Is your child unable to sit still, especially in a quiet setting? Is he or she constantly fidgeting or unable to concentrate? Do they talk too much or interrupt others? These are just a few signs of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). According to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry the national prevalence of ADHD is estimated at 3.5%. ADHD is usually first detected and diagnosed in childhood and boys are two to three times more likely to have ADHD than girls. If you are wondering if it’s genetic, the answer is yes. Many parents of children with ADHD also experienced the same symptoms when younger. It’s also commonly found in brothers and sisters in the same family.
ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed behavior disorder of childhood and is usually identified by a pediatrician, child psychiatrist, or qualified mental health professional. They will ask for a detailed history of the child’s behavior from parents and teachers, make their own observations of the child’s behavior, and conduct psychoeducational testing to make a diagnosis of ADHD. Certain tests may be used to rule out other conditions, and some may be used to test intelligence and certain skill sets.
Once diagnosed, specific treatment for ADHD will be based on your child’s age, overall health, and medical history. The extent of the symptoms as well as tolerance for certain medications and therapies are also taken into account. Parental expectations, preferences, and support are important in creating a treatment plan.
ADHD treatment may include the following:
Psychostimulant medications are used for their ability to balance chemicals in the brain that prohibit the child from maintaining attention and controlling impulses. By stimulating the brain, it helps with focus. Common medicines include:
- Methylphenidate (Ritalin, Metadate, Concerta, Methylin)
- Dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine, Dextrostat)
- A mixture of amphetamine salts (Adderall)
- Atomoxetine (Strattera). A nonstimulant SNRI (selective serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor) medication with benefits for related mood symptoms.
- Lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse)
These medications are not without side effects and may include insomnia, decreased appetite, and headaches to name a few.
Psychosocial treatments include behavior management classes for parents which can help reduce the stress of parenting a child with ADHD. These are typically held in a group setting for parents to openly discuss challenges they are having and gain insight and suggestions from others who are going through the same issues with their child. Communicating with your child’s teacher is also a tool that parents can use to manage daily behavior and set expectations in the classroom.
ADHD isn’t just for kids. Though some grow out of it, about four to five percent of adults in the United States have ADHD, but few are diagnosed or treated for it. Every adult who has ADHD had it as a child. Adults who have ADHD may find it hard to follow directions, remember information, concentrate, organize tasks, and finish work on time. Many of the same medications are prescribed for adults with ADHD as kids. Behavior therapy is also a good resource for adults including relaxation training and stress management, life coaching, job coaching and mentoring, and family education.
If you think your child (or you) are experiencing ADHD, talk to your child’s teacher and your pediatrician about next steps in diagnosis and treatment options.