Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Background

ADHD children are more active, less attentive, and more impulsive than most children of their age.  In the past, ADHD has been called ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and hyperactivity.  About 3% of children exhibit ADHD.  More boys are diagnosed than girls.

Characteristics of ADHD include fidgeting or squirmy, having difficulty remaining seated, being easily distracted, having difficulty waiting to take a turn, having a short attention span, shifting from one uncompleted activity to another, talking excessively, interrupting others, and engaging in physically dangerous activities without thinking of consequences.

Sometimes children are not hyperactive, but are distractible and have a short attention span.  This condition is more subtle but can interfere with day to day activities.  It is called undifferentiated attention deficit disorder.

Development

ADHD begins at an early age and is displayed in a wide variety of situations.  Many children exhibit some characteristics of ADHD at times, the ADHD child’s difficulties are extreme and regularly interfere with day to day activities.  The difficulties are typically most apparent in settings such as school.  As a result, many ADHD children are not identified until they enter school.  In some settings, ADHD children are able to pay attention quite well.  These include fast moving TV shows, video games, and novel situations.

ADHD is a chronic disorder which lasts through childhood and often into adulthood.  While some characteristics may seem less extreme as the child gets older.  ADHD students may experience other behavior and social-emotional disorders later in life.  Children with ADHD may also exhibit learning difficulties.  Testing by the school’s evaluation team may be appropriate if a child is having significant learning problems.

No one knows what causes ADHD.  Differences in brain structure and functioning and heredity are being studied.  However, it is very unusual to find treatable neurological difficulties as the cause of ADHD.  Claims that allergies to foods or additives or vitamin deficiencies are responsible for ADHD have not been supported by research and special diets do not typically result in drastic or long-lasting changes in an ADHD child’s behavior.

Often ADHD is treated with medication.  Not every ADHD child needs medication, but medications can be very effective in controlling some of the behaviors associated with ADHD.  The most commonly used medications for ADHD are Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta, and the extended release formulations of these medications.  These are known as stimulant drugs, and although it may seem like the last thing and ADHD child needs is stimulation, these medications reduce the characteristics of ADHD.  With the appropriate use, stimulant medications are reported to be safe and to have few side-effects.  At times, additional or other medications such as Cyleet, Respirdal, or antidepressants may be indicated.

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