Children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, may behave impulsively, have difficulty focusing, and paying attention. Restlessness and hyperactivity behaviors are also common, and while this disorder is typically diagnosed during childhood, symptoms can persist into the adult years.
Understanding a child with ADHD helps parents acquire the necessary skills needed to cope with challenges they may face every day. Consider talking to a pediatrician so that you can better understand the etiology, treatment, genetic risks, and the possible environmental correlations it may be associated with:
A Multifaceted Disorder
It is thought that ADHD is a disorder that is multi-faceted. Contributing factors may include a combination of genetic predispositions, heredity, smoking, exposure to toxins such as lead, especially if the child was exposed at an early age. Other factors can include injuries of the brain, low birth weight, or substance abuse during pregnancy, such as excessive alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking, and illicit drug use.
Most of the time, however, no identifiable cause is found, and when this is the case, ADHD is referred to as idiopathic. Even if your child does not seem to have any of the aforementioned contributing factors, make an appointment with the pediatrician if your son or daughter displays signs of hyperactivity, difficulty paying attention or concentrating, impulse behavior such as acting out, and forgetfulness.
In addition, your child may need to be evaluated for ADHD if he or she constantly fidgets or squirms around while seated, cannot quietly play, is aggressive, or constantly blurts out answers in class before being called on by the teacher. While these symptoms may suggest the presence of ADHD, they do not mean that your child has ADHD. These symptoms may simply indicate that the child is anxious, depressed, or has learning disabilities. They may even be indicative of a neurological disorder and, in some cases, food sensitivities or allergies.
It would seem reasonable that treatment for ADHD would include anti-anxiety medications; however, the most common medications used in the management of ADHD symptoms are stimulant medications.
One would think that stimulant medications further exacerbate excitability and impulsive behavior, but they actually help the child focus better. When children are able to effectively focus and concentrate, they are less likely to exhibit behaviors associated with attention deficit disorders.
While effective in managing symptoms, stimulant medications may cause side effects such as sleep problems, a rapid heart rate, weight loss, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and headaches. If your child develops any side effects while taking his or her medications, the doctor can reduce the dose. Side effects are typically dose-dependent, so when lower dosages are taken, patients usually tolerate the medication better.
Stimulant medications are not the only treatment option for ADHD in children. Other treatment options may include biofeedback, vitamin therapy, and dietary interventions. While these therapies may help improve symptoms, they may be more effective when combined with prescribed medications instead of being used alone. While these alternative treatments may prove beneficial for some children, they may not be effective in all patients. Psychological interventions such as counseling may also help your child and your family cope better with an ADHD diagnosis.
If you believe that your child may have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, make an appointment with a pediatrician. It is only after your child has been thoroughly examined both medically and psychologically that a diagnosis of ADHD can be made. If the pediatrician is unable to make a diagnosis of ADHD based upon a comprehensive examination, your child may be referred to other medical specialists such as a neurologist, who will examine the child to rule out neurological causes of abnormal behaviors, or a psychiatrist, who will examine the child for psychiatric disorders such as bipolar or schizophrenia that can cause symptoms similar to ADHD.