In most cases, a child will not be diagnosed with ADHD under the age of five. ADHD symptoms can often improve with age however adults diagnosed with ADHD as a child may still go on to experience problems later in life.

The treatment options

While there is no cure for ADHD, with early intervention the condition can be well managed through proper education about the condition, empowering parents and carers to make allowances for the challenges that children face in their daily lives. Medication may also play a part, often in conjunction with cognitive behavioural therapy and a specific plan of action for dealing with the behavioural symptoms of ADHD.

Life with ADHD

Your child may display some very challenging behaviour, life can be difficult at times which is why it is important to ensure that you have the right support in place. Children with ADHD cannot help their behaviour and it can be just as frustrating for them to experience their condition as it can be for those who are living with and caring for a child with ADHD.

Daily challenges

A child with ADHD may have some difficulty carrying out daily activities. These may include but are not limited to:

✔ Social interaction

✔ Impulsive behaviour often met with negativity

✔ Angry outbursts

✔ Inability to focus on a task such as getting ready for school or an outing

✔ Night time sleep disturbances or difficulty settling your child at bedtime

✔ Difficulty taking family trips out due to concern over behaviour

✔ Listening to and carrying out basic instructions without distraction

Adults may also find that they have similar problems as they get older, some may develop drug and alcohol problems, become involved in criminal activity and have trouble maintaining relationships and keeping a job. That said, this can be avoided with the right help and support from childhood.

Is ADHD very common?

While it is not as common as one may think given the media attention, it is the most common behavioural disorder in the United Kingdom. While figures are not exact, it is estimated that around 2 to 5 percent of school age children suffer from the condition. The condition is also more common in boys than in girls. The condition often manifests around issues to do with attention rather than hyperactivity in girls which means that there may be an underdiagnoses of the condition for this reason meaning that it may be just as common in girls as in boys but further studies will be required.

Is ADHD linked to Autism?

While it is true that some children are diagnosed as having both conditions, it is more likely that a child with autism will ‘outgrow’ ADHD in time as the social issues emerge and if the child becomes more withdrawn. On the other hand, a child with ADHD are not that likely to become calmer with age, not unless they have had high impact therapy or medication to help keep symptoms under control.

Managing the condition

Managing ADHD can be a challenging task. The most successful management plans involve a combination of lifestyle adjustments, medication, and therapy. Medication is usually only recommended in the first instance for children who display severe symptoms or for those who fail to engage successfully with therapy. The long term effects of medication are not yet fully understood and are usually not recommended when treating pre-school aged children. As children grow into adult hood, they can develop their own coping skills, allowing them to keep their symptoms under control.

The diagnosis and treatment lines have long been considered controversial, this goes back as far as the 1970’s. The main debate centres on diagnosis and treatment. How a child is diagnosed, the causes and the use of stimulant based medication as a treatment line, debating whether or not this is a genuine disorder.

Difficulties faced by children with ADHD

Children with ADHD may experience difficulties with learning and in their communication skills. Interacting with other children and even adults may be challenging at times. There may also be problems around the development of speech and language. Many parents notice the changes when their child starts school, they may present with difficulty concentrating, learning and taking part in group activities without causing disruption.

Living with or caring for a child with ADHD can be challenging at the best of times. Life can go from calm and controlled to chaotic in a matter of minutes. There are a range of support groups nationwide, offering advice, coping strategies groups for parents and carers offering one-to-one peer or professional support. There are a range of constantly evolving coping strategies and management plans to help your child cope with daily life.

If you are concerned about your child’s behaviour and you believe that your child has displayed one or more of the symptoms discussed in this guide, then contact your Health Visitor or GP for more help and advice. If appropriate, they will be able to refer you on to a specialist who deals specifically with this type of behavioural condition. Help is available and there is no need to experience this condition alone.

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